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China Could Field its First Carrier in 2011

by John Reed on December 31, 2010

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone!

Here’s one more example of new China’s fast modernizing military tech. Smoke coming from the stack of ex-Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag (now the Shi Lang) that’s being rapidly converted into what’s assumed to be China’s first operational carrier. The ship’s come a long way in the last 10 years.

Just last week, Reuters reported that the PLAAN was planning (oh, stupid pun!) to launch the ship in 2011; a full year ahead of U.S. intelligence estimates.

China may be ready to launch its first aircraft carrier in 2011, Chinese military and political sources said on Thursday, a year ahead of U.S. military analysts’ expectations.

Analysts expect China to use its first operational aircraft carrier to ensure the security of its oil supply route through the Indian Ocean and near the disputed Spratly Islands, but full capability is still some years away.

“The period around July 1 next year to celebrate the (Chinese Communist) Party’s birthday is one window (for launch),” one source with ties to the leadership told Reuters, requesting anonymity because the carrier programme is one of China’s most closely guarded secrets.

The Defense Ministry spokesman’s office declined to comment.

The possible launch next year of the ex-Soviet aircraft carrier ‘Varyag’ for training, and testing technology, will be one step toward building an operating aircraft carrier group, analysts said.

The U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence estimates the Varyag will be launched as a training platform by 2012, and China will have an operational domestically built carrier after 2015.

Yes, this is a relatively old ship and it takes years to master the art of effective carrier ops. Still, China is making serious gains in its military technology and we shouldn’t underestimate its learning curve as The Heritage Foundation’s Dean Cheng points out over at sister site, DoDBuzz.

Here are some more pics of the smoking ship.

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

slntax December 31, 2010 at 1:39 pm

we are repeating the mistakes of history if we do not take this seriously. in the 1930's churchill saw the rapid expanse of the luftwaffe, yet the world ignored his warnings. they said that the German economy was too integrated with the rest of Europe to start war, appeasers make excuse after excuse. we must remember that capabilities are a signal of intentions.

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STemplar December 31, 2010 at 2:44 pm

We are building the F35, we are building longer range stand off weaponry, particulary anti ship, we are building persistent high endurance armed drone ISR assets, we are building next gen nuclear attack subs, we are building a medium range strike platform, we are building practical defensive and offensive DEW options, we are engaging with regional powers directly intimidated by Chinese advances and pushing a multi-lateral approach to resolution of territorial issues. I don't think anybody is not taking the matter seriously.

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Thunder350 December 31, 2010 at 3:04 pm

You forgot one thing tho templar, and that is who is loaning us the money to buy that stuff. Oh yea CHINA!. Because the USA is too busy bailing out millionaires and billionaires, while taking money from main street to bail out wall street.

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STemplar December 31, 2010 at 3:07 pm

China has 5% of total US foreign debt, which is less than half of total US debt. The Federal Reserve is the largest holder of US debt, and the rest is divided up amongst other nations. So I'm not sure what your point is.

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Thunder350 December 31, 2010 at 3:10 pm

When you add in the interest rates, it increases MUCH higher. China is one of the last countries that will even loan us money. I remember the days when the US was doing the loaning, not the borrowing.

Chops December 31, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Don't forget one more very important thing–we posess the most skill-over60yrs.-of carrier ops of anyone and it will take China years to learn what most of our senior navy personnell have already forgotten.

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0pilot January 1, 2011 at 10:34 am

and history repeats itself. The Answer: A strong offensive line (Japan) with a power house running game and a precision quarterback (U.S.). Japan must lose the pacifist clause in their constitution and increase it's capability and it's size. The U.S. must encourage and let this happen if not accelerate it.

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@Earlydawn January 1, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Completely right. Japan knows this, too. The expansion of their submarine fleet is just the first part of this trend. Expect more expansion in the JSDF this year, considering their relatively strong financial standing during the crisis.

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STemplar January 1, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Actually Japan just really needs to flip the switch on strategy, in regards to size Japan's defense spending is already pretty huge. It's more about stance, politics, and strategy than much else.

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freetheworld April 19, 2011 at 10:54 pm

stop being such a retarded china basher
just because us americans finally have a country that may challenge our dominance of the world, we get all fearful and hateful towards it.
Look at OUR capabilities – we spend more then most of the rest of the world does on defense. If anything the world should be acting like you towards us. Its crazy how much we spend. Comparing the rise of China to the rise of Hitler is pathetic

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Clifford December 31, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Those Chinese will bang these ships out at a rate of 10 ships or so a year right up until 2030, just you wait America, they will have a 1000 ship navy by 2025!

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kim December 31, 2010 at 2:39 pm

1000 ships indeed. So true. Anyone who's seen '2012' will know what they are capable of.

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crackedlenses January 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm

You can't believe most of what you see in movies…..

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kim January 1, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Irony missed.

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crackedlenses January 1, 2011 at 6:19 pm

You were judging Chinese capability based of an end-of-the-world movie; I would not believe most of what you will see in movies…..

Belesari January 1, 2011 at 12:34 am

If they do it right they could have move CVBG by 2030 to 2040 than we do. Hopefully by this time we wont have anymore LCS (POS) or Zummwalt (bigger POS) left to lose lives and money on.

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0pilot January 1, 2011 at 10:36 am

awesome, we can do dual carrier ops with the Chinese. Sounds great.

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0pilot January 1, 2011 at 10:37 am

I'm the sure the U.S. will not mind lending a hand to the Chinese with training and bilateral cooperation.

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crackedlenses January 1, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Like the same way we should have "helped" the Soviet Union. Give me a break…..

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PhilaMike January 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Clinton and Democrat politicians have already done that. China could not get one rocket off the ground until a US businessman bribed Clinton with tons of "Campaign" Cash to be able to sell our rocket and guidance technology and restricted Super Computers to China, our future Enemy. Buried UNDER THE RUG..Thank you MSM………..

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blight January 8, 2011 at 3:00 pm

You totally disregard the fact that China got ballistic missile aid from the Russians, and have had nukes for a long while (built on their own, as the Sino-Soviet split occured in the middle of the exchange).

One of China's premiere rocket scientists left America after the Red Scare, ironically enough.

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blight January 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm

It's ironic, because one of the earlier missiles was the DF-21, which was completed in the '80s with fielding in 1991, during Reagan/Bush. If anything, technology transfers are an indictment of Corporate America.

Specifically, Hughes and Loral. You can't just bribe a POTUS and not expect Congressional obstacles, so in all truth what probably happened was payouts on a grand scale throughout Congress, both houses and both parties. Business as usual.

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Olternaut January 1, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Wait, China doesn't even have a carrier fleet? If world war 3 ever hits and a non nuclear naval battle breaks out then China's navy would be done.

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Any Mouse April 30, 2011 at 2:25 am

Yup. And that's sure to happen. A non-nuclear World War 3…

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John January 2, 2011 at 6:29 am

oh look they are getting a carrier, well an old russian one and we have how many carrier groups at the moment? 10?

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blight January 3, 2011 at 6:14 pm

I won't deny that the carrier has been useful for the half-century we've dominated the carrier force-but it's hard to say when the carrier may go the way of the battleship. Carriers deploying <100 aircraft take up several thousand crew per unit and to deliver sustained bombardment of their targets requires these large targets to park within range of cruise missiles or far out at sea to evade enemy SSK's/SSN's, missile boats and target acquisition for aforementioned missiles.

I suspect the PLAN will invest in carrier capability because they are invaluable if you have to soften up a target unable to hit you back; but their first strike will have to be something more robust. SLCMs and following the USN's lead in SSGN-land seems a more expeditious investment than a large carrier fleet. The PLAN will need carrier-trained sailors and commanders eventually, so this small effort is to develop that small seed of capability, not unlike the Langley's role in early carrier doctrine.

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Rumor April 12, 2011 at 12:00 am

That’s 2 cvlere by half and 2×2 clever 4 me. Thanks!

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David Walker January 5, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I have nothing GOOD to say about this ! We the people have been unable to agree long enough on anything that benifits the American people and the world. Our government is only interested in filling their pockets and emptying ours . We have passed the point of no return . And we have the best government going .

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Baloshka January 8, 2011 at 11:48 am

The good news is that ammo is cheap nowadays. Stock up now and avoid the rush.

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Carl January 10, 2011 at 1:58 am

As others I not agree with the idea of allow China to develop their military. But at the same time is stupid trying to stop China or any other Nation when we, The United States are the first who develop new weapons every year…. But yes, I do agree with protect our country with one condition…. Our guns are to protect us from any attack not to go out there and attack others just because they have something that we want. Our world needs something better… We need Peace.

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Stanley January 10, 2011 at 10:34 am

In the UK are selling stuff to china like mad,they can't get enough..of anything we got.
The EU stop China from exporting as much as they like,they have to "Assemble" items in a EU country & go into deals with locals to get past them.Its not ideal but it gives Philips,Grundig,Siemmens,Decca,Amstrad and the few left a chance.
When I go to US..its just Wallmart,selling CHINA INC…..Dammm!
How many domestic manufactured electronic goods are there?

PS.We'll prob'ly sell them that carrier too. :)

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Paul Sturm January 19, 2011 at 10:20 pm

China finally making good use of the former Soviet carrier Varyag just goes to prove what the Chinese have mastered in technique over the last few years. They are a new world power to reckon with and rightfully so. If they really are to use this power to make the sealanes in the Strait of Malacca safe (from piracy) then they put their hardware to more good use than any other carrier operating navy has done so far. If India is entitled to operate a number of carriers in the coming years, then why not the People's Republic? The balance of power? The days that Britain ruled the waves are long gone and her navy is shedding its carriers accordingly. New countries rise to power and that is demonstrated by their will to operate carriers to increase their influence in the world.

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Jerry Sebastian May 4, 2011 at 11:13 pm

China is power hungry (Oil & other sources of energy), then there's Spratly's islands. Guess what's the carriers for then….. not to mention the EFV they been producing.

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supply chain January 8, 2014 at 11:23 am

Chinese suppliers is energy starving (Oil & other resources of energy), then there’s Spratly’s isles. Think what’s the providers for then….. in addition to the EFV they been generating.

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STemplar December 31, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Sorry but I still don't see what point you are trying to make in regards to US countering Chinese naval aviation. I also don't know what you are talking about in regards to adding in interest rates, they hold 5%ish of US debt, we have to pay interest on the money we borrow which means they will make money. We need to pay down the debt.

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Thunder350 December 31, 2010 at 4:19 pm

In short, the USA is broke, and we keep borrowing more and more money (from the Chinese). With ridiculous interest rates. Current US debt in total is over 13 trillion (very close to 14). Calculate in the interest on all that debt, its well over 20 trillion.

The Chinese can afford to modernize their military, we can't. Sure right now we have a better military, but what will theirs look like in 10 years? Especially if we keep raising our debt to over 20 trillion by 2020 as most economist say were heading. And while China is suppose to be the worlds largest economy by then. (And a potential super power).

If we end up in a coldwar with the Chinese, they can easily do to us what we did to the soviets. Outspend us!

Hopefully we'll bring the budget back under control. And get a surplus each year to start paying down the debt. (A VAT would be a nice bonus).

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superraptor December 31, 2010 at 9:58 pm

We are broke by our own choice. Let's raise income taxes, add a VAT and a gas tax and we will be importing less, living more modestly with small cars and small houses, but would have money in the bank again to do whatever is necessary. It is not that hard to do. No pain, no gain

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STemplar January 1, 2011 at 6:38 am

What we did to the Soviets was more complicated than outspend them. The negotiations with the Saudis to keep oil prices artificially low and choke the ability of the Russian oil industry to turn a profit denying them revenue.

The US is in debt, the US is not broke. Simply lowering increases is spending to under growth in GDP will balance the budget. over time. We certainly need to impose fiscal discipline but we are far from broke.

China may have the largest GDP eventually but their enormous population precludes ever having a standard of living ever approaching the US standard. In addition their decades of one child policy is a social welfare/demographics/revenue tidal wave that is going to cause them enormous issues. It will make our baby boom social security dilemma seem appealing in comparison.

Also, anyone who thinks the US federal government under either party balances the budget by raising taxes should invest heavily in ocean front property in Arizona……

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Belesari January 1, 2011 at 12:31 am

Oh yes because if i dont have the money to pay for the massive increase in EVERYTHING! because EVERYTHING is impacted by gas i have the money to buy a brand new 20 thousand or more dollar car (oh wait those go up to because of gas) excuse me 25,000 dollar car. Then lets raise income taxes because the 20% or so the government and state take out of my 20,000 dollars in wages is entirely uneeded i mean i can live modestly in the street instead of my tiny one bedroom apartment.

Why dont you move to another country have the pain yourself. We will figure out another way that doesnt destroy the economy and many, many lives.

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@ohfuckinreally January 1, 2011 at 8:48 pm

You win the medal for the most stupid comment of the year, and it's only 1/1/2011.

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Joe Schmoe January 1, 2011 at 9:21 pm

I do believe however that you are missing a sense of humor.

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Belesari January 2, 2011 at 12:24 pm

The idea isnt to freak out. But to honestly consider what moves need to be made. I can fully see a Chinese domination of the sea by 2030 or 2050 if we dont make the right desicions. Think not just 2 or 5 yrs ahead but decades the Chinese do.

I wonder sometimes if people really look to where the Chinese have come in the last 40 years. This isn't NK they will have allies who will help them they will be armed by the chinese just as we have allies like Japan, GB, SK, Australia and many, many others. And our allies are mostly disarming and are showing a weakness doing much besides boarder patrol.

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Mastro January 3, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Actually the Sherman wasn't behind on technology to the Panther, Tiger etc- the engines were far more reliable and the gears were non stripping herringbone while the German tanks broke down left and right.

The German tanks were just bigger- due to a different design philosophy. A wrong one (although more armour and a 90 mm in 1944 would have been nice)

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blight January 3, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Many of the industrial powerhouses are experts in building merchant shipping (Japan, South Korea, China). There are a few technical differences between producing merchant and military designs. China still depends on the Soviets for military shipping, indicating they are probably not ready yet to build their own boats, especially flat-tops. Taking apart the Varyag is a first step, and they could probably do better if they could pick up more examples of dedicated flat-tops from the west (instead of cruisers with carrier launch as an additional capability).

Maybe they'll collaborate with a Russian design bureau and split builds? Or at least spin-off the ideas and take them in their own direction…

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PhilaMike January 8, 2011 at 12:19 pm

China DOES have the newest missles to totally eliminate ALL of our Carrier Fleets…

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superraptor January 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm

most us of would be ok with 10% less disposable income if it means we put our nation on a financially sustainable course and maintain financing a strong military. Yes, I may not be able to buy a new snowmobile or my Chinese made 3D TV and may have to settle for a Ford Focus rather than a Suburban and may have to give up my baseball tickets, but that's okay. What you have to realize is that once we are unable to borrow more money which could be in about 4 years, we'll have to print excessive amounts of money which would mean a loaf of bread is suddenly 50000.-and everything we saved is gone. If you have a better idea how to solve our debt crisis, I am all ears. It is either we raise taxes significantly or we cut spending dramatically, but that means no Social Security or Medicare for you and me

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superraptor January 2, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Could you elaborate in a bit more comprehensive manner? I welcome alternative ideas.

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superraptor January 2, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Finally a thoughtful comment. Decreasing spending is defintely key, but has to be supplemented with tax increases unless spending decreases are substantial. In a cold war with China defense spending has to go up. You have to get the money from somewhere. A Value added tax is not the end of the world. It would have a negative effect on consumption which in turn would also result in less imports from Asia. So how does one then create jobs? Lower corporate taxes and taxes for small businesses which would result in more production jobs which is what we really need. Look at Denmark: high personal taxes, low business taxes, low unemployment, the books are balanced and they are still thinking about buying the F-35 even at a higher price tag

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STemplar January 3, 2011 at 12:03 am

I would never green light any revenue increases. The Congress would just come up with new promises to whatever block of votes they have decided will be the next swing group in the next election.

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Alex January 5, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Only one problem with reducing spending; we're in the midst of high unemployment in the middle of a recession. Raising taxes and cutting spending was tried once in the middle of a recession, it led to a little known event, the Great Depression. The federal Debt is of little consequence; what really matters is Deficit vs. GDP. And in that regard, we are at 1/15 of what we had during the Second World War. We came out of that just fine. And all the broohaa about interest on the debt is just silly banter; interest rates are at an all time low. Of course there will still be interest, but we can worry about that when we run a surplus once this recession is over.

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superraptor January 3, 2011 at 8:24 am

Congress also refuses to make spending cuts. I had great hopes for the Republicans I voted for, but to my chagrin they teamed up with our President and added another trillion dollar in debt and passed START limiting our nuclear deterrence. There is no free lunch. If we are willing to accept less Government services such as less Social Security and Medicare coverage when we retire, we would not need to raise taxes. Otherwise we will have to. A VAT and higher gas tax may be one way to do it. A higher gas tax will be the end of the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang, but may resurrect The F-22 as there would be funds to pay for it.

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Jay January 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm

You are right China thinks long term. But her neighbors are not sitting idle. Japan and SK are increasing their defense readiness and Japan is shifting forces to defend against China rather than Russia.

You are correct China will have allies, the most obvious of which are Iran, Pakistan and Syria, and possibly Venezuela. In a crisis Iran may be able to cut off oil throught the gulf if that would help China. Another factor could be china giving advanced missiles and NVG equipment to the muslims we are fighting in Afpak and Iraq to cause us more losses there.

But China's neighbors are worried by the PLA and would likely band together to contain China. And if China gets aggressive it is likely India would ramp up and try to build an alliance – even in the absence of US help. But ideally the US would lead the effort for containment.

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superraptor January 3, 2011 at 5:17 pm

another giveaway was the 50 billion dollars in Social Security living adjustments payout while insisting that there is no money to buy more F-22s. Anyway, there is no free lunch and no matter who caused the problems, you and I are liable for this massive debt problem. Ok, maybe we shouldn't raise taxes, but what about less goverment spending including cuts in Social Security payouts and Medicare? This would hit retirees hard. Print money?That's where it is headed

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Keith January 5, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Not sure how this derailed and spiraled downward into a discussion of taxes but raising tax rates does not bring in additional tax revenues. If you want to increase tax revenues you should do as Kennedy did when facing a recession/depression early in his presidency and reduce the tax rates to increase revenues.

And not in the BS way that we just extended the tax rates of the past 10 years for 24 additional months at the expense of adding cost to the government for now paying 3 years of unemployment. That will do nothing to instill confidence in small business owners and spur hiring.

We really do need to reduce spending and ensure that our debt payments don't soon exceed our GDP. It will take some pain as you mentioned but I believe it should be painful for those who don't contribute instead of additional pain for those who are carrying the load already.

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