According to state media, China launched its first domestically-constructed aircraft carrier
in the north-eastern port of Dalian on Wednesday. The ship is as yet unnamed (referred to as the Type 001A) and it's set to officially join the fleet in 2020. The new carrier is China's second after the Liaoning, a refurbished Soviet ship bought from Ukraine in 1998. Analysts believe the Liaoning is primarily used for training purposes as China seeks to introduce more indigenous designs and develop a "blue-water" navy.
The new carrier is similar to the Liaoning, though it features a larger flight deck and hangar. That means it is capable of carrying more J-15 fighter jets and helicopters. It retains several key features of its predecessor including an oil-fuelled steam turbine power plant and the distinctive ski-jump deck for launching its aircraft. Most analysts agree that the launch in Dalian is primarily symbolic with the Type 001A lagging far behind American carriers in size, technology and capability.
How does the Chinese carrier compare with the USS Gerald R. Ford, the latest American supercarrier? Costing around $13 billion, the Ford is the lead ship of her class
and is set to be commissioned sometime in 2017. As the following infographic shows, the American ship boasts considerably more airpower as well as state of the art electromagnetic catapults to launch its fleet of Super Hornets, Growlers, Lightning IIs and Hawkeyes.