Sept. 18 (UPI) -- China's construction of its third aircraft carrier validates the U.S. Navy's plans to builds more carriers of its own, Adm. Christopher Grady said.
Grady, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces, responded to photographic evidence published this week that the building of China's newest aircraft carrier is proceeding in a shipyard near Shanghai.
"Good on 'em. It makes the argument that carriers are important," Adm. Grady said on Thursday during a symposium of the American Society of Naval Engineers. "We have them. They want them and they're building them."
"To me that makes all the sense. They're a maritime power and they understand the great value that comes from carrier aviation and how that can shape the international environment. It's taken us over 100 years to get that right.
"We've got a huge lead and one that will continue to expand into the future. Go ahead and build that big ship, but to build the ecosystem that is naval aviation that brings that ship to life -- that's going to take a lot of hard work and time," Grady said.
Grady's comments came after satellite photos were released by the non-governmental Center for Strategic and International Studies showing sections of an aircraft carrier under assembly.
One of China's currently operating carriers, the Liaoning, is a converted Soviet-era warship, and the other, the Shandong, commissioned in 2019, is similarly outmoded.
The carrier under construction would be China's first with modern technology, and is likely to be larger than the previous carriers, with a catapult launch system and accommodations for more aircraft with heavier weapons.
The Integrated Naval Force Structure Assessment, a product of the U.S. Navy and the Defense Department, is expected to be released within weeks, and will outline the future of the U.S. carrier fleet.
"As part of that future force structure, carriers will remain central to what we do," Grady said at the symposium.