(This piece of whimsy was first published in NOCN 85, 1 June 2011, in a shorter version. This presentation contains material omitted from the Newsletter one for reasons of space, and in fact includes all the material received without omission.)
Very occasionally, something drops into the Naval Officers Club Newsletter’s editorial inbox that has its owner scratching his head. The collection of five pictures with this article constitute one such item. They show five views of what is apparently the same vessel from different angles; accompanied by English-language text which essentially says “This is the next Chinese aircraft carrier, of which three are now building.” (The full text, as received, is reproduced below the pictures; and it should be mentioned that the Newsletter’s assessment of the vessel based on what the pictures show doesn’t always agree with the assessment contained in the incoming text.) The text came with no details or dimensions of the vessel, no authentication, and the website was unidentified.
The sender, a Club member who prefers to remain nameless (but whose identity is known to the Newsletter), received it from a mate in UK who found it accidentally on the net and didn’t record the site. We prowled round the two websites identifiable on the image. Nothing nautical or military was found (though one site led us to several photographs of a young lady in a swimsuit doing things with a chair). A search through various Google and Wiki options provided plenty information on the Chinese aircraft carrier – but not this one.
The carrier everyone knows about is the former Kiev-Class, Varyag, bought unfinished by China from the Ukraine for $20m in 1988. That vessel is allegedly now very close to completion, named, slightly ominously, Shi Lang – after the Chinese admiral who subdued Taiwan in the 17th century.
The aircraft carrier in the images is definitely not Varyag: it is a catamaran, has ram bows, no angled deck or ski jump, and considerable superstructure on the centreline which includes two separate islands – but how functions are spread between them is anybody’s guess.
There are two full-length runways on the outboard sides of the hulls, with a deck-park outboard of either runway for about half the ship’s length. The two inboard runways appear not to be full length. There is an area without markings in the middle of each, which may be a lift or lifts. Each inboard runway has two catapults: one fires forward; the other fires aft; jet blast deflectors in place confirm this. A variety of aircraft types are shown, but none were recognisable to the Newsletter. They inlude apparent interceptors and strike aircraft, two types of helos, and a big four-engined AWACS.
The two hulls extend further aft below flight deck level to provide helo landing spots with roll-in access to the hangars.
Our Aviation Correspondent has reviewed the images. He says the catamaran approach may be an option for future aircraft carriers, but it won’t be this one. He was scathing about the vast amount of superstructure for practically the full length of the ship, and adamant that the aft-firing catapults are a sure sign that the designer knows nothing about naval aviation.
Comments are invited from readers on what to make of this vessel. Let us know what you think by email to email@example.com. The Newsletter’s current assessment is that the images come from a very creative person – or possibly a very creative team – that makes computer games.
The above pictures were received accompanied by the following text, reproduced verbatim and laid out exactly as it was received.
Pictures of the new Chinese aircraft carriers. The catamaran design is very advanced!
“As of 2008, Russia was believed to have been providing assistance for several years in the construction of three Chinese-designed aircraft carriers. Some analysts have thus predicted that China could have an operational carrier by 2015, while others have considered 2020 to be a more realistic time frame. No confirmed work on any shipbuilding project of any size had been observed or reported as of the end of 2008.” – from a US source.
They are currently refurbishing the Varyag, sold by Ukraine to China and is under completion in Dalian, North East China. The Varyag is a brand new, uncompleted vessel of the Soviet Union era, built by a shipyard in the Black Sea, Ukraine. The Varyag was without an engine when sold. As you have pointed out, the Varyag may be a ruse or red herring to draw the attention away from the construction of the three carriers, until the day the Chinese is ready to launch the ships!!!
The catamaran design of the Chinese carrier looks formidable and ultra-modern, provides four runways for takeoffs, two each side plus two landing runways at the front of the carrier. This has done away with the angle-deck in the old design. The catamaran or double hull provides more stability than the conventional single hull, and increases the usable deck area very considerably. The Chinese design appears more advanced and increases it “fighting capabilities” than the Orthodox model used by Western navies. I read somewhere that the Chinese navy spent more than 10 years studying the design of aircraft carriers, and now they have finally embarked on actually building their carriers.
Western intelligence thinks that China’s initial carriers are mediun size vessels, and smaller than the US nuclear powered carriers. The Chinese carrier’s deck appears much broader and may even be longer too. Let’s watch for the real vessel.
These aircraft carriers look formidable and of ultra modern design. There are reports the 1st Chinese aircraft carrier is under construction and could enter service around 2015 or earlier. It won’t be long we see the real thing. Defence analysts are waiting, watching anxiously.
I was told by a reliable source in Vancouver that at least three of the new carriers are being built. One for the Yellow Sea Command based in Quindao and one for the South China Sea Command based in Hainan, and one as a roving ambassador to show the flag around the world like what Admiral Cheng Ho did a few centuries ago. The Chinese are working 24/7/365 to get them ready. The old wreck they bought from Ukraine some years back are just for show and only serves as a ruse. As an old Chinese saying goes: ” They hang out a goat’s head but actually they are selling dog’s meat behind the counter! ” The catamaran hull design is certainly ultra modern and unconventional.