The Mystery of China’s Homegrown Aircraft Carriers

Recently, we had a quite interesting story about China’s homegrown aircraft carrier.

On September 27 when a reporter asked Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun about the report that China was building its second aircraft carrier in Shanghai, Yang replied that the report was not accurate.

However, Yang did not mention where the report was inaccurate. Is it inaccurate because the second aircraft carrier is not built in Shanghai but in another place? Or is it inaccurate because what China is building in Shanghai is not China’ second but China’s third or fourth aircraft carrier?

China’s homegrown aircraft carriers remain a mystery.

However, we are sure that China is building and will build more aircraft carriers because according to the annual report of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), China’s State Council made a decision in 2003 that China shall become a maritime superpower.

That was confirmed by China’s Ocean Development Report, which said in 2010 that China had the idea and made a plan for building aircraft carriers in order to become a maritime superpower.

In fact China became interested in aircraft carriers long ago in late 1970s but at that time China was too poor to get one. In spite of that, it bought Australian aircraft carrier the Melbourne in 1984 and dismantled it after studying it.

Later, it purchased from Russia the Kiev and the Minsk respectively in 1993 and 1995 and turned them into theme parks after studying them.

When China purchased Varyag in 1998, it was already quite clear that it might refit it as it bought not only the hull but also the blueprints. That was why China encountered such great difficulty in bringing the hull out of the Black Sea.

In 2010, PLA sources revealed that China planned to build four aircraft carriers similar to the Varyag by 2020. That was certainly true as China had got the blueprints for such carriers.

However, I do not think China wants so many carriers urgently. For resolving disputes in East and South China Seas, one existing carrier, the refitted and renamed Varyag, the Liaoning, is quite enough as long as it can function normally; therefore, I think that on second thought, China perhaps has changed its mind. For protection of its interests within the Yellow Sea and East and South China Seas, three Varyag-type carriers are quite enough.

However, in order to protect its shipping lines, it needs nuclear aircraft carriers; therefore, when China has built two homegrown conventional carriers, it has to wait till it has mastered the technology for building its own nuclear carriers.

China has the habit to keep its weapon development secret. However a large ship like an aircraft carrier has to be built in the open. As satellite photographs are available on the market, people can easily get photographs to check whether any carrier is being built in China.

For me, it is not necessary as I am sure China will build two more conventional carriers and the construction will not be carried out in earnest until China has carried out sufficient tests of the Liaoning to see whether such type of carrier is satisfactory and what improvement shall be made in its design.

SCMP: Drones Part of Plan to Patrol Coastal Areas

SCMP reports: “Civilian maritime authority says 11 bases will be home to UAVs with high-definition cameras


“The civilian maritime authority has announced plans to set up a series of bases, from which it will conduct drone-surveillance flights along the Pacific coast of China.


“The State Oceanic Administration (SOA) would establish 11 sites in coastal provinces to store and launch unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), with at least one drone located at each facility, said SOA division chief Yu Qingsong, according to Xinhua.”


“While details about the scale and schedule of the project were unclear, an SOA newspaper, China Ocean News, said on Monday that the drones would use high-definition cameras to monitor illegal land reclamation, sand dredging and other changes in the maritime environment.”

via – Drones part of plan to patrol coastal areas.

SCMP: China Steps Up Building Polar Research Vessel

SCMP’s Stephen Chen reports, “China is making a big push to get an ice-breaker for Antarctic research built and steaming towards the South Pole within three years.


“The State Oceanic Administration (SOA) signed a contract with a Finnish ship designer in Beijing on Tuesday for the vessel. It requires the blueprints to be ready in seven months and construction to be completed by 2014.


“Aker Arctic, based in Helsinki, will charge more than €5 million (HK$47.6 million) for a preliminary design of the ship. Details, such as the layout of pipes, and electric and communication cables, were still to be worked out by Chinese designers, according to the company press release. The price was considered by some domestic ship designers to be high, but the government said it was fair because they wanted the work done quickly.


“An official with the SOA’s polar exploration office said China was in desperate need of a ship for its Antarctic missions, which were being conducted solely by the Xuelong research vessel at present.”


“With a length of 120 metres, maximum breadth of 22 metres and draught of 8.5 metres, the ship will carry a crew of 90 and be able to break through 1.5 metres of level ice at between two and three knots.


“The vessel will incorporate advanced scientific equipment, according to Xinhua. It will have a laboratory with nearly 600 square metres of floor space and a large outdoor platform for experiments, observation and sampling. The biggest difference from Xuelong is that the ship will be able to break the ice by moving either forwards or backwards. However, China has no plan to challenge Russia’s dominance at the other pole in the Arctic. Proposals to build a nuclear-powered ice-breaker were rejected by the government because it would upset Moscow, the official said.”

via – Race on to build polar research vessel.