Once its radar and missile systems are installed, China’s first aircraft carrier will be part traditional carrier, and part Aegis-type missile cruiser
After nearly nine years of refurbishing work, China’s first aircraft carrier — a platform that could add to Taiwan’s defense concerns — could soon embark on its maiden voyage, Chinese media reported last week.
Work on the Varyag, a refurbished carrier purchased from Ukraine in 1992 for about US$20 million, was near completion and the hull was being painted in the standard Chinese naval color, a Web site associated with the state-run People’s Daily newspaper reported last Wednesday.
Seen as one of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) last accomplishments before he steps down next year, the aircraft carrier could take to sea as early as July 1, reports said.
Expected to be renamed “Shi Lang, 施琅” — after the Qing Dynasty admiral who commanded a Manchu fleet that conquered what is now Taiwan in 1681 — the carrier has been undergoing modernization work at the port of Dalian since 2002. Although the hull was built in 1988 by the former Soviet Union, the vessel acquired by China did not include the electronic circuits, radars, antennas, engines or other devices.
A report by UK-based Jane’s Defence Weekly on Friday said the carrier would come equipped with phased array radars and surface-to-air missiles, making it a more independent platform than its US equivalent, which is dependent on Aegis-type guided missile cruisers for protection.
My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here. This article also builds on a piece I wrote for Jane’s Defence Weekly last week, which can be accessed here (subscription required).