The Claim and Our Verdict
The claim: An image shared Oct. 9, 2022, on Facebook, claims to show a comparison between the USS Gerald R. Ford from the United States, and the Chinese aircraft carrier the Fujian.
- The source of the viral image is a satellite image from Google Earth. This image was taken Nov. 14, 2021, near Newport News Shipbuilding, Virginia, USA (36°58’51”N, 76°26’19”W). Both ships in the picture are U.S. aircraft carriers—the USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS John F. Kennedy.
- Comparing the design of the Fujian with the ship on the right in the viral image, it has been found that there is an obvious difference between the two in terms of the position of island. Furthermore, the Fujian was officially launched in June 2022—it is impossible to appear in the satellite image taken in the United States in 2021.
Our verdict: The viral image does not show a comparison between aircraft carriers from China and the United States. The warship on the right is actually the USS John F. Kennedy.
An image shared Oct. 9, 2022, on Facebook, claims to show a comparison between the USS Gerald R. Ford from the United States, and the Chinese aircraft carrier the Fujian.
The USS Gerald R. Ford is an American aircraft carrier and has the hull number CVN-78. The ship is named after the United States’ 38th President Gerald Ford. It is the first Ford-class aircraft carrier of the United States.
The full name of the Fujian is called the Fujian of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy. It is China’s third aircraft carrier, and its hull number is 18.
As of the publication of this report, the Facebook post had been shared 29 times, and had received 183 comments as well as 1,357 likes or reactions.
Reverse image searches have found a website called “The Searchers.” An image showing similar warships as the one shared on Facebook (see below, left) was found in an article published on the website. According to the caption, both ships are American Ford-class aircraft carriers: One is the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), and the other is the USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79).
The image of the website article shows the logo of Google Earth and the text “Newport News, VA.” An image showing the same two warships at Newport News Shipyard (36°58’51”N, 76°26’19”W) can be found on Google Earth Pro (see below). The Google Earth satellite image was taken on Nov. 14, 2021. The image shared in the claim is actually a satellite image taken from Google Earth at this location.
Newport News Shipbuilding (also known as Newport News shipyard) is the sole designer, builder and refueler of United States Navy carriers. Both the USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS John F. Kennedy are built by Newport News Shipbuilding.
The number 78 representing the hull number of the Ford is displayed on the ship’s deck in both the image shared in the claim and the one shared on the official website of Newport News Shipbuilding. Furthermore, using Google Earth’s ruler tool for measuring distances, it has been found that the deck of this ship (that is, the ship on the left of the Facebook photo) is about 336 meters long and 76 meters wide. The size is very close to the official information of the Ford, approximately 1,106 feet (337 meters) long and 256 feet (78 meters) wide. Therefore, the ship on the left of the Facebook image is the USS Gerald R. Ford.
Using Google Earth’s ruler tool, it has been measured that the deck length of the ship on the right of the Facebook image is about 335 meters, and the width is about 76 meters. The figures are very similar to the official measurement of the Kennedy, which is 1,092 feet (333 meters) long and 256 feet (78 meters) wide.
A further keyword search found an article published Feb. 9, 2022 by U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) News. The caption of a press photo shared in the article reads, “Carriers USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) at Newport News Shipbuilding on Nov. 12, 2021.” Comparing the ship on the right in the press photo with the one on Google Earth (that is, the ship on the right in the Facebook photo), it can be seen that they are the same in many details, including the design and position of their islands and items on the decks. Therefore, the ship on the right in the Facebook photo is the USS John F. Kennedy.
In addition, a comparison between the Fujian in an aerial photo taken by China’s navy and the ship on the right of the Facebook photo shows that the islands of the two ships are located in different positions. The former is located in the middle right of the deck, and the latter is located in the right rear of the deck. According to Xinhuanet, the Fujian was officially launched on June 17, 2022. However, the Facebook photo was taken on Nov. 14, 2021, at the Newport News Shipyard in Virginia, USA, so the ship on the right in the picture cannot be the Fujian.
Annie Lab, a fact-checking organization in Hong Kong, has also debunked a similar claim.
The viral image does not show a comparison between aircraft carriers from China and the United States. The warship on the right is actually the USS John F. Kennedy.
- Facebook, post, Oct. 9, 2022.
- Facebook, post, Oct. 9, 2022.
- Ming Pao, “American’ new aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford deploys for the first time (12:21),” Nov. 10, 2013.
- Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China, “China launches its third aircraft carrier,” June 17, 2022.
- Ta Kung Pao, “China launches its third aircraft carrier named the Fujian,” June 17, 2022.
- The Searchers, Intro.
- The Searchers, USN – Current Carriers.
- Naval Air Force Atlantic, “Official Website of PCU John F. Kennedy (CVN 79).”
- Google Maps, Newport News Shipyard.
- Google Earth, 36°58’51″N,76°26’19″W.
- Newport News Shipbuilding, CVN 78.
- Newport News Shipbuilding, CVN 79.
- Naval Air Force Atlantic, “USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Command History & Facts.”
- Naval Air Force Atlantic, “PCU John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) Command History & Facts.”
- United States Naval Institute, “Mission & Vision | U.S. Naval Institute.”
- USNI News, “Record Aircraft Carrier Work Underway at Newport News Shipbuilding,” Feb. 9, 2022.
- USNI News, Press photo.
- Xinhua Net, “China launches its third aircraft carrier named Fujian,” June 17, 2022.
- Annie Lab, “False: Photo shows two US aircraft carriers; neither is China’s Fujian warship,” Oct. 25, 2022.