The satellite picture above is the first reported sighting at sea of China’s first aircraft carrier, the Varyag. It was taken by a U.S. imaging company, Digital Globe, on December 8, and shows the vessel in the Yellow Sea some 100 kilometers south-southeast of Dalian, the port where the converted former Soviet carrier has been refitted. The carrier sailed from Dalian on November 29 to undertake its second sea trials. We have photos of it leaving port and of the first test flight of the carrier-based J-15 fighter in PLA-Navy colors that is being developed to equip China’s planned carrier fleet here.
Tag Archives: Navy
These two pictures of China’s first aircraft carrier, the Varyag, were taken on November 29th as the vessel was leaving its berth in Dalian for its second sea trials.
The first sea trials took place in August. There are plenty of pictures of the ship’s return here.
Meanwhile, state media has published what is says are pictures of the test flight of a carrier-based J-15 fighter, though the photograph is undated. (Similar pictures of a J-15 in PLA-Navy colours were doing the rounds in April.) China has produced three prototypes of the aircraft. There has been speculation that a landing and takeoff from the carrier may have been attempted during the second sea trial but it is more likely that any such exercise would have involved helicopters in the first instance.
The so-called string of pearls—a series of naval bases in South and Southeast Asia intended to secure Chinese sea lines of communication across the Indian Ocean–looks to be adding another gem. Beijing has indicated that it will start using the Seychelles to resupply its naval fleet, initially PLA-Navy vessels on anti-piracy patrols, but also prompting speculation that this is a prelude to establishing a naval base there. Defense Minister Liang Guanglie was in the Seychelles earlier this month to boost bilateral ties. Seychelles President James Alix Michel visited Beijing in October. The two countries have had a military cooperation agreement since 2004 that provides for Seychelles soldiers to be trained in China.
Pearls already in the string include Marao in the Maldives, Gwadar in Pakistan, Chittagong in Bangladesh, Sittwe in Burma, Lamu in Kenya and Hambantota in Sri Lanka. China also has resupply agreements with Oman and Yemen, similar to the one being initially proposed with the Seychelles. The U.S. has a drone base in the Seychelles, but the arrival of the Chinese fleet in such a strategically important part of the Indian Ocean would give rise to most concern in New Delhi.
China’s much-watched first aircraft carrier, a refitted old Soviet carrier, the Varyag, has set out on its second sea trial, state media report. (Defense ministry statement, in Chinese.) The photo above, taken on Nov. 29, shows the carrier heading out of Dalian, where its conversion work has been done.
The Varyag’s first sea trials took place in August. The vessel has since been back in its dock in Dalian for further fitting out. It second voyage is thought to be for additional systems testing and crew training. It is unclear whether the carrier will join up with any of the annual exercises the PLA-Navy is currently conducting in the western Pacific.
State media has been posting pictures of the PLA Navy’s latest generation of missile fast attack craft. The first of the high-speed catamarans appeared as long ago at 2004, but the fleet is being steadily built out, and now numbers in the dozens. We do wonder why they are being shown off now though, beyond showing there is more to the PLA-N than just an aircraft carrier.
The PLA-N is believed to be the first navy to use combat catamarans, as opposed to catamaran support vessels. Its are equipped with eight YJ-83 anti-ship missiles, launched from two pods at the stern. There is 30mm artillery for short-range air defence on the bow deck, plus a couple of four-tube tube launchers. The hulls are constructed to be more stable in choppy seas than conventional catamarans and use a wave-piercing design from Australia that is also used in passenger ferries in China.
The camouflage paints used on the missile catamarans in the picture above suggest that they will be used in the southern fleet. Those deployed in northern waters use a four-color scheme that includes black, as seen in the picture below.
Update: This pictorial show of sea power may mirror a real one being reported by the Financial Times which says that a Chinese warship confronted an Indian navy vessel in the South China Sea shortly after it left Vietnamese waters in late July. The implication of the naval challenge is that China is enforcing its belief that it is entitled to police the entirety of the South China Sea, over which it claims a sovereignty not acknowledged by its regional neighbors.
The Varyag is back at its berth in Dalian after its first four-day sea trial. While few details have been made public, and foggy weather would have restricted satellite observation, it seems that the carrier’s basic systems — engines, electronic systems, navigation systems — were being tested. All appears to have gone without undue incident. Firecrackers greeted the vessel’s return to port. Its weapons systems were covered up as tug boats guided it back in. There are plenty of pictures of the ship’s return on this site, which follows Chinese military affairs. Further fitting out of the Varyag, which was bought as an unfinished ship from the Ukraine, will now continue. The next important phase will be to commission its wing of J-15 fighters. It is expected the Varyag will go into service in about a year’s time, to mark the 85th anniversary of the PLA-Navy.
China’s first aircraft carrier has started its sea trials. The PLA-Navy’s Varyag has cast off from its Dalian berth, according to Xinhua. The voyage is likely to be short. The Liaoning Provincial Maritime Safety Administration has banned shipping from an area in the northern Yellow Sea and Liaodong Bay off the Dalian coast, 13.25 nautical miles wide and 22 nautical miles long, from Aug. 10th to 14th. On its return to Dalian. the vessel will continue its fitting out.
Official pictures of the carrier are here.