China Central Television (CCTV) reported that the catapult being tested to help planes take off quickly is more efficient than the "ski-jump" ramp used to launch aircraft on China's first carrier, the Liaoning.
The report said the catapult enables aircraft to be launched quickly, upgrading their combat efficiency.
Li Li, a military expert in China, said catapult takeoff device technology is currently dominated by the United States, but if the satellite photo is true, it means that China has "made a groundbreaking and strategic breakthrough" in aircraft carrier technology.
Li said both steam and electromagnetic catapults are used to launch aircraft, with the United States the first country to use the electromagnetic launch system.
Steam catapults have their limitations, Li said, while electromagnetic catapults enable planes to take off without worrying about weather conditions and are therefore more strategically significant.
The recently unveiled satellite photo showed a catapult track and auxiliary experimental equipment, which Cao Weidong, a researcher at the People's Liberation Army's Naval Research Institute, said could be used as an experimental platform for steam and electromagnetic catapults.
He said China is developing catapults to promote the development of its aircraft carriers, explaining that the ramp system currently in use cannot launch early warning fixed-wing aircraft, restraining its combat capabilities.
Cao said China will not only build an aircraft carrier, but also upgrade the ship's combat capabilities, including making use of a catapult, which has become the trend among aircraft carriers.
If China has sufficient funds and the right technology, the aircraft carriers it manufactures will adopt electromagnetic aircraft launch systems, Cao said.
CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) launch and recovery of aircraft.