What scrap metal? It’s China’s aircraft carrier

China gives a new coat of paint (and a lot more perhaps) for an old Russian boat

A Chinese company Chong Lot Travel Agency bought the Soviet-made Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier VARYAG (Viking), still lacking an engine and a rudder, from Ukraine for US$20 million in 1998, and wanted to tow it to Macau from the Black Sea and convert it into a floating casino.

Construction of the Varyag began in 1985. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ownership of the carrier was transfered to newly independent Ukraine. Ukraine halted construction in 1992, when the vessel was about 70% complete. The total estimated cost of the ship was about US$2.4 billion, and more than US$500 million was needed to complete her construction. [Varyagworld]

But Jane’s Defence Weekly has this to report (via Siberian Light)

Chinese shipyard workers have been repairing a badly damaged ex-Russian aircraft carrier and have repainted it with the country’s military markings, raising the question once again of whether China is pursuing longer-term plans to field its first carrier.

In the latest developments, images show that workers at the Chinese Dalian Shipyard have repainted the ex-Russian Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier Varyag with the markings and colour scheme of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy (PLAN). Additional new photographs show that other work, the specifics of which could not be determined, appears to be continuing and that the condition of the vessel is being improved.

JDW believes that PLAN technicians have also conducted thorough studies of the basic structure of the Varyag during the past few years to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the carrier’s structural design. Former PLAN commander General Liu Huaqing stated in his memoirs that China had purchased blueprints for the carrier – a fact that Russian sources confirmed to JDW. Moreover, Gen Huaqing added: “The competent departments of the defence industry employed Russian aircraft carrier designers to come to China and give lectures.”

Still, China’s ultimate intentions for the Varyag remain unclear. One possibility is that Beijing intends to eventually have it enter into some level of service. A military strategist from a Chinese military university has commented publicly that the Varyag “would be China’s first aircraft carrier”. [Jane’s]

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