Asia’s new carriers pick up steam

Two big news items today, one about China’s new aircraft carrier, the other about India’s. 

China,more or less, confirmed its carrier programme. Although the former USSR carrier Varyag is clearly visible in Dalian – apparently agreat view is available from the bedroom section of Ikea – the country hasnever officially acknowledged the ship, though it has been crawling withworkers for years. What’s more, the ship has a new phased array radar andbristles with other antennas.

The Chinese language Hong Kong Commercial Daily quotes a senior Chinese officer, chief of the generalstaff Chen Bingde, confirming (finally) the programme’s existence. He added thatthe ship is not ready – as China‘sinternet community already knows.

Chen noted that the carrier is not for offensive purposes, butserves a defensive role given the pressures Chinafaces on its various ocean frontiers in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea. Apparently the other countries thatshare these seas need not feel pressured by China‘srhetoric (‘we own the South China Sea‘) andmajor military build up. It is widely reported, incidentally, that the newcarrier will bear the name Shi Lang, a Chinese admiral who conquered Taiwan in the17th century.

Above is a clip about the Admiral Kuznetsov, the Varyag’s sister in operation with the Russian navy. Apparently the Chinese have removed the SS-N-19 Granit anti-ship missiles carried in vertical tubes beneath the flight deck. If you can get through the Russian guys talking, it gives a fairly graphic depiction of the ship’s missile and self-defence systems.

Meanwhile India Today reports that the INS Vikramaditya (pictured below) will sail to Indiaearly next year. This is consistent with recent comments to Flightglobal by the Indian Navy,which has just received five new RSK-MiG 29 K/KUBs, that the new ship will bein service in 18 months. It has been a long, long road. The carrier programmehas been plagued by spats over costs and delayed work.

Both countries have long term plans beyond the Vikramaditya andShi Lang. India plans two indigenous carriers equipped with catapults – theVikramaditya will launch aircraft via ski jump. The catapults on the two new ips, which are expected to be in service by 2020, will enable heavier takeoffweights, as well as the deployment of airborne early warning & control(AEW&C) aircraft. The Indian navy has approached  Northrop Grumman for more information aboutthe E-2D Hawkeye.

China‘splans are less clear. The Shi Lang is widely expected to be used mainly as atraining carrier. Chinais a newcomer to naval aviation and faces a long learning curve in deployingthis capability. How many carriers she plans and their configuration is anybody’sguess. 


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