TechChinese amphibious ships rival aircraft carriers in new satellite images

Chinese amphibious ships rival aircraft carriers in new satellite images

Mock-ups of GJ-11 drones on the model deck of a Type 076 vessel
Mock-ups of GJ-11 drones on the model deck of a Type 076 vessel
Images source: © X
Łukasz Michalik

21 June 2024 19:41

Satellite photos have revealed new Chinese training installations. According to experts, they show the deck of the future large amphibious ship Type 076, on which Hongdu GJ-11 attack drones are placed. The new Chinese units are expected to be comparable in size to aircraft carriers.

China is building enormous amphibious ships that surpass the America-class American units in displacement. Photos of the docks where the first ship, Type 076, is being constructed revealed this. New satellite images reveal that something concerning has appeared near the construction site.

It is an installation resembling Chinese mock-ups used for training. Its shape, reminiscent of a fragment of the flight deck, and its very large width suggest that it is a mock-up of the Type 076 ship currently being built. Recently, strange shapes have appeared on its makeshift deck.

Hongdu GJ-11 attack drone

These are most likely mock-ups of Chinese Hongdu GJ-11 Sharp Sword attack drones. These stealth unmanned aerial vehicles, which have been in development for over a decade, are intended for precision strikes and reconnaissance missions. Their estimated payload capacity reaches 2,000 kilograms, and weapons can be carried in two internal bays.

The GJ-11 is just over 12 metres long and has a wingspan of 14 metres. It is designed in a flying wing configuration. In the future, machines of this type can perform the role of loyal wingmen or be controlled by the second crew member of the new two-seater version of the J-20 aircraft.

Drone aircraft carrier

The presence of unmanned aerial vehicle mock-ups indicates that China is building future amphibious ships with an aviation component consisting of new unmanned aerial vehicles. Their estimated length exceeds 250 metres, and the deck width reaches 48 metres. The displacement of units in this class is estimated at 53,000 tonnes.

The new ships' catapult-equipped capabilities are expected to further enhance the capabilities of both the ships and the drones launched from them. In practice, the new units will be the equivalent of large CATOBAR-class aircraft carriers for unmanned aerial vehicles, similar to the American Nimitz and Gerald R. Ford classes, the French Charles de Gaulle, or the latest Chinese aircraft carrier, Fujian.

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