This Chinese warship changes everything
ON the surface, the photo seems somewhat bland. It's your typical corporate shot - a bunch of guys looking attentive around a boardroom table. But, in the background, on the big screen, is something likely to make the US Navy sit up and take notice.
The image in the Chinese Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) promotional shot is distant. Therefore it's somewhat blurry.
But there's little doubt ast to what it shows.
Scattered in the distance is a protective fleet of China's most advanced destroyers. Then there are the aircraft carriers Liaoning and 'Type 001A'. We don't yet know the name of China's recently completed carrier, which put to sea for the first time in May.
They're flanking something as-yet unseen.
It's an artist's impression.
Of a new ship.
A big one.
It's an aircraft carrier with a completely flat deck. There's no sign of the simple ski-ramps used to sling aircraft into the sky on China's two other carriers.
Instead, there are what appears to be three large catapults servicing what appears to be J-15 fighter jets and a new type of radar early warning aircraft.
The picture is likely to be of be Type 002 - China's first attempt at a truly modern aircraft carrier. It's currently under construction at the Jiangnan Changxingdao shipyard in Shanghai. But virtually nothing is known about the design.
The picture was posted on Chinese social media service WeChat by the No. 701 Research Institute of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC).
CSIC deleted the image shortly after posting it.
But not before it had been circulated widely on social media.
Coincidentally - or not - the People's Liberation Army posted an article to its website on Friday boasting that the 'mystery' ship has an electromagnetic launch system.
That's the same advanced technology being used by the United States' next generation aircraft carrier, USS Ford. But that ship is having some serious teething problems with the power-hungry equipment that has never been fully tested.
The significance of the catapults is that it will enable more aircraft to be launched faster - and with heavier weapons loads - than the earlier Chinese aircraft carriers.
"From the information that is currently available, I would say a carrier with a catapult launch system is very much on the horizon," he said.
It also quotes 'naval expert' Li Jie as saying: "This revelation could mean the third carrier is progressing fast." "The progress of the new carrier and the catapult seem in synchronisation. It will take a few years for the ship to be built and the system to be installed and tested," he said.
The Global Times describes CSIC as the "cradle of Chinese aircraft carriers."
It's responsible for the refurbishment, design and construction of China's carriers.
But the glimpse may be a public relations move after the embarrassing arrest of the corporation's leading figures earlier this month.
Type 001A was also immediately returned to dry dock after her first voyage in May. It's an unusual move - unless the test revealed serious problems.
And one of CSIC's top managers has been arrested on 'corruption' charges.
General Manager Sun Bo reportedly was detained earlier this month.
But the Asia Times reports he has now been charged with "gross violation of laws and party discipline" by the Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the National Supervision Commission.
The accusation is allegedly that he sold secrets about China's aircraft carrier program to US intelligence agencies.
The report says he revealed details to the CIA on the modifications made to the Soviet-constructed aircraft carrier, Liaoning.
Russian state-run news service Sputnik reports Chinese authorities also are concerned he may have divulged information about Type 001A and Type 002.