Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sea Trials Begin for Chinese Aircraft Carrier

TAIPEI - China's state-run Xinhua News Agency announced Aug. 10 the beginning of sea trials for China's first aircraft carrier, the former Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag.

"China's refitted aircraft carrier left its shipyard at Dalian Port in northeast Liaoning Province on Wednesday morning to start its first sea trial," said the Xinhua report. "Military sources said that the first sea trial was in line with schedule of the carrier's refitting project and would not take a long time. After returning from the sea trial, the aircraft carrier will continue refit and test work."

Photos of the Varyag indicate it has been outfitted with an active phased array radar (similar to the U.S. Aegis System), a Type 381 Sea Eagle Radar, a 30mm Type-1030 close-in weapon system, and an FL-3000 Flying Leopard air defense missile system.

The large number of personnel on board recently and the testing of the engines, with smoke belching from the funnel, indicate that the propulsion systems have been installed and the ship is reaching seaworthiness, said Gary Li, an intelligence analyst for U.K.-based Exclusive Analysis.

Debate and mystery still surround the former Kuznetsov-class carrier. Procured by a Hong Kong travel agency in 1998 for $20 million, purportedly to serve as a casino in Macau, the Varyag has been the focus of debate among China watchers ever since it bypassed Macau for the Dalian Shipyard in northeast China in 2002.

The Chinese-language media are still arguing over whether the vessel will be christened the Shi Lang, after the Ming-Qing Dynasty naval admiral who conquered Taiwan in 1681, or Liu Huaqing, the father of China's modern Navy.

What is certain is that it will not be the last Chinese aircraft carrier. There are indicators, though anecdotal, that China is preparing to build up to three carriers at the Jiangnan Shipyard on Changxing Island in Shanghai.

And, there's this -

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