11 August 2011

Kathrin Hille, Financial Times: “China’s First Aircraft Carrier Takes to Sea”

Kathrin Hille, China’s First Aircraft Carrier Takes to Sea,” Financial Times, 10 August 2011.

China has sent its first aircraft carrier to sea in a sign of the country’s burgeoning naval power.

The defence ministry said the Varyag, which the People’s Liberation Army purchased as an unfinished hull from Ukraine in 1998, started its first sea trial in the early hours of Wednesday.

While the long-awaited maiden voyage triggered an outpouring of joy among patriotic Chinese, the PLA Navy could struggle for years to master the skills needed to operate the ship.

“China has resolved some of the most fundamental physical issues involved in launching and landing aircraft from a small moving airfield, but the process remains immensely difficult,” Andrew Erickson, a China expert at the US Naval War College, wrote in a note on Wednesday. …

For the latest on the ex-Varyag’s sea trials, see Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, “China Realizes Carrier Dream,” The Diplomat, 10 August 2011.

For the longer analysis on which that post is based, see Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “China’s ‘Starter Carrier’ Goes to Sea,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 43 (9 August 2011).

For an assessment of the larger implications of China’s deck aviation development, see Abraham M. Denmark, Andrew S. Erickson, and Gabriel Collins, “Should We Be Afraid of China’s New Aircraft Carrier? Not yet.,” Foreign Policy, 27 June 2011.

For operational aspects of China’s first carrier-capable aircraft, see Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “Flying Shark” Gaining Altitude: How might new J-15 strike fighter improve China’s maritime air warfare ability?,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 38 (7 June 2011).

For drivers and constraints concerning Chinese deck aviation, see Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “The ‘Flying Shark’ Prepares to Roam the Seas: Strategic pros and cons of China’s aircraft carrier program,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 35 (18 May 2011).

For relevant defense industrial factors, see Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “LNG Carriers to Aircraft Carriers? Assessing the potential for crossover between civilian and military shipbuilding in China,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 12 (18 December 2010).

For an early assessment of Chinese aircraft carrier options, see Andrew S. Erickson and Andrew R. Wilson, “China’s Aircraft Carrier Dilemma,” Naval War College Review, 59. 4 (Autumn 2006): 13-45.