Presenting The First Chinese Aircraft Carrier

Tyler Durden's picture

After reverse engineering virtually every product known to man, the Chinese have now applied the same skill to the only component of their military that was so far missing: an aircraft carrier. Earlier today, Xinhua revealed the first official pictures of what will soon be China's first aircraft carrier, now expected to enter operation by the end of the year. As the NYT reports: "The photos of the carrier, the Varyag, which China bought from the Ukraine in 1998, appeared Wednesday on the Web site of Xinhua, the state news agency. It was the first time that Xinhua had given visual evidence of the carrier project, which is widely seen as a linchpin of China’s military modernization and naval ambitions. The carrier is being rebuilt in the waters of Dalian, a coastal city in eastern China. Xinhua cited a military analysis magazine based in Canada, Kanwa Asian Defense Review, as saying that the ship will be ready to sail this year. The fact that Xinhua used that information in a photo caption appeared to be an official endorsement of that view."

More photos here and the wiki entry on the Kuznetsov-style Varyag can be found here.

One thing about the Chinese: they sure can reverse engineer quick:

Andrei Cheng, the founder of the magazine in Canada said in a telephone interview on Thursday that the photographs published by Xinhua showed the carrier at a much more advanced stage of construction than he had expected. He said his magazine had gotten photos of the carrier taken in February, but that those photos did not show any paint on the ship’s upper structure, while the ones published by Xinhua did.

“The speed is very, very amazing, he said. “It’s surprised me.”

As to whether this is a big strategic deal or just military posturing, here is Stratfor's analysis on the implications of China getting its first aircraft carrier.

China’s state news agency, Xinhua, has published pictures of the Varyag, an aircraft carrier that the Chinese bought from the Ukrainians that they’ve been slowly working to develop and deploy. The pictures are accompanied by a note that suggests that after 70 years of Chinese hopes, this carrier is finally going to float this year.

It’s interesting that Chinese state media is finally publishing pictures of the carrier. This has been about the worst-kept secret in the history of military development; everyone has seen pictures — either satellite pictures or on-the-ground pictures — of the Varyag throughout its refit by the Chinese. That they’re finally putting imagery in the state media suggests that they may actually be nearing the point of putting this to sea.

There’s been a lot of concern raised by China’s neighbors — by the United States — of Chinese maritime intent, of the expansion of Chinese activities in the South China Sea, of a seemingly more assertive China in pushing what it considers to be its own naval territory. The deployment of the Varyag finally into this mix will certainly add to those concerns. The Varyag would technically allow the Chinese to move air assets further away from their shore, give them additional capabilities within the narrow constraints of the South China Sea. There’s been a lot of debate as to whether or not the Chinese included the South China Sea as one of their “core national interests” in some documents last year. It’s unclear whether they did or they didn’t, but certainly the Chinese have been acting in a manner that suggests that they are going to be much more aggressive in pushing their claim to the territory, as well as pushing to work bilaterally with some of the countries along the region, in an effort to keep the United States out of the mix.

Carrier operations are not something that’s easy to do, it’s going to take a very long time for the Chinese to be able to work through the various technicalities of this. It’s also not something they’re going to be able to learn from other people. The Russians haven’t done carrier operations a very long time and United States is certainly not going to be training them. So this is going to be years before the Chinese really have the coordination to be able to move large carrier battle groups anywhere. And that assumes also that China builds more carriers. A single carrier gives you almost no capability. It’s got to be in port, it’s got to be in for refit, it can only go to one location. Until they have about three carriers, they really don’t even have the opportunity to maintain a single carrier on station at any given point in time.

This is really more about politics rather than about military capabilities at this moment. Certainly, the Chinese will use this to learn, to train, to be able to develop new capabilities. But it’s about giving the sense that China has emerged, that China really is no longer just a second-tier country, but economically, politically and militarily, China is one of the big boys now.

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dlmaniac's picture

What's the use of it really?


I can understand the need of gunboats in 19th century when there was vast amount of new land to colonize so a gunboat or two definitely helped enforce your authority over it.


It's 21st cenrury now. There's nothing to colonize no more so what's the deal here?

magpie's picture

Appearances of national prestige always trump economic downturn and internal dissent.

Gene Parmesan's picture

Plus this one transforms into one big fucking robot.

Spastica Rex's picture

It's Chinese, not Japanese.

MachoMan's picture

Nuclear, but with less radiation...

nope-1004's picture

Need some way to bring all those PM's out of Australia and Africa.

No pirates will fuck with that ship.


Mad Max's picture

No pirates will fuck with that ship.

Keep thinking that.  I wouldn't fuck with a navy that has a carrier air wing named the Jolly Rogers (VFA-103).  If the US can't get by otherwise, maybe we can turn to piracy.

Haywood Jablowme's picture

*hand claps* LOL...

-1 junk for Parmesan


thefatasswilly's picture

Yes, the Varyag is little more than a symbolic form of power. China has little use for aircraft carriers, which serve as mobile command centers, because it is not stuck on an island, sandwhiched between two weak, subservient states. The U.S. needs to travel all the way to the other side of the world to expand its empire; China does not.

China's short term goal is to slowly consume, infiltrate, and assimilate its inferior neighbors. It has already accomplished this goal in half of the Corean peninsula, all but the eastern coast of the Indochinese peninsula, Siberia, the southwestern Pacific Islands minus the Phillippines, and Central Asia.

North Corea, Burma, and Pakistan are Chinese client states; their political, military, and economic policies all revolve around decisions made in Beijing.

Chinese elites directly control the economies of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

China is also busy making natural gas / oil business deals, which are heavily in favor of China, in the central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Chinese immigrants flood into the sparsely populated Siberia (and all of the above nations) as we speak. It is, by now, Northern China.

This leaves India, Vietnam, the Phillippines, and South Corea unaccounted for. The eastasian theatre of war will be located in these pivotal regions (Vietnam and the Phillippines are important reasons China is so interested in the South China Sea), although I strongly suspect that the loss of Japan makes South Corea's position extremely tenuous. N. Corea, backed by China, will roll over the tip of the peninsula in a week. The U.S., without its key bases in Japan, will be able to provide little assistance.

India itself is a vast nation, but, thanks to the pacifist pansy known as Ghandi, it is more a confederation of provinces than an actual united country. Its government will do more to defeat itself than China will; China has already been confiscating territory militarily in Aruchunal Pradesh and Kashmir for years and decades, respectively. New Delhi's response has been feeble and pathetic. Much like Ghandi.

The Vietnamese have historically put up fierce resistance to Chinese assimilation. I am less familiar with the Phillippines.

As such, the South China Sea is, and will remain, an extreme hotspot for some time. Despite this, because of its proximity to China itself, the middle kingdom does not need to deploy carriers in the region in order to dominate it; submarines are more than enough. On the other hand, America needs carriers in order to exert influence in the area.

Lastly, the contingency called Taiwan is a conundrum. I believe that it will act pragmatically and ally itself with China, in order to avoid complete and utter annihilation. However, this is not for certain. Its leaders may act based on ideology and vendetta.

"He who believes that amongst great personages, recent benefits allow old injuries to be forgotten, deceives himself greatly." - Niccolo Machiavelli

Cthonic's picture

Conquer, er, concur.  This is also the reason behind the new military interest in Africa.  Chinese have been very busy forging political and economic inroads on that continent.

Fish Gone Bad's picture

Back in the old days of colonization, the continent of Africa pretty much killed 98% of the white military forces.  It was not that the Africans were a bunch of "bad asses", it was just that all the diseases wiped out all the colonizers.  Maybe it was hemorrhagic fever, malaria, schistosomes, or maybe gun wielding lions, whatever it was, the continent killed a lot of whites.

Logan Tassajar's picture

Yes before quinine.  The gin and tonic made the Empire "Great"

levelworm's picture

Then what's the deal that US has much more carriers?

Actually it's a simple question. When you have carriers, you can protect your oversea interests. Of course you can also use it to bully small countries, like US has done so many times.

patb's picture

Or you can conduct a offensive military op.

The US keeps 4 steaming more or less world wide, but China has different needs, if they decide they want to sally out

and bully a US Recon ship or sally out and tail a Carrier battle group or a cruiser or push out and take a spratley or



a carrier is useless without a battle group unless it's operating in close

levelworm's picture

When I talked about a carrier I meant a group as we all know a carrier is useless without support. By saying "bully" other countries I mean smaller countries, surely not US. Only the reverse can happen. I'd say China won't challenge US directly (and fully) in at least 20-30 years.

New_Meat's picture

+1, 'cuz the integration of ASW, AAW, ASUW is kinda' fricken' hard to do.  Let alone trying to do something operationally "effective".  And spot-on about "group".  Gotta' train Tyler and gang that it isn't e.g. "Enterprise" but rather "Enterprise Group" that plays.

It ain't the thing--it is the team.

- Ned

astartes09's picture

The Chinese Navy has FOUR aircraft carriers in various stages of construction.  Minsk, Kiev, Varyag and the former HMAS Melbourne.  But I dont know if they still have the Melbourne, they may have bought it just for the schematics.

Haywood Jablowme's picture

The Chinese Navy has FOUR aircraft carriers in various stages of construction.  Minsk, Kiev, Varyag and the former HMAS Melbourne.  But I dont know if they still have the Melbourne, they may have bought it just for the schematics.

^^ interesting.  So eventually it will come down to logistics / management / training which I'm sure the Ruskies are providing intel & support. 

So let me see, either the dumbed down public wakes the fuck up and we take the USSofA back now or we wait until we're over-run by the Chinese and Russians, hell you can probably throw Korea in there too, then try to regroup and take it back from them......hmmmm.....yup, a lot of people are gonna die in this next great war.  Should be a good one.



astartes09's picture

Even with the four carriers, they are all only capable of launching and recovering around 30 aircraft each (10-15 at a time really).  In comparison the Nimitz class carrier up to 60 air craft, and can launch and retrieve aircraft with heavier payloads.

I would be more worried if I were Taiwan or the Spratley Islands (which are rich in oil).  Possibly smaller asian countries such as the Phillipenes or Indonesia.  Think any country in that area with oil or could be a choke point for shipping.

If you want a cool movie to watch, some Australians made a "Red Dawn"-esque movie about a fictional chinese invasion of thier homeland called "Tomorrow When the War Began".  Complete with a J-10 vs. F-18 engagement.  Good stuff.

Haywood Jablowme's picture

Yeah I understand that, but that's just for the time being.  For someone who has done a lot of traveling over the last 10 year's to China's mfg plants, their mfg has come a loooong way especially for the goods they really want to do good on unlike their knock-off / cheap retail market segment which they choose to cut corners.

The Chinese are very shrewd and wise.  This carrier is just for show.  Unlike most Americans, their natural tendency is to keep things under wraps.  I have no doubt that the "real" goods will be revealed when the time is right.

I enjoyed "Red Dawn" so I will definitely check that flick out.  Good day!


astartes09's picture

They are remaking Red Dawn too, but this time with Chinese advesaries.  Its currently being filmed in Detroit which is convienently destroyed already.

dracos_ghost's picture

Nope, the original script was China and the studios didn't want to piss of the Chinese market. It's NORTH KOREA takes over America now.


MGM are nothing but pussies.


Maxter's picture

"There's nothing to colonize no more"

Looks to me that we are currently engaged in a colonial war in Libya.

Confucious 222's picture

And there are many other resources in Africa, for example, looking for "protection". 


magpie's picture

Gunboat diplomacy never really was sensu strictu about colonization, it was about reminding defaulters.
Thus shall the 21st century meaning be once again.

Sabibaby's picture

"It's 21st cenrury now. There's nothing to colonize no more so what's the deal here?"

Try to start using your brain, a two thirds of the world is covered by ocean primarly dominated by the US.

George Orwell's picture

You use an aircraft carrier battle group to project power.  Why do you think oil can flow freely from Saudi Arabia to the rest of the world?  Because we have two aircraft carrier groups in the Persian gulf ready to take down anybody attempting to block the flow of oil.  Particularly when it comes to Iran and the Strait of Hormuz.

So yes, it is about OIL once again. Pretty much every military intervention after WWII is about securing the supply of oil.

The Chinese aircraft carriers will make sure that the oil deals that they have been making in Africa actually results in oil flowing from Africa back to China.  Pirates in Somalia?  Fuck them. The chinese will kill first and fuck the consequences.  Especially when in international waters.


George Orwell


Drachma's picture

It's also about civilization building and destruction. The dominant minority are done with the US. On to China for the next phase of the end-game.


nonentity's picture

Aircraft carriers are obsolete as they are easily sunk. 

Rainman's picture

....haha....the US carriers are not easy to sink from above or beneath. At sea, carrier task forces know all that's going on within 200 miles or more, they won't say. Their firepower is immense and extremely accurate. American malinvestment for decades has reaped the reward of outstanding weaponry.

All hail the Bernank for continuing to finance it.

Finn's picture

For some funny reason I recall seeing news of Chinese subs unexpectedly surfacing in the middle of US fleet, in near collision with an US sub. But perhaps that's just my memory playing tricks, or else just rumours of a false flag operation.

punishmentnotrevenge's picture

Only when playing battleship, there are at least twenty other cruisers, frigates, destroyers and or subs protecting one carrier.  Their sole mission is to protect that carrier and intercept by any means inbound missiles, torpedoes or watercraft.  That carrier extends that battle groups reach by hundreds of miles and chinas nuclear ballistic missile's accuracy suck.  If you can deliver that pay load accurately, WOW! or POW! Lets not be naive!

ChookChoker's picture

Military analysts have been saying for a while that the US carrier groups have little protection against ballistic missile attack.

Chinas ballistic missile accuracy may suck, but how close do you have to get a nuke?


In a full on war, things may not turn out as expected.

PolishErick's picture

True... some good thoughts on that are presented in two episodes of an old documentary flick:


Conventional war will probably go on for anything from 30 minutes up to 2 days... then nobody knows whats going to happen- and there probably wont be too many people to analyze it afterwards.

Ethics Gradient's picture

You don't need a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile to sink an aircraft carrier. With an accurate enough guidance system you just plough through the deck at mach 10. This is what China is working on.

They were working on a version of Trident without a warhead so targets a long way away can be destroyed within minutes. The Russians then popped up and said something like, "Yes, but when we see ballistic missile on early warning radar screen, how we know it not got nine warheads?". They decided to drop the idea.

China might be being a bit reckless here. You need to keep your big weapons massive and unuseable and keep your other weapons small. Otherwise you confuse the issue and things get dangerous.

treemagnet's picture

Whats the story with the wankel rotor?

thefatasswilly's picture

A carrier is ultra overkill against pirates. A single destroyer or submarine is just as effective.

Popo's picture

Yes and no.  Control of the air is increasingly accomplished through unmanned craft  -- and that trend is in the process of going exponential.  

Small unmanned drones require a smaller flight deck and a different type of support fleet. 

China is building yesterday's air strategy.

carbonmutant's picture

Skateboarding that forward ramp ought to be interesting...

Snake's picture


Taint Boil's picture
Why bother with aircraft carriers when you can have one these:   Sunburn Missile mach 3 .....  good-bye. More bang for your buck.
jedimarkus's picture

I assume they will use this when they come to collect on all those worthless treasury debt they have bought from little Timmy and Uncle Ben?

BorisTheBlade's picture

It's 21st cenrury now. There's nothing to colonize no more so what's the deal here?

Africa and Middle East, the space shouldn't necessarily be empty to colonize it btw. Americans grew so complacent and arrogant about presence all over the world that don't even appreciate value of good ole' force projection, which, by coincidence, is one of the main reasons why gasoline costs much less than in Europe (except taxes, but then why do they keep taxes so high in Europe, hehe). That is one tiny glimpse into American source of prosperity, which many mistakenly attribute to the reserve status of the currency alone (which is just a derivative of a force projection itself), but there we go: See, the presence of aircraft carrier gives a nation an ability to wage a proper war almost anywhere it chooses to, moreover, it gives an ability to establish air superiority by parking it next to whoever you think are the 'bad' guys. It is not so much notable that China developed its aircraft carrier, it's that it did almost all by itself without much of external support, this baby was bought from Ukraine and was 'officially' designated as a casino in Chinese Monaco aka Macao. It also means that going forward Chinese will also be able to replicate their experience of the build up of the carrier and multiply their fleet by a factor of whatever. The Great Game, that's what it is.


reader2010's picture

Will it be manned by suicidal workforce of Foxconn?  To bad, they just don't have any fucking brains to come up with their own stuff of their own design. In late 1880s, the Chinese had the largest navy with two largest battleships in Asia, the fourth in the world. History is repeating itself again. Is this time different now?

bankonzhongguo's picture

Those Chinese carriers will sure some in handy with an amphibious assault on the Japanese coast.

Nanjing payback pengyou.

thefatasswilly's picture

A carrier would be unneccessary for China to assault Japan. The two countries are very close together.

In addition to this, why would China assault Japan? Japan has already been destroyed. It has no power and is heavily irradiated. Its economy, industry, land, have all been devastated. China didn't, and won't, need to do a thing for Japan to collapse.