07 August 2011

Watching the Weather in Dalian: Awaiting the Right Conditions to Launch China’s First Aircraft Carrier

Typhoon Muifa (2011), while losing strength, is still generating significant wind gusts and waves. It’s now heading for the Yellow Sea—right where China’s first aircraft carrier, the ex-Varyag, is moored in Dalian.

The PLA Navy undoubtedly wants auspicious conditions, symbolic and substantive, for the launch and sea trials of its first aircraft carrier, and will await appropriate weather to let the ship leave the pier.

But this historic event is clearly on track to occur soon: it’s not a question of whether, but when. And it’s not too early to consider what this all means—for China, the region, and the world. The publications below offer a place to start.

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.