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China floats world’s first drone aircraft carrier

China has launched the world’s first dedicated drone carrier, signaling a potential dramatic shift in its naval power projection with cost-effective unmanned aerial operations in a potential war with the United States.

This month, Naval News reported that China has built the world’s first dedicated drone carrier at Jiangsu Dayang Marine shipyard on the Yangtze River. The design is smaller than regular aircraft carriers and slightly shorter but wider than World War II escort carriers, according to the report.

The design allows fixed-wing aircraft to operate from it but its straight deck arrangement would be anachronistic and limit the number of aircraft it can carry, the report said.

Drones are becoming increasingly prevalent in naval warfare, with leading navies already trialing them from regular aircraft carriers.

For example, Iran’s Shahid Mahdavi drone carrier is a rebuilt commercial cargo vessel. Turkey repurposed its TCG Anadolu amphibious assault ship, which was intended to carry F-35 fighters, into a drone carrier after being removed from America’s F-35 program in 2019.

Naval News notes China’s built-for-purpose drone carrier’s unusual design, with a wide-spaced catamaran hull and low flight deck, suggesting that aircraft intend to land on it.

The report notes that China’s drone carrier is likely intended to support large fixed-wing UAVs at sea, with China having an extensive program of simulating Western and Western-leaning navies’ ships in its weapon testing program, including anti-ship ballistic missile tests on full-size outlines of US Navy aircraft carriers.

Naval News says several high-tech target barges and two large drone motherships have already been built at the shipyard. Known as “Electronic Blue