Jiangnan shipyard on the Yangtze River in Shanghai is important for the Chinese Navy (PLAN). It builds aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and submarines. The correspondingly large shipyard occupies over 7.3 square kilometers (2.8 square miles). Now a new yard next door, associated with the Hudong-Zhonghua yard will expand the shipbuilding area by around 50%.
Work has already started. Analysis of satellite imagery confirms construction visually matching the expected expansion.
The incredible growth of the Chinese Navy has seen several shipyards expanded already. Jiangnan shipyard, which is situated next to the new site, has itself been expanded massively in recent years. Added to this, new facilities to build large numbers of submarines has been set up near Wuhan. And the nuclear submarine facilities at Huludao have also been massively expanded. Now the new work at Jiangnan takes this further still.
The new facilities will dramatic increase capacity at the yard. It is expected to have a basin for fitting out ships and a large multi-berth dry dock.
A Fleet of 6 Aircraft Carriers
The U.S. Navy expects that the Chinese Navy may operate 6 aircraft carriers by 2040. Currently only two are operational, built at Dalian in Northern China. But the third, the improved and enlarged Type-003, is under construction at Jiangnan. It seems likely that one or more of the additional carriers will also be built at Jiangnan.
One hypothesis is that China will built nuclear powered aircraft carriers. These may be even larger still than the Type-003, which is anyway almost the same size as the U.S. Navy’s Ford Class. The larger ship, and new technologies involved, may dictate a new construction site. This is one explanation for the new site.
There are rumors that the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, if the plan exists, has been put on hold. Even if it is delayed however, it may still be a factor in the shipyard expansion.
It is not just aircraft carriers of course. Hyudong have also been building warships, including the Type-071 landing ships and Type-075 assault carrier. It also builds the more numerous Type-054A frigate, many of which are for export. In fact the export orders may be getting in the way of PLAN construction at its existing site in Shanghai. This may be one motivation for the new site.
Some Type-055 Renhai class cruisers and Type-052D destroyers are also built on the Jiangnan side. Additionally, large space tracking ships, hovercraft and experimental submarines have recently been launched.
Both shipbuilders have a rich history, and both are now part of China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) which is the world’s largest shipbuilder. As well as warships they also build merchant ships. These include ginormous container ships which are larger than the aircraft carriers.
There is naturally a lack of clarity in some of the available information. Some sources suggest that the Like many things with the Chinese Navy and shipyards we may be kept guessing until the end. But analysts will be watching developments closely.
Article Updated. This article previously identified the new site as part of the Jiangnan shipyard, although Hudong was also mentioned as a possibility. After further review, most evidence points to it being an expansion of Hudong.