China Aircraft Carrier
Shandong, China's first domestically developed aircraft carrier departs Dalian, Liaoning province, China, May 13, 2018. REUTERS

Exclusive satellite images released by a Washington-based think- tank shows the construction of China’s third and largest aircraft carrier with hi-tech launch system. Chinese government has not formally confirmed the construction of the carrier. The image from April reveals the recent construction activity during last six months on a large vessel at the Jiangnan shipyard outside Shanghai.

The Shanghai Jiangnan Shipyard Group was given the permission to start construction after the annual sessions of China’s legislature and top political advisory body in March, reported South China Morning Post.

Despite the Chinese state-run media reporting the construction of the third largest aircraft carrier last year, the timing and the extent of the carrier program remains a state secret.

The Pentagon last week said that the work on the vessel had begun, but no image emerged until recently.

The effort to build a locally designed large carrier is part of China’s extensive military modernization drive. The project is challenging decades of superiority the U.S had in East Asia, Reuters reported.

The report along with the satellite images released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, which has been studying the Jiangnan shipyard, reveals that the shipyard has expanded dramatically since 2011. Almost 18 warships were identified in the shipyard images last year.

The latest satellite images released on April 17 show a gantry crane looming over head, a bow section that appears to end with a flat 30 meter front and a separate hull section that is 41 meters wide.

CSIS analyst Matthew Funaiole said it was difficult for his team to see evidence of the construction of the warship from pictures taken late last year, but the recent images confirm that the work has begun. “From what we can see there has been a lot of activity in the last six months or so,” he said. “It would appear that it is the third carrier, and if it is not, it's hard to envisage what other large vessel it would be,” the Daily Mail reported.