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China created the world's first drone carrier for UAV attacks at sea (photo)

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar May15,2024

China created the world's first drone carrier ship for UAV attacks at sea (photo)

The mysterious ship was launched in 2022, but it became known about it only now.

China has built the world's first specialized drone carrier. However, the ship has not been officially reported, and many of the circumstances surrounding it remain a mystery, writes Naval News.

At a shipyard on the Yangtze River, far upriver from Shanghai's main shipyards, “hidden ” the new aircraft carrier, which was launched back in December 2022. Naval News, along with J. Michael Dahm, a senior fellow at the Mitchell Institute, analyzed it.

Mysterious Drone Carrier

The newly discovered ship is the world's first dedicated fixed-wing drone carrier. Its design is smaller than conventional aircraft carriers with a flight deck — about one-third the length and half the width of a typical American aircraft carrier. For comparison: it is slightly shorter, but wider than the escort aircraft carriers of the Second World War. It would be possible to fly planes from it, but its straight deck arrangement would be an anachronism, preventing planes from taking off and landing at the same time. Also, it doesn't seem to have an aircraft hangar at its disposal, so the number of aircraft will be severely limited. However, it makes sense if the ship is used as a drone carrier.

China created the world's first drone carrier ship for UAV attacks at sea (photo)

A drone carrier (A), two drone carriers (C, D), several target barges (B, F), a barge simulating an aircraft carrier (E). Photo: Skywatch

Drones are becoming an increasingly important part of naval warfare. Leading naval forces are already testing them on conventional aircraft carriers. And some navies, especially those of Iran and Turkey, are working on plans to create UAV carriers.

Analysis of the Chinese ship

The ship is unusual in every way. The hull is a widely spaced catamaran. Although catamarans are often used in aircraft carrier concepts because they allow for a large deck area, no one had built them before. In addition, the analysis of satellite images shows that the crew cabin is located very low. It is unlikely that there is a hangar under the crew cabin. But if he is there, his ceiling is very low. As such, it does not appear to be designed to support high-speed or long-duration flights.

The crew cabin is wide enough to comfortably operate aircraft or drones with a wingspan of about 20 meters, such as the Chinese counterparts of the Predator drone. However, the very presence of the flight deck suggests that the planes intend to land on it. A catapult or launcher of some form would be sufficient for launch if recovery were not necessary.

Potential Roles of the Ship

J. Michael Dahm notes that the drone carrier is being built at the Jiangsu Dayang Marine shipyard. Several high-tech target barges and two large drone base ships have already been built at this shipyard. All of them act as opposing forces in the exercises. So it is entirely possible that the new ship is also intended to participate in Chinese Navy exercises.

If the new ship is intended to support large UAVs at sea, as its design suggests, then the question becomes who or what it will imitate. As the expert noted, — it is the world's first drone carrier, so it does not mimic any known western ship. However, drones can also be controlled from shore. The second possibility is that this is a kind of experimental platform that will test and improve the actions of drones at sea.

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my natasha@thetimeshub.in 1-800-268-7116

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