China Builds World’s First Dedicated Drone Carrier

According to J. Michael Dahm, Senior Resident Fellow at the Mitchell Institute and Naval News, China has built the world’s first dedicated drone carrier.

China Builds World’s First Dedicated Drone Carrier 1

A new aircraft carrier is tucked away far upriver from the big yards at Shanghai, in a shipyard on the Yangtze. It’s the fourth ship built in China, and no one has ever before been informed of its existence. An aircraft carrier can only be constructed in relative secrecy by China.

This ship is shrouded in mystery; it was launched in December 2022 but has not been reported until now. J. Michael Dahm, Senior Resident Fellow at the Mitchell Institute, and Naval News have been analyzing it together.

China Builds World’s First Dedicated Drone Carrier 2
The previously unreported drone carrier (A) is longer but narrower than two drone motherships (C, D) built in the same yard. There are also several high-tech target barges (B, F), including one that mimics an aircraft carrier (E).

Mysterious Drone Carrier

The first three Chinese carriers are well-known to the international community; the biggest and most powerful, the Type-003 Fujian, is presently undergoing sea trials. This is not your new carrier at all. Its increased size won’t be its claim to fame. Rather, we are certain that this vessel is the first fixed-wing drone carrier in history.

With a flight deck that is roughly one-third the length and half the width of a Chinese Navy (PLAN) or U.S. Navy supercarrier, the design is more compact than that of normal aircraft carriers. In contrast, it is broader but marginally shorter than an escort carrier from World War II. Its straight deck configuration would make it archaic to fly fixed-wing aircraft from, as it would prevent simultaneous takeoffs and landings. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem like there is enough room for a normal aircraft hangar, which would significantly reduce the amount of aircraft. But as a drone carrier, it makes sense.

The use of drones in naval combat is growing. They are already being tested by top navies from conventional aircraft carriers. Additionally, certain navies—most notably Turkey’s and Iran’s—are developing designs for “drone carriers.” However, this field is still very young.

Analysis of the ship

It is instantly clear that it is, broadly speaking, some kind of aircraft carrier. On the left side, there is a noticeable runaway, and on the right side, there is an island superstructure.

Apart from this, it’s unique in every way. The hull is a catamaran with broad spacing. Although their huge deck surface makes them a popular component in aircraft carrier ideas, no one has ever built a catamaran previously. Furthermore, a review of satellite photos reveals how low the flight deck is. There doesn’t seem to be a hangar deck beneath the flight deck. If it exists, it has a very low ceiling. As such, it doesn’t seem to be built to handle protracted or high-speed flying operations.

The flight deck is sufficiently spacious to allow the safe operation of aircraft or drones up to 20 meters (65 feet) in wingspan, including Chinese versions of the Predator drone.

On the other hand, the flight deck’s very presence indicates that planes are meant to land there. If recovery wasn’t required, the launch would only require a catapult or launch rail of some sort.

Potential roles for this ship

According to J. Michael Dahm, the shipyard, Jiangsu Dayang Marine, has constructed enemy ship simulators for the PLAN in the past. China’s weapon testing program includes a large-scale simulation of ships from Western and Western-leaning navies. It tests its anti-ship ballistic missiles on full-scale models of aircraft carriers used by the US Navy.

This shipyard has already constructed two massive drone motherships and several high-tech target barges. In training, all of these take on the role of opposing troops, or “Electronic Blue Force.” Therefore, it’s possible that this ship was built to help that mission as well.

The question of who or what the new ship is supposed to emulate arises if its design indicates that it is meant to support huge fixed-wing UAVs at sea. It is not imitating any known Western ship; rather, as we have noted, it is the world’s first drone carrier. Drones of this kind could be run from land more affordably. There exists a second possibility: it’s some kind of experimental platform designed to test and develop underwater drone operations.

It is unclear if this is just for research and development purposes or if it is meant for use in Blue Force simulation. In the same vein, we wonder if it is a commercial venture or an official PLAN program. There is still some uncertainty about the new drone carrier.

Last year, GreatGameIndia reported on a satellite image revealing a supersonic drone, which appears to be a WZ-8 supersonic reconnaissance drone, at a Chinese military base.

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1 COMMENT

  1. China spends money on protecting itself and its people!
    America and Nazi West spend money on protecting
    Satan and his mentally ill/sexually insane Children
    and illegal aliens without giving a thought to the
    Homeland or its citizens!

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