May 02, 2011
Xinhua: ‘Huge Warship on the Verge of Setting Out, Fulfilling China’s 70-Year Aircraft Carrier Dream’The title is a translation of the caption for photos circulated on April 7, 2011 by Xinhua, the New China News Agency.The pictures and text were reproduced by Western media, as well as India’s Daily News and Analysis website. Xinhua — which is now completing a headquarters building in New York’s Times Square for the upcoming launch of its English-language cable news channel — reports that China’s reconditioning of the former Soviet carrier Varvag will be completed by the end of this year. The ship has a ski-jump design, similar to that of the now-retired British carriers, rather than the catapult design employed by American supercarriers and France’s nuclear-powered supercarrier, the Charles de Gaulle..If successfully put into service, the Varyag will be China’s first aircraft carrier. The United States has eleven nuclear-powered supercarriers, together with several conventionally powered helicopter carriers.Four American supercarriers are presently deployed overseas. Three more are in their U.S. home ports and available for deployment. Four are in dry dock.The Chinese began training pilots for carrier operations in 2008. In 2009, Brazil signed a deal to train China in carrier operations. In February, 2011, a British newspaper reported that the Chinese had constructed a concrete carrier flight deck on land to begin training its carrier pilots and carrier operations personnel. Also in February, 2011, a Ukrainian court sentenced a Russian national to six years imprisonment for selling aircraft carrier secrets to China.The carrier’s complement of planes and helicopters is being supplied by Russia under a previously-announced deal. The ship is now being fitted with electronics and weapons, including phased array radar.Sea trials will follow in 2012, a Chinese government spokesman said.The ship was purchased, in an unfinished condition, from Ukraine in 1998. The purchase price reportedly included the complete Soviet blueprints for a finished carrier. At the time, China said the unfinished, conventionally-powered carrier would be converted into a floating hotel/casino. Two other former Soviet aircraft carriers have become floating amusement parks in China.Release of the Xinhua photos followed on a minor dust-up during U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ last visit to Peking in January. It was during that visit that China announced it had just successfully tested its new stealth jet fighter. At the time, China’s president told SecDef Gates that he was unaware that the stealth fighter had been tested.According to Jane’s Fighting Ships, when it’s commissioned into the Chinese Navy (a department of the Peoples Liberation Army), the Varyag will probably be re-named the Shi Lang and assigned Pennant No. 83. Shi Lang was an admiral of the Ming-Qing dynasty who conquered Taiwan in1681 and annexed it to the Chinese Empire.Nothing inscrutable about that.