Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning
The aircraft carrier Liaoning in Hong Kong in 2017
|→ Soviet Union → Ukraine|
|Name:||Riga (1988) then Varyag (1990)|
|Namesake:||Imperial Russian cruiser Varyag|
|Laid down:||6 December 1985|
|Launched:||4 December 1988|
|Completed:||Abandoned (68% complete)|
|Fate:||Sold to the Chinese Navy|
|People's Republic of China|
|Builder:||Dalian Shipbuilding Industry|
|Commissioned:||25 September 2012|
|Status:||In active service|
|General characteristics for Varyag as originally designed|
|Class and type:||Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier|
|Draft:||8.97 m (29.4 ft)|
|Speed:||32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph)|
|Range:||3,850 nautical miles (7,130 km; 4,430 mi) at 32 knots|
|General characteristics for Liaoning after refit|
|Class and type:||Type 001|
Liaoning (16; Chinese: 辽宁舰; pinyin: Liáoníng Jiàn), a Type 001 aircraft carrier, is the first aircraft carrier commissioned into the People's Liberation Army Navy Surface Force. It is classified as a training ship, intended to allow the Navy to experiment and gain familiarity with aircraft carrier operations.
Originally laid down in 1985 for the Soviet Navy as the Kuznetsov-class aircraft cruiser Riga, she was launched on 4 December 1988 and renamed Varyag in 1990. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, construction was halted and the ship was put up for sale by Ukraine. The stripped hulk was purchased in 1998 and towed to the Dalian naval shipyard in northeast China.
The ship was rebuilt and commissioned into the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) as Liaoning on 25 September 2012. Its Chinese ship class designation is Type 001. In November 2016, the political commissar of Liaoning, Commodore Li Dongyou, stated that Liaoning was combat ready.
The Kuznetsov-class ships were originally designated by the Soviet Navy as "тяжёлый авианесущий крейсер" (tyazholiy avianesushchiy kreyser, TAKR or TAVKR), meaning "heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser". In addition to aircraft, the ships were designed to carry P-700 Granit anti-ship cruise missiles that also form the main armament of the Kirov-class battlecruisers. This multirole capability allowed the ships to pass through the Turkish Straits between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Under the Montreux Convention, aircraft carriers are restricted to 15,000 tons, but there was no displacement limit on capital ships from Black Sea powers.
The People's Liberation Army Navy considers Liaoning to be an aircraft carrier. Since China is not located on the Black Sea, it does not need and cannot use the tonnage exemption for capital ships. The ship was completed as an aircraft carrier, and cruise missiles were never installed. Liaoning is equipped only with air defense weapons and must use its aircraft for surface attack.
The ship was laid down as Riga at Shipyard 444 (now Mykolaiv South) in Mykolaiv, Ukrainian SSR, on 6 December 1985. Design work was undertaken by the Nevskoye Planning and Design Bureau. Launched on 4 December 1988, the carrier was renamed Varyag in late 1990, after the famous cruiser. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the ship was put up for sale, as construction was halted while the ship was 68% complete.
Ukraine approached China, India, and Russia as potential buyers. China sent a high-level delegation in 1992, which reported that the ship was in good condition and recommended a purchase. However, the Chinese government declined to purchase the ship because of the international diplomatic situation at the time. Unable to find a buyer, Ukraine left the ship to deteriorate in the elements.
In 1998, the rusting hulk was sold at auction for $20 million to Agencia Turistica E Diversoes Chong Lot Limitada, a company from Macau. Chong Lot proposed to tow Varyag to Macau, where the ship would be converted into a $200 million floating hotel and casino. Western observers were suspicious, since Chong Lot had no listed telephone number, was not located at its listed address, and was run by former officers in the Chinese Navy. Officials in Macau also denied Chong Lot's application to operate a casino. However, analysts noted that Varyag had deteriorated too much to be used as an operational warship and pointed out that the Chinese Navy was concentrating on submarines. The Soviet carriers Kiev and Minsk had also been sold to China as tourist attractions.
In January 2015, further details emerged in an interview with Xu Zengping by the South China Morning Post. Xu reported that he had been commissioned by the PLAN to purchase the vessel on its behalf, with the floating hotel and casino as a cover story. He was warned that the Chinese Navy did not have the budget to buy the ship, and the Chinese government did not support the purchase. However, Xu was so impressed when touring the ship that he resolved to purchase it using his personal funds. The previous year, Xu had borrowed HK$230 million from a Hong Kong business friend, spending HK$6 million to create Chong Lot as a Macau shell corporation. He described a harrowing negotiation in Kiev, lubricated by bribery and liquor, which helped to arrange victory at the auction. As a precaution, he shipped 40 tonnes of the carrier's blueprints to China overland in eight trucks.
Transfer to China
The passage from Ukraine to China was even more problematic than the purchase. In June 2000, Varyag was taken under tow. As the tugboat approached the Bosphorus, Turkey denied permission for the ship to pass through, citing the risk that a gust of wind would turn the ship widthwise and block the entire strait. Varyag spent the next 16 months being towed counterclockwise around the Black Sea, accruing towing charges of $8,500 a day as Chong Lot stopped paying its bills. The tugboat operator compared its fate to the Yellow Fleet that was stuck in the Suez Canal for eight years, and French thrillseekers even landed a helicopter on the ship. Meanwhile, Chinese officials negotiated with Turkey, offering trade and tourism concessions.
In August 2001, Turkey relented and agreed to allow the ship to pass. On 1 November 2001, the Bosphorus was cleared of all other traffic as Varyag was towed through. On 2 November, Varyag also passed through the Dardanelles without incident. On 4 November, Varyag was caught in a force 10 gale and broke adrift while passing the Greek island of Skyros. The ship was finally taken back under tow on 6 November, after one sailor died while attempting to attach the tow lines.
The Suez Canal does not permit passage of "dead" ships — those without an 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 at an average speed of 6 knots (11 km/h) across the 15,200-nautical-mile (28,200 km) journey. The tugboat fleet called for supplies en route at Piraeus, Greece; Las Palmas, Canary Islands; Maputo, Mozambique; and Singapore. Varyag entered Chinese waters on 20 February 2002, and arrived 3 March at the Dalian naval shipyard in northeast China. The costs included $25 million to the Ukrainian government for the hull, nearly $500,000 in transit fees and $5 million for 20 months of towing fees.
Xu Zengping estimated in 2015 that his total out of pocket cost was at least US$120 million. He insisted that he had never been reimbursed by the Chinese government, and had spent the last 18 years repaying his debts, in part by selling properties such as his palatial home. A source familiar with the acquisition explained that many of the naval officials initiating the mission had either died or were in prison.
Contrary to initial reports that the ship had no engines, Xu reported that all four original engines remained intact at the time of purchase, but had been shut down and preserved in grease seals. A refit restored them to working order in 2011.
Modernization and refit
701st Institute was tasked to redesign Varyag with Zhu Yingfu (朱英富) and Wu Xiaoguang (吴晓光) were assigned respectively as the general designer and deputy general designer. Wang Zhiguo (王治国) was assigned as the general system engineer, and Yang Lei (杨雷) was assigned the general supervisor. Workload of converting Varyag for operational use was equivalent to building ten new destroyers. Varyag was moved in June 2005 to a dry dock at Dalian ( ). Her hull was sandblasted, scaffolding erected, and the ship's island was painted in a red marine primer to treat metal corrosion.
Observers have noted the installation of Type 348 active electronically scanned array (AESA) Radar (four arrays) and Sea Eagle radar. The air defense system consists of the Type 1030 CIWS and the FL-3000N missile system. The anti-ship missile tubes would not be used, freeing up internal space for hangar or storage use. Russia has explored similar modifications to her sister ship Admiral Kuznetsov.
On 8 June 2011, General Chen Bingde made the first public acknowledgement of the ship's refit. On 27 July 2011, the Chinese Defense Ministry announced it was refitting the vessel for "scientific research, experiment and training".
Sea trials and handover
|Wikinews has related news: China sends its first aircraft carrier to sea|
The ship undertook her first sea trials from 10 August 2011 to 15 August 2011. On 29 November 2011 the carrier left port for her second set of trials. The carrier completed her eighth sea trial between 7 and 21 June 2012 and returned to Dalian. In July 2012, the ship set out for the longest trials thus far, 25 days. The carrier completed sea trials in early August 2012 and loaded Shenyang J-15 aircraft and KJ-88, YJ-83K, and YJ-91 missiles in preparation for weapons systems trials.
During sea trials, Liaoning experienced a steam burst in the engine compartment which forced crew to evacuate some parts of the ship, and the ship lost power. The problem was ultimately resolved and power was restored, although the time duration of the problem has not been released by military officials. Her sister ship Admiral Kuznetsov has also been disabled several times by engine failures.
On 23 September 2012, the aircraft carrier was handed over to the PLAN, and was commissioned on 25 September 2012. At the commissioning ceremony, the carrier was officially named Liaoning, in honour of the province in which she was retrofitted. On 26 December 2012, the People's Daily reported that it would take four to five years for the Liaoning to reach full capacity. As it is currently a training ship, Liaoning is not assigned to any of China's operational fleets.
According to geopolitical analysts, China could use Liaoning and its future carriers to intimidate other smaller countries that have territorial claims in the South China Sea, as well as extending air control further south of the disputed region. In December 2016 the ship exercised in the Western Pacific, including passing through the Miyako Strait between the Japanese islands of Miyako-jima and Okinawa.
On 4 November 2012, the People's Liberation Army's website (Chinese: 中国军网) reported that Shenyang J-15s had performed carrier touch-and-go training. On 25 November 2012, China announced that J-15s had made five successful arrested landings on Liaoning. In June 2013, a second round of flight tests began on board Liaoning, with personnel from the fleet air arm of the Brazilian Navy providing carrier training support to the PLAN.
In August 2014, based on an article from Chinese state media, western news outlets reported that two pilots had been killed testing jets slated to operate from Liaoning. Chinese military officials stated such reports were misleading, and clarified that deaths were in fact unrelated with tests on the carrier. The original Chinese article from Xinhua also did not link the deaths with the J-15 nor mention any loss of such aircraft.
In August 2014, the Chinese-language Shanghai Morning Post listed that Liaoning would carry 36 aircraft: 24 Shenyang J-15 fighters, six Changhe Z-18F anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters, four Changhe Z-18J airborne early warning helicopters and two Harbin Z-9C rescue helicopters. The Chinese carrier aircraft inventory is similar to a balanced combat and support aircraft approach intended for Soviet aircraft carriers, which supported nuclear submarines, large surface combatants, and land-based strike bombers performing anti-access roles. The air wing lacks long-range radar and anti-submarine fixed-wing aircraft, needing support from shore-based aircraft such as Tupolev Tu-154 ASW and Shaanxi Y-8 AWACS aircraft. The U.S. Department of Defense noted that J-15s will have below normal range and armament when operating from the carrier, due to limits imposed by the ski-jump takeoff system. The lack of a carrier onboard delivery aircraft like the United States Navy (USN) Grumman C-2 Greyhound also limits logistics capabilities. Liaoning would need extensive land-based support to oppose a USN carrier strike group; however, it would be potent against the Vietnam People's Navy and the Philippine Navy. Deficiencies will likely be corrected with future aircraft carriers, which are expected to be larger with conventional takeoff decks and catapult launching for heavier fighters, plus fixed-wing radar and anti-submarine patrol aircraft.
- Liu Zhe, captain of Liaoning
- Type 001A aircraft carrier
- INS Vikramaditya, also originally built for the Soviet Navy and sold to India
- List of aircraft carriers
- List of aircraft carriers of Russia and the Soviet Union
- "Ukrainians Slice Up Carrier Ulyanovsk". Defense News. 21–27 September 1992.
A second aircraft carrier is 68 percent complete and lacks electronics, weapons systems and aircraft, but sale of the carrier to India or China "is a fairy tale scenario," said Antonov. Russia is the only realistic potential purchaser.
- "Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov". Rusnavy.com. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
- "Kuznetsov Class: Project 1143.5". Globalsecurity.org. 7 September 2011. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
- Keene, The Battles of Coxinga: Chikamatsu's Puppet Play, Its Background and Importance, 45.
- "How does China's first aircraft carrier stack up?". CSIS China Power.
- 14 San Diego L. Rev. 681 (1976–1977) Kiev and the Montreux Convention: The Aircraft Carrier That Became a Cruiser to Squeeze through the Turkish Straits; Froman, F. David
- "The Tbilisi and the Montreux Convention". Osaarchivum.org. Archived from the original on 1 June 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
- Tao, Zhang (20 October 2015). "Captain delegation of U.S. Navy visits Chinese Liaoning aircraft carrier". Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China.
- Rochlin, G. I; La Porte, T. R; Roberts, H (Autumn 1987). "The Self-Designing High-Reliability Organization: Aircraft Carrier Flight Operations at Sea". Naval War College Review. Naval War College. LI (3). Footnote 39. Archived from the original on 13 December 2006.
- Storey, I; Ji, Y (Winter 2004). "China's Aircraft Carrier Ambitions: Seeking Truth from Rumors". Naval War College Review. Naval War College. 57 (1). Archived from the original on 12 December 2006.
- "Aircraft Carrier Varyag". Russiafile.com. Archived from the original on 17 December 2014. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
- Minnie Chan (19 January 2015). "The inside story of the Liaoning: how Xu Zengping sealed deal for China's first aircraft carrier". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
- Anderson, John Ward (22 July 2001). "Turks Keep Ship Going Round in Circles". The Washington Post.
- "Macau Company Denies Buying Carrier For China". Utusan Online. 11 November 1998.
- "Giant vessel shuts the Bosphorus". BBC News. 1 November 2001.
- Holland, Ben (1 November 2001). "After 16 months, Turkey lets half-built aircraft carrier pass through Bosporus". AP Worldstream. Associated Press – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Retrieved 17 December 2014.
- "UPI Insider". Chicago Sun-Times. Sun-Times Media Group – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). 9 November 2001. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
- "Varyag emerges from storm". Kyiv Post. 8 November 2001. Archived from the original on 17 December 2014. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
- Minnie Chan (20 January 2015). "Mission impossible II: the battle to get China's aircraft carrier home". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
- Minnie Chan (19 January 2015). "Mission impossible: How one man bought China its first aircraft carrier". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
- "Designers". Retrieved March 14, 2017.
- "The Rising Sea Dragon In Asia Varyag Transformation". Jeffhead.com. 4 February 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
- "Upgrading the Admiral: Russia's Kuznetsov". Defense Industry Daily. 8 April 2010. Archived from the original on 10 January 2014. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
- "China Carrier Confirmed by General". BBC News. 8 June 2011. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
- Li Gang (27 July 2011). "China refitting aircract carrier body for research, training". Xinhua News Agency. Archived from the original on 4 January 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
- "China's first aircraft carrier completes sea trial". Xinhua News Agency. 15 August 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
- "China's first aircraft carrier starts second trial". MaritimeSecurity.Asia. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
- AFP (30 November 2011). "China's first aircraft carrier starts 2nd trial | World". Manilatimes.net. Archived from the original on 9 December 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
- Agencies (15 December 2011). "US satellite snaps China's first aircraft carrier at sea | World news | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
- Yang, Jian (12 July 2012). "J-15 jets on deck as carrier sets off on longest sea trials". Shanghai Daily. Archived from the original on 10 November 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
- "China's first aircraft carrier ready to enter service: report". China Times. 6 August 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
- "China's Aircraft Carrier Trouble: Spewing Steam and Losing Power". 22 October 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
- "China's Navy passes first aircraft-carrier into service". The Voice of Russia. Interfax. 25 September 2012. Archived from the original on 24 September 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
- Chang, Felix K. (October 2012). "Making Waves: Debates Behind China's First Aircraft Carrier" (PDF). Foreign Policy Research Institute. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
- Pang Li (10 September 2012). "China to name its first aircraft carrier 'Liaoning'". China.org.cn.
- "Liaoning aircraft carrier will reach full capacity in 4–5 years". AirForceWorld.com. 26 December 2012.
- Waldron, Greg (24 April 2013). "Chinese officer hints at country's big aircraft carrier plans". Flightglobal. Flight International. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
- Goldstein, Lyle (December 2011). "Chinese Naval Strategy in the South China Sea: An Abundance of Noise and Smoke, but Little Fire". Contemporary Southeast Asia. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. 33 (3): 324. JSTOR 41446233. (Subscription required (. ))
- Blanchard, Ben (29 December 2016). Birsel, Robert, ed. "Come and have a look, China says as carrier skirts Japan". Reuters. Archived from the original on 29 December 2016.
The Soviet-built Liaoning, accompanied by several warships, this week travelled through the passage between the Japanese islands of Miyako and Okinawa and into the Pacific for what China has described as a routine exercise.
- "China's first aircraft carrier in Western Pacific drill". BBC Online. 25 December 2016. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
- "滑跃14°：中国海军起飞的仰角". 解放军报. Beijing. 4 November 2012.
- "解放军报还原中国航母舰载机触舰复飞瞬间（图）". 中国新闻网. Beijing. 4 November 2012.
- "J-15 successfully landed on China's carrier Liaoning". Xinhua News Agency. 25 November 2012. Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
- "More photos of the two J-15s landing and taking off on Liaoning". 新华网 (in Chinese). Beijing. 25 November 2012.
- Lei, Zhao (26 November 2012). "Jets land on China's 1st aircraft carrier". China Daily. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
- "Navy soars as nation mourns". China Daily. 30 November 2012. Archived from the original on 30 December 2013. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- LaGrone, Sam (19 June 2013). "China Carrier Starts Second Round of Jet Tests". USNI News. United States Naval Institute. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
The Chinese are being trained in carrier aviation—the most complicated military aviation operations—by a cadre of Brazilian carrier pilots.
- Waldron, Greg (4 July 2013). "China certifies first aircraft carrier pilots". Flightglobal. Archived from the original on 13 October 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
- LaGrone, Sam (8 September 2014). "Two PLA Pilots Have Died Testing Fighters for Chinese Carrier". USNI News. United States Naval Institute. Archived from the original on 11 October 2014. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
- "China denies reports of pilots killed in J-15 tests". Retrieved 13 January 2015.
- "军方否认2名殉职飞行员系在航母测试中牺牲". 7 September 2014.
- "中央军委主席习近平签署命令 给1个单位、1名个人授予荣誉称号". Retrieved 13 January 2015.
- Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People.s Republic of China 2013 (PDF) (Report). Office of the Secretary of Defense. 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
- "Chinese Carrier's Purported Air Wing Deemed Plausible but Limited". Defense News. 7 September 2014. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.|
- Transformation of the Varyag into a PLAN Aircraft Carrier
- "Varyag Aircraft Carrier" article on sinodefence.com
- physical location in the World
- Satellite Photo of Varyag in Dalian, China from Google Maps
- Chinese carrier operations
- "China's aircraft carrier anchors in military port" Slideshow, People's Daily Xinhua 10:14, February 27, 2013