Chinese aircraft carrier ex-Varyag

Coordinates: 38°56′06″N 121°36′50″E / 38.934961°N 121.61383°E / 38.934961; 121.61383

Varyag under tow
The Varyag under tow.
Career (China)
Name: ex-Varyag
Namesake: Varyag
Builder: Nikolayev South
Designer: Nevskoye Planning and Design Bureau
Laid down: December 6, 1985
Launched: December 4, 1988
Completed: July 2011
Acquired: Purchased from Ukraine[1]
Status: sea trials ongoing from 10 August 2011[2]
General characteristics Specs aar for the Varyag as originally designed
Class and type: Admiral Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier
Displacement: 33,000 t (32,000 long tons) currently
53,000 to 55,000 t (52,000 to 54,000 long tons) standard
66,000 to 67,500 t (65,000 to 66,400 long tons) full load
Length: 1,000 ft (300 m) o/a
900 ft (270 m) w/l
Beam: 240 ft (73 m) o/a
125 ft (38 m) w/l
Draft: 36 ft (11 m)
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 8 boilers, 4 shafts, 200,000 hp (150 MW)
2 × 50,000 hp (37 MW) turbines
9 × 2,011 hp (1,500 kW) turbogenerators
6 × 2,011 hp (1,500 kW) diesel generators
4 × fixed pitch propellers
Speed: 32 knots (37 mph; 59 km/h)
Range: 3,850 nmi (7,130 km) at 32 kn (37 mph; 59 km/h)
Endurance: 45 days
Complement: 1,960 crew
626 air group
40 flag staff
3,857 rooms

After refit:
• 2 x Type 1030 CIWS
• 4 x FL-3000 (18 Cell Missile system)

As designed:
• 8 × AK-630 AA guns (6×30 mm, 6,000 round/min/mount, 24,000 rounds)
• 8 × CADS-N-1 Kashtan CIWS (each 2 × 30 mm Gatling AA plus 16 3K87 Kortik SAM)
• 12 × P-700 Granit SSM
• 18 × 8-cell 3K95 Kinzhal SAM VLS (192 vertical launch missiles; 1 missile per 3 seconds)
RBU-12000 UDAV-1 ASW rocket launchers (60 rockets)
Aircraft carried: Shenyang J-15
As designed:
× 26 fixed wing aircraft
× 24 helicopters

China's first aircraft carrier is the unfinished former Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag. The carrier was purchased from Ukraine in 1998 by the PRC, reportedly for use as an amusement park, and moved to China. It has since been fitted out by People's Liberation Army Navy as an aircraft carrier for "scientific research, experiment and training."[3]

The ship is a modified Admiral Kuznetsov class aircraft carrier laid down at Black Sea Shipyard, Mykolaiv, Ukraine in 1985.



Varyag was launched on December 4, 1988, and renamed Varyag (Varangian) in late 1990, after the famous Russian cruiser.

Construction had ceased by 1992, with the ship structurally complete but without electronics. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, ownership was transferred to Ukraine; the ship was laid up, unmaintained, and then stripped. By early 1998, she lacked engines, a rudder, much of her operating systems, and was put up for auction.

In April 1998, Ukrainian Trade Minister Roman Shpek announced the winning bid of US$20 million from Chong Lot Travel Agency Ltd., a small company based in Hong Kong. They proposed to tow Varyag out of the Black Sea, through the Suez Canal and around southern Asia to Macau, where they would moor the ship and convert it into a floating hotel and gambling parlor.[4] It would be similar to the attractions Kiev in Tianjin and Minsk at Minsk World in Shenzhen.

Considerable evidence suggested that the future of Varyag was linked to the People's Republic of China's People's Liberation Army Navy and its programme to develop an aircraft carrier.[citation needed]

Before the auction was closed, officials in Macau had warned Chong Lot that they would not be permitted to berth Varyag in the harbor. The sale was carried out anyway. Chong Lot is owned by Chin Luck (Holdings) Company of Hong Kong. Four of Chin Luck's six board members live in Yantai, China, where a major Chinese Navy shipyard is located. Chin Luck's chairman is a former career military officer with the People's Liberation Army.[4]

Towed to China

Aircraft carrier Varyag On July3,2011, Dalian China

In mid-2000, the Dutch ITC tugboat Suhaili with a Filipino crew was hired to take Varyag under tow. Chong Lot could not get permission from Turkey to transit the dangerous Bosphorus strait; under the Montreux Treaty of 1936 Turkey has obligations to permit free passage, but has certain sovereignty and refusal rights. The hulk spent 16 months under commercial tow circling in the Black Sea. High-level PRC government ministers conducted negotiations in Ankara on Chong Lot's behalf, offering to allow Chinese tourists to visit cash-strapped Turkey if the travel agency's ship were allowed to pass through the straits. On November 1, 2001, Turkey finally relented from its position that the vessel posed too great of a danger to the bridges of Istanbul, and allowed the transit.[citation needed]

Varyag was escorted by twenty-seven vessels, including eleven tug boats and three pilot boats, and took six hours to transit the strait; most large ships take an hour and a half. The Russian press reported that sixteen pilots and 250 seamen were involved[citation needed]. At 11:45am on November 2, she completed her passage and made for Gallipoli and Çanakkale at 5.8 knots (10.7 km/h). She passed through the Dardanelles without incident.[5]

Varyag under tow in İstanbul.

On November 3, Varyag was caught in a force 9 gale and broke adrift while passing the Greek island of Skyros. Sea rescue workers tried to re-capture the hulk, which was drifting toward the island of Evia. The seven-member crew (three Russians, three Ukrainians and one Filipino) remained on board as six tugboats tried to reestablish their tow. After many failed attempts to reattach the lines, a Greek coast guard rescue helicopter landed on Varyag and picked up four of the seven crew. One tug managed to make a line fast to the ship later in the day, but high winds severely hampered efforts by two other tugs to secure the ship. On November 6, Aries Lima (reported as both Dutch and Portuguese), a sailor from the tug Haliva Champion, died after a fall while attempting to reattach the tow lines. On November 7, the hulk was taken back under tow and progress resumed at some three knots.[citation needed]

The Suez Canal does not permit passage of "dead" ships — those without their own on-board power source — so the hulk was towed through the Strait of Gibraltar, around the Cape of Good Hope, and through the Straits of Malacca. The tugs towing the hulk maintained an average speed of 6 knots (11 km/h) over the 15,200-nautical-mile (28,200 km) journey, calling for bunkers and supplies at Piraeus, Greece; Las Palmas, Canary Islands; Maputo, Mozambique; and Singapore en route. They entered Chinese waters on February 20, 2002, and arrived March 3 at Dalian Shipyard in northeastern China. China continued to assert that Varyag would be a casino. When Macau awarded new casino licenses in February 2002, Chong Lot was not among successful bidders. The hulk was tied up at Dalian. The total cost of acquiring the hulk was over $30 million USD: $25 million to the Ukrainian government for the hull, nearly $500,000 in transit fees, and some $5 million for the towing.[citation needed]

Modernisation and refit

In 2008, Robert Karniol, the Asia editor of Jane's Defence Weekly, said: "The Chinese haven't seen this type of carrier before and it could be very useful to them. They are trying to vacuum up as much know-how as they can".[6] Liu Huaqing, a senior admiral of the PLAN and proponent of naval modernization, has spoken of the 21st century as the "century of the sea" and called for naval modernization over several decades. At the same time, there has been resistance within the PLAN towards Liu Huaqing's vision for an extensive Chinese navy, leading to constant debates between developing aircraft carriers and submarines.

The Varyag was moved in early June 2005 to a dry dock at Dalian (38°56′29″N 121°38′41″E / 38.9414°N 121.6447°E / 38.9414; 121.6447 (Varyag)). Her hull was sandblasted and scaffolding erected around her. The most visible modification done to the Varyag is that her island has been painted in a red marine primer that is used to treat corroded metal. On October 24, 2006, the Kommersant online daily newspaper reported that Russia planned to sell up to 50 Su-33 fighters to China through Rosoboronexport, in a $2.5 billion deal. In March 2009 Moskovskij Komsomolets reported that these negotiations had collapsed over Russian fears that China might begin producing cheaper export versions of the Su-33 with Chinese avionics and systems, undercutting Russian exports, in the same way as with the J-11B (Chinese version of the Su-27).[7]

Also recent photos in the Dalian Shipyard have shown that a yellow anti-skid primer was added to the flightdeck. Then the final flight deck turf layering was added on top of it. The vessel has also been painted in the standard PLA Naval colours.

Jane's Fighting Ships states that Varyag may have been named Shi Lang and assigned pennant number 83. Jane's notes that both the name and pennant number are unconfirmed. Shi Lang was a Ming-Qing Dynasty admiral who defeated Koxinga's descendants' navy and conquered Taiwan in 1681.[8] Jane's Navy International noted in October 2007 that "refurbishment work and fitting out is continuing and the vessel is expected to begin initial sea trials in 2008".[9] At the end of 2008, the Asahi Shimbun reported that the carrier was "nearing completion".[1] On April 27, 2009 Varyag was reported to have been moved into another dry dock, "apparently to install engines and other heavy equipment".[10] A new radar mast has been installed on Varyag's superstructure as of December 15, 2009.[11]

In 2009, at the Wuhan Naval Research facilities near Huangjia Lake in the southwestern suburbs of Wuhan, the PLAN constructed a full scale logistics and training deck and island mockup of the Varyag.[12][13]

As of 2011 the ship is still docked in Dalian shipyard, and is being fitted out with combat sensors, and defensive weapons. The vessel is also beginning to run power as well. Recent photos have shown steam and exhaust coming from the ship's island, further suggesting her engines and propulsion will be operational soon. Sensors that have been observed are Active Electronically Scanned Array(AESA) and Sea Eagle radar. Weapons observed have been the Type 1030 CIWS, and the FL-3000N missile system. It has also been observed that the old anti-ship missile tubes have been plugged and will not be used, thus freeing up more internal space for hangar or storage use. Russia plans to do the same when it modernizes the Varyag's sister Kuznetsov.[citation needed] The Kamov Ka-31 has been confirmed as purchased and operational with the PLAN, and may form the Airborne early warning and control basis for the ship's air wing.[14]

On June 8, 2011, the Chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, Gen. Chen Bingde confirmed that Beijing is building an aircraft carrier, marking the first acknowledgement of the ship's existence from China's armed forces. He said that the refurbished Soviet carrier "is being built, but has not been completed". The ship would be used for training and as a model for a future indigenously-built ship and is expected to be launched by the end of June at the earliest. Qi Jianguo, assistant to the chief of the PLA's general staff said "All of the great nations in the world own aircraft carriers -- they are symbols of a great power"[15] On July 27, 2011, the Chinese Defense Ministry, officially announced it was refitting the vessel for "scientific research, experiment and training."[16]

On August 10, 2011, the Varyag began sea trials. An RSIS analyst had noted that China still has a long way to go to make it operational, but was determined to do so.[17] On August 15, 2011, the Varyag docked in Dalian, completing its first four-day sea trial.[2] Date of next sail isn´t known now, but commission to Chinese Navy is expected in 2012 [18]

See also


  1. ^ a b Minemura, Kenji (2008/12/31), China to start construction of 1st aircraft carriers next year, Asahi Shimbun, archived from the original on May 26, 2009, 
  2. ^ a b "China's first aircraft carrier completes sea trial". Xinhua News Agency. August 15, 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-15. 
  3. ^ Li Gang (July 27, 2011). "China refitting aircract carrier body for research, training". Xinhua. Retrieved July 29, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Storey, I; Ji, Y, China's Aircraft Carrier Ambitions: Seeking Truth from Rumors, 57, Naval War College Review, archived from the original on 2006-12-12, 
  5. ^ Jonathan Eyal (July 16,2011). "China Aircraft Carrier Dreams". Straits Times. 
  6. ^ PLA Navy announces to recruit fighter pilot for its first Aircraft Carrier Chinese Military Power Mashup article, September 10, 2008
  7. ^ Sukhoi Su-33 "Navy Flanker" Milavia article on the Su-33
  8. ^ Saunders, Stephen (editor) (2007). Jane's Fighting Ships Vol. 110, 2007-2008. Coulsdon: Jane’s Information Group. p. 122. 
  9. ^ Jon Rosamond, 'China completes joint exercise with UK aircraft carrier,' Jane's Navy International, November 2007, p.6
  10. ^ "Chinese Carrier Goes Into Dry Dock". 2009-05-14. Retrieved 2011-05-09. 
  11. ^ "Naval Air: An Important Varyag Update". 2009-12-17. Retrieved 2011-05-09. 
  12. ^ "The Rising Sea Dragon In Asia Varyag Transformation". 2011-02-04. Retrieved 2011-05-09. 
  13. ^ Forsythe., Michael (October 20, 2009), Watching Beijing's Air Power Grow, The New York Times, 
  14. ^ "Surveillance Aircraft". Chinese Military Aviation. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  15. ^ "China aircraft carrier confirmed by general". BBC News. June 8, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-08. 
  16. ^ Li Gang (July 27, 2011). "China refitting aircract carrier body for research, training". Xinhua. Retrieved July 29, 2011. 
  17. ^ Bitzinger, Richard A; Mitchell, Paul T (May 6, 2011), Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag: Shape of things to come?, RSIS Commentaries, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), 
  18. ^

External links

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