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. kurtinco

    "...the military balance of power is gradually shifting in China's favor..." Really? One carrier and suddenly the balance of power is shifting. Give me a break.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Skeiron

      "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"

      Obviously the guy said that the one aircraft carrier makes not that much of a difference, but that nonetheless it's an overall trend that the balance of power is shifting in China's favor.

      December 15, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      I believe it's already been confirmed that they are in the process of building a few more. This one was the prototype for them to learn from. I think I read a few months ago that the keel for a new one has been laid and they have a second in the planning stages.

      December 15, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      They don't even say if it's nuclear or not.

      December 15, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • big John

      This is just what we know about. We keep funding China's military too by giving them all of our US jobs. You had better start learning Chinese.

      December 15, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • No Return

      Well considering their military is larger in numbers than our entire country's population, I would say that this is not a good sign. Especially when they purchased it under the cover of converting it into a "casino". It seems like something the rat Chinese would do. These people are going to try to take over this country. Maybe not during our lifetime, but I see it as inevitable.

      December 15, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • MarylandBill

      Well that is the meaning of gradually. It is also a question of what China's ultimate goal is. Generally it is assumed that China's goal is to dominate the region around it. In that case, they don't need to match the strength of the USA, since the USA would need to keep some of its carriers deployed else where. Further, the just have to make themselves strong enough that the USA will not want to get into a fight with them.

      December 15, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      We only have 11 active carriers. There are only 9 others active as well (France 1, Russia 1, Italy 2, Spain 2, India 1, Brazil 1, Thailand 1).

      This would make 21.

      December 15, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MariaD

    Now, we'll all get our stuff for the Dollar Store faster, oh goo-die.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • JulioF

      C'mon, people! It is COLD in the Yellow Sea in December! If we could see below deck, we'd see hundreds of gamblers going at it at the blackjack and roulette tables! Geesh!

      December 15, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  3. StXavier

    China's toys are not what we should be worring about it's their massive population of their people, they produce them selves like fly's.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • kc84

      Instead of worrying about China's military buildup, we should be worried about a lack of quality education in this country. Try working on your spelling and grammar.

      December 15, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Yay for ignorance. they've a lower birthrate than the U.S. 12/1000 to our 14/1000, which is actually pretty low in comparison to the rest of the world. http://www.indexmundi.com/map/?v=25

      December 15, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mike

    I kinda think a rouge nation should torpedo the f*** out of it. Just sayin'

    December 15, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Me

      Are you referring to the Khmer Rouge? Or did you just mean ROGUE nation? Does anyone know how to proofread? The Chinese alphabet consists of thousands of characters, maybe they can teach detailed proofreading... #disappointing

      December 15, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • What?

      You think a nation made up of makeup should torpedo them? I suppose that would work. China's developing anti-ship missiles, but I doubt they'd suspect an attack using tons of eyeliner and lipstick. Hey, the attacking nation could sneak up on them if they covered their ships in concealer!

      December 15, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Sirus Rex

      Mike, i agree. bahahahaha. Really though, come on? China has more money than we can fatham and one little aircraft carrier worries you? Their capabilities are far greater than we can imagine, yet we have no idea of their intentions. Take a guess.

      December 29, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Warren

    Scoff as all the US posters will no doubt do, this is a major step for China in its rise to a world superpower. It may not make any actual difference militarily, and they have a long way to go with mastering carrier landings etc, but now they have a platform to do so. What matters here is the psychological impression it makes on China's neighbours. When its fully operational they can project power over the South China sea which they covet for its resources, something they cannot do at the moment to the same effect. While this vessel is of Soviet origins, I believe the Chinese are building a carrier of their own as well and the Varyag will no doubt aid in getting that vessel up and running. I have been following the tale of the Varyag for a number of years wondering when it would get to sea. Interesting that it has done so already, as I believe the original speculations were that it wouldn't be seaworthy until 2013 at the least.

    Its a mistake to dismiss a potential enemy out of hand. Clever people can do a lot even with substandard resources.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • PoBoy

      You are right on! It's not the physical or material that matters, but the psychological. They are not just sending a message to the US, they are sending a message to the entire Asian Pacific rim, and you best believe those nations are receiving that message loud and clear!

      December 15, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  6. mickey weedon

    China rocks!
    USA sucks!

    December 15, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  7. Lee

    I really think that that's a miniature, the Chinese are so good at making them. To prove my point, just look at all of their Godzilla movies.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • dallas

      what?

      December 15, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Godzilla...Tokyo.....should I try to explain? I don't know...

      December 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. mickey weedon

    China owns us!
    USA....most worship some dead guy on a stick!
    idiots!

    December 15, 2011 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      That's Trollorific.

      December 15, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. palustris

    Maybe it IS out on a casino run. I mean c'mon, the Chinese wouldn't lie..........

    December 15, 2011 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff

    There will never be another conventional war fought with aircraft carriers, planes, and battlefields. The world has seen that the best way to defeat the Unites States is to use lone wolf, terrorist tactics. Anyone knows that going head to head with our equipment and military will turn out badly for them.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Skeiron

      Too bad that to fight like the Talibans you first have to let the enemy conquer your whole territory...
      I doubt that the Chinese would consider the US military occupying China a great option, thus they will develop means to stop the US troops far away.
      The anti-ship ballistic missile might become a problem for American aircraft carriers, other means to counter em would be state-of-the-art attack submarines (e.g. like the Type 212A, Gotland Class,...) which are also capable of sinking an aircraft carrier.

      December 15, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  11. mickey weedon

    China is now the new super power...they have earned and deserve it.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Russ

      So when will you be buying your apartment in Shanghai and becomming a permanent resident?

      December 15, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  12. viiilx04

    Nothing to do with the US. It is for supporting their bullying in Spratlys.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  13. Russ

    Made in Russia, refurbished in China. The maintenance personnel are in for a tsunami of technical failures in the years to come. I wonder if its name, "Varyang", translates to "White Elephant" in English...

    December 15, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dan

    A well trained soldier with a rifle is still the ultimate weapon.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  15. Peacefulguy

    Hey, it's cool how they just accidentally happened to find this image on the random scans from the satellite. Even more interesting is how they decided to release this photo after they noticed it. Kind of makes you think, huh?

    December 15, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Me

      They couldn't really release the photo before they noticed it, could they? It's a ship built during the Cold War... in Russia. It wasn't build in China so it probably won't float for too much longer. Also, I don't see any aircraft on it, so calling this ship a sign of them becoming a super power is like an Amish guy on Facebook... Makes no sense.

      December 15, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
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