About Those Chinese Aircraft Carrier Pics: What We Know and What We Can Guess

Editor’s note: New images have revealed a Chinese aircraft carrier under construction, the first indigenous carrier in China’s fleet. Peter Singer and Jeffrey Lin evaluate the potential hangar capacity, deck size, and propulsion system of this new seaborne platform.

Back in the Cold War, we had to wait for May Day parades and top-secret spy satellite photos for hints as to what new weapons the great powers were working on. Today, all we need is Google.

On August 1, 2013, pictures of a large ship under construction appeared on the Internet.  These pictures have been matched to a search of Google Earth at coordinates 31 21’12.78″ N and 121 44’27.55″ E, that showed a module of a large ship under construction at the Shanghai Changxingxiang Jiangnan Shipyard, which had a width of 51 meters and a starboard gap of about 12 meters long and seven to nine meters wide (This satellite imagery was taken on March 3, 2013). 

These open-source finds are important as they seem to confirm what has long been assumed would eventually happen when a great power goes to sea: the emergence of an indigenous Chinese aircraft carrier program.

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