Thursday, December 15, 2011

First Chinese Aircraft Carrier

This has been a long time coming. The picture is a satellite image taken from one of the commercial photo satellites of the "new" Chinese aircraft carrier. I'm not sure the ship has a name or if the Chinese have released it yet, but the ship commenced sea trials in August of this year and was "snapped" at sea on December 8th. The carrier started life as the Soviet Varyag (originally Riga), which was being built in a shipyard in the Ukraine. When the Soviet Union broke up they no longer had the money to complete her and the Ukrainians really didn't have a need so it sat rusting at the pier for a while. Then China bought the ship, which didn't even have engines installed, and tugs began to tow it out of the Black Sea en route China. But wait... not so fast said the Turks. They didn't trust that a ship that large without power of any kind could be safely towed through the Bosporus and Dardanelles without running into something. As a result the carrier was towed in circles - literally - for about a year before the Turks were convinced (or paid off, I'm not sure exactly how those things work) and it was allowed to continue on its voyage. There were even press reports of unidentified helicopters landing on its flight deck in the Black Sea for unknown reasons and then taking off again before anyone could board it and see what was happening. The ship has been at Dalien for years and now appears to be underway and running sea trials. "Experts" say it will take years before the carrier can become operational with an air wing and everything. The Chinese say it's basically experimental and a trials ship and that they laid down their first real carrier in June 2011. I guess we'll see but I think it was a major accomplishment for the Chinese (or any one else for that matter) to have gotten this ship underway. By the way, the model is an Admiral Kuznetsov, which was the lead ship of the class and is still serving in the Russian Navy. I painted one and included it in my Chinese Navy, although I may have to repaint the flight deck based on this photo.

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