U.S. satellite firm says it has first image of Chinese aircraft carrier
Digital Globe released this satellite image Wednesday, showing what it says is the first look at the Chinese aircraft carrier Varyag.
December 15th, 2011
10:49 AM ET

U.S. satellite firm says it has first image of Chinese aircraft carrier

A photograph of what is purported to be China’s first aircraft carrier has renewed speculation about its military intentions, according to news reports.

U.S. satellite imaging firm Digital Globe said Wednesday on its website that it had captured an image that appears to be the Chinese aircraft carrier Varyag during drills in the Yellow Sea.

The Varyag was reportedly constructed by the USSR in the 1980s but fell into the hands of the Ukraine. The Chinese purchased it sans weapons and navigation systems under the guise of wanting to turn the vessel into a casino, according to a BBC report in August.

Huntsman: China is 'no ally' of the U.S.

The sea trial is the second for the aircraft carrier, which roused international interest on November 29 when it left the port of Dalian in the Yellow Sea. Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said at the time that the military exercises were a "routine arrangement," Xinhua reported.

The sea drills are seen as a running display of military might for the Asian nation and come amid several recent high-profile provocations at sea.

Earlier this week the Yellow Sea was the site of a confrontation that resulted in a South Korean coast guard commando being stabbed to death and another injured after they boarded a Chinese fishing vessel they suspected of fishing illegally, CNN reported.

Recent military exercises there have raised awareness of Chinese aspirations in the face of the American naval presence in the region, experts say.

"By itself, the ship does not erode the credibility of America's military presence in the region nor greatly increase China's power projection capabilities. Nevertheless, the vessel is a potent symbol of China's aspirations to become a global maritime power and is yet another indication that the military balance of power is gradually shifting in China's favor," Dr. Ian Storey, of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, told the Guardian newspaper.

Last month the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review, presented annually to Congress, gave fresh warnings that China was conducting sea trials of its first aircraft carrier and developing anti-ship ballistic missiles.

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Filed under: China • Politics • World
soundoff (510 Responses)
  1. HeavyD

    What if they turn it into a whale processing plant. Where's the Sea Shephard GOOF-TROOP to stop this action???

    December 15, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. David D.

    One of those whitecaps is from the conning tower of a submarine.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • HPNIII

      If having one carrier is an indication of China's military contentions, what does having 11 with another under way say about that of the US. Face it people we are the current War mongers of the planet.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • AsiaWatcher

      HPNIII: Your comments define you as either a Chinese national or a person of little knowledge about China's military and/or differences between individual nation aspirations. I hope you are the former as your position would at least be understandable. Attempting to equate Chinese and U.S. policies, and by default their military goals/strategies, is irresponsible and dangerous speach. To put in words you should understand, its like claiming both Superman and the the Joker are both bad people because they both fight. Please recognize and don't forget what each side fights for.

      December 15, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. James

    Andy... but Bob's points were about the relevance of this naval technology. He is right on money.

    You are right that the U.S. should not just ignore this development and study Chinese ambitions and intentions regarding this aircraft carrier. But the idea that this piece of junk, which had to be towed from Russia to China, presents any naval threat to United States is laughable.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tom

    Look for all the conspiracy nuts out there it's simple. The U.S. is China's #1 trading partner and China owns a lot of U.S. debt. It would be Economic Suicide to do anything to disrupt this trade relationship. You take away the U.S. and China's Economy goes down the drain. Clearly the goals of China and the U.S. are not aligned on all fronts but understanding that the two countries rely on one another Economically is pretty simple.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deputy797

      And that is why I have no fears of the China Military. Yes, they are a massive and formidable military, but they are an honorable people that only requires the world to respect their ways of life, and allow them to live as they have for longer than any other nation has existed. If we respect them, they in turn will remain relatively neutral until they have been severely violated. The Russians, on the other hand seem to be moving back to their socialist ways and putting Putin back into power is not a smart move on the part of the Russian people. I hope they keep the communists and Putin's cronies out of their government.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tanker

    The Chinese carrier is not intended to impress the US, which it certainly doesn't. Its intended to impress India, South East Asia's other rising power.

    In the context of a US/China blue water senario, the Chinese carrier would be sunk by lunch.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. GordonZ

    Racist comments are not necessary anywhere! We are a civilized society.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MIKE M.

    This is nothing more than a hand-me-down toy built by a defunct government. Another report I read said this thing won't be aircraft-operational for years... Considering this is an aircraft carrier, and I'm just saying, this sounds like something the North Koreans would pull. It's kind of a joke. Similar to the wooden missles built by the same people that built this.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • AsiaWatcher

      Mike, there is some truth in your words. However, please bear in mind that it is far better to take such developments seriously rather than pay the price later. Well-read people understand that China has demonstrated capability to make skip-generation technological advances in technology. Accordingly, it is quite possible that Beijing could expedite its carrier trials far faster than thought. I know that our U.S. military strategic planners will take this seriously. Another writer commented that, even if the Chinese carrier were operational, the U.S. could easily blow it out of the water. Likely true, but does one think that would be the end of it? Beijing has thousands of missiles... many of which can range the U.S. The White House knows this too.... so that carrier has far more protection than most people realize. Beginning to feel the stickiness of the situation? If so, welcome to the Take This Issue Seriously Camp; if not, you won't have long to wait to see China develop a fairly robust Blue Water navy that bumps into our navy at every turn (increased tension).

      December 15, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John Kaufman, Oceanside, CA

    This vessel is a potent symbol of China's aspirations to become a global maritime power and is yet another indication that the military balance of power is gradually shifting in China's favor. DA, and you yankee fools believe what the Chinese are telling you, a cascino vessel, come on its obvious what their intentions are. It is a game of chess, and the stakes have been pushed up. So what is our game plan from here? The sooner we can now get out of Afghanistan the better and see the big picture which is to play the board game better.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tanker

      They have managed to put their carrier to sea without sinking it. I don't see a single aircraft on their flight deck.

      Forgive me if I'm slow to panic, but...

      December 15, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave836

      They are still inferior military-wise in many ways and they probably will be for a long time. The Chinese have a history of copying the Western world in everything – including military technology. Doing this will never make them more advanced then other countries. It takes ingenuity to become an advanced Nation. Not the ability to copy.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Karaya

    This ship itself is no immediate threat to the US – it is ages old, diesel propelled, and like all Soviet "carriers" lack the crucial elements of a modern aircraft carrier – catapults. That means planes have to take off relying on their own engines only, which in turn restricts the payload to nearly zero – no heavy air-to-surface ordnance, light air-to-air missiles only.
    But Chinese are quick learners. They will use this ship to gain the experience of operating aircraft carriers, train their naval aviators. And next thing we know – there is a photo of Nimitz knockoff...

    December 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • JayV

      That is exactly right...

      December 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. palintwit

    The next thing we're going to hear about is China building nascar tracks all over their country. And with Chinese nascar comes Chinese birthers and Chinese teabaggers. And the comes the Chinese double wide trailers. And then comes the Chinese remake of "Cannonball Run" and "Deliverance".

    December 15, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • AsiaWatcher

      Palintwit's child-like comments should make Democrats ashamed.... lends even more insight to the mindset of the typical Obama voter. All Palintwit comments should be viewed as both moronic and non-educational.

      December 15, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ambassador Spock

    We could have, and probably should have, purchased and scuttled her, but didn't. Why? China said not to and they own us.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tanker

      Why not let them have their toy?

      Its going to cost them billions to make operational and one carrier is going to, as far as the US is concerned, add to their military capability.

      If anyone should have bought it out from under China, it was India...

      December 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. raj

    India and Indians........high time we strategized with long term goals in mind. Arms race in the region will only make some multinationals rich; basically both India and China will bleed their scarce capital resources to the top 1%...............Please stop the arms race for the good of all truthful and hard working citizens.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. saywhat

    More important is what powers like China & Russia are doing on the sly & away from the rucus of Libya, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan & Iraq.
    Increasing their influence , establishing centers of power, securing future energy needs & such And without spending a dime or losing a life. While we remain obsessed with military interventions everywhere. Expanding national treasure ( which we do not have) & lives, already on the decline as a global power.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. John

    Your tax dollars at work... The interest we pay China will fully fund their military by 2020 at the same time our military funding is drying up.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tanker

      Just because China bought a light carrier does not mean we should prepare to surrender.

      We are not French.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ambassador Spock

    No worries. It's just a set for the next Bond film.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
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