Here are some thoughts on the significance of China’s new aircraft carrier that Andrew Erickson, an expert on the PLAN at the U.S. Naval War College, passed on to Defense Tech. While China’s “starter carrier” may not compare to one of the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz class supercarriers, it will make waves with China’s neighbors in the Western Pacific. Enjoy.
China’s Navy has finally realized its longtime dream of obtaining an aircraft carrier and putting it to sea. It has been a long road from the Guomindang’s 1929 rejection of naval commander Chen Shaokuan’s proposal for building a Chinese aircraft carrier to the acquisition and refitting of the former Ukrainian carrier Varyag in Dalian Naval Shipyard, a task essentially as complex as building a carrier from scratch.
On August 10, 82 years after Adm. Chen’s proposal, China’s first carrier disappeared into the fog under tight security at 0540 local time from Dalian Harbour’s Xianglujiao Port in northeast Liaoning Province to begin sea trials. Liaoning Maritime Safety Authority has declared a temporary exclusion zone in a rectangular sea area nearby.
A newly-wed couple wants a ‘starter home,’ a new great power wants a ‘starter carrier.’ China’s ‘starter carrier’ is of very limited military utility, and will serve primarily to confer prestige though naval diplomacy, to help master basic operational procedures, and to project a bit of power—perhaps especially vis-à-vis smaller neighbours in the South China Sea. Having avoided the winds and waves recently sent to the Yellow Sea by Typhoon Muifa, the carrier will subject China to even more diplomatic turbulence as its neighbors react to the reality that their giant neighbour now has a basically-functioning carrier. …
Erickson also tells DT that we may have be wrong in thinking the ex-Varyag is going to be commissioned as the Shi Lang (a Chinese admiral who first conquored Taiwan). Instead, the ship may well be named after the Chinese city of Tianjin in keeping with PLAN tradition.
One detail–I don’t think the carrier will be named Shi Lang when commissioned. I think the name “ex-Varyag” is more accurate for now. Sounds clunky, I know. If you want to speculate based on traditional PLAN nomenclature, I believe it’s likely to be named after a large city, probably one of China’s 4 municipalities, with Tianjin perhaps the leading candidate based on Internet “rumint.”
For Erickson’s more detailed post on the ship, check out his recent piece at China Sign Post.