Satellite Imagery Reveals China's Secret Drone Carrier

Satellite Imagery Reveals China's Secret Drone Carrier

In a surprising turn of events, China has quietly constructed the world's first dedicated fixed-wing drone carrier. Launched in December 2022 and kept under wraps until recently, the ship's existence has been revealed by satellite imagery.

A Different Breed of Carrier​

This innovative vessel diverges significantly from traditional aircraft carriers. Smaller than China's other three carriers, it features a flight deck about one-third the length and half the width of a typical supercarrier. The design, lacking space for a standard hangar, points to its primary role as a drone carrier.

Drones are increasingly essential in modern naval warfare, and while other nations like Iran and Turkey are exploring the concept, China is the first to launch a dedicated drone carrier.

Unique Design Raises Questions​

The ship's unusual catamaran hull design offers a large deck area but has never been fully realized for an aircraft carrier before. Satellite images suggest limited space below deck for aircraft storage, potentially limiting prolonged flight operations. However, the broad flight deck can accommodate drones with wingspans up to 65 feet, similar to Chinese versions of the Predator drone.

The presence of a flight deck indicates the intent for drones to land, although the ship may utilize a catapult or launch rail for takeoff, eliminating the need for traditional recovery methods.

Unraveling the Purpose​

The carrier's true purpose remains unclear. The Jiangsu Dayang Marine shipyard, where it was built, has a history of constructing simulated enemy ships for the Chinese Navy, often mimicking Western vessels. This raises the possibility that the new carrier could be used for weapon testing or training simulations.

Alternatively, it may serve as an experimental platform for developing drone operations at sea. Whether this project is an official Chinese Navy initiative or a speculative commercial endeavor is yet to be determined.

Redefining Naval Warfare​

Regardless of its precise role, China's new drone carrier signifies a significant leap in naval innovation. As the world's first dedicated fixed-wing drone carrier, it has the potential to redefine naval capabilities and strategies.

The maritime community and defense analysts worldwide will be closely observing as more information about this groundbreaking ship emerges. As this story unfolds, it promises to shed light on the future of naval warfare and China's expanding role in it.

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Utsav Nirmal