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Beijing Pumps the Brakes on Next-Gen Aircraft Carrier

© REUTERS / StringerChina's first domestically built aircraft carrier is seen during its launching ceremony in Dalian, Liaoning province, China, April 26, 2017
China's first domestically built aircraft carrier is seen during its launching ceremony in Dalian, Liaoning province, China, April 26, 2017 - Sputnik International
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Pictures on Chinese social media of battleship parts have led to frenzied discussion as to whether China’s Type 002 aircraft carrier is underway ahead of schedule, but analysts say the engineering chops for the ship simply aren’t there yet.

The images fueling the speculation may be part of a warship, but they aren’t part of China’s next carrier, a source told the South China Morning Post. “The [Jiangnang] shipyard is empty. It’s impossible to hide such a huge ship,” the official said.

This photo taken on May 10, 2016 shows crew members of China's South Sea Fleet taking part in a logistics supply drill near the James Shoal area on South China Sea - Sputnik International
Beijing Outmaneuvering US Navy in South China Sea

On April 26, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA-N) sent the yet-unnamed Type 001A carrier sailing on the high seas. Beijing’s first homemade carrier will join PLA-N’s Liaoning in 2020, the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates.

But before the Type 002 can be finished, Beijing has to finalize the blueprints of the steam catapults that are needed to help jets take off from short runways, as well as plans for the huge ship’s power source, the SCMP report said.

Another point of debate for designers of the Type 002 is whether to power the ship with nuclear reactors, which would be a major technical marvel if accomplished. Steam turbines and diesel generators propel the Liaoning and Type 001A.

Washington’s Nimitz-class supercarriers and the next generation of Ford-class carriers feature nuclear propulsion systems. The US Navy has been testing out a controversial electromagnetic launch platform for its future carrier fleet. 

China's Liaoning aircraft carrier with accompanying fleet conducts a drill in an area of South China Sea in this undated photo taken December, 2016 - Sputnik International
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But US President Donald trump condemned the technology as "no good," urging naval planners to stick with steam. A slew of technical miscues has put the USS Gerald Ford well behind schedule and nearly 20 percent over budget.

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