It's been a big few weeks for China, with the emergence of a new fighter (J-21? J-31? F-60?) and this week's christening of the Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier. It's a good sign they didn't name it Shi Lang after the historic admiral who invaded Taiwan in 1683. Of course, they could always call their next (and certainly more capable) aircraft carrier after this grand individual.
The big question, of course, is when the Liaoning will commence flight tests. In the below Youtube interview with the ship's captain I listened carefully for a first flight date, but he kept mum on this. I guess the reporter was under orders not to ask. For my part, I would have pressed him hard on this.
With luck Beijing will give the commencement of flight ops the same heavy coverage given to the christening. Perhaps Hu Jintao or Wen Jiaobao will fly out to the ship to watch Su-33s performing arrested landings and ramp-assisted take offs.
Though the Liaoning will never be as capable as a US carrier, it sounds like it will be more fun. Buried in an article entitled "Q&A about aircraft carrier "Liaoning Ship"" on the defence ministry web site, I found this paragraph about the crew's R&R options:
"The aircraft carrier "Liaoning ship" has messes, supermarket, post office, laundry rooms, gym, rubbish disposal stations and so on. Even the bars have both the noisy type and the quiet type. Therefore, the life is relatively convenient on board."
Sadly, the US Navy has no bars - either noisy or quiet - on any of its ships. This extends back to 1914 and secretary of the navy Josephus Daniels, a rabid abolitionist.
How cool would it be to stand on the bridge of the Liaoning, beer in hand, observing Su-33s? Wow.