According to Chinese media reports, over the course of thepast two weeks or so, the refitted former Soviet ship has been conducting seatrials with Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark fighters onboard. The J-15 itself is areverse engineered version of the Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker, which flies off theformer Varyag‘s sister ship Admiral Kuznetsov.
China’s rapid progress in developing its naval aviationprowess should not come as a surprise. They’ve been investing considerabletime, effort and money into developing those capabilities. Moreover, they’veessentially had a lot of free research and development help from Russia andUkraine handed to them in the form of the Varyagitself and prototypes of the Su-33. Reverse engineering proven technologies hasno doubt greatly accelerated China’s progress. Nonetheless, the PLAN’saccomplishments can’t be dismissed lightly; it’s still very impressive.
But Liaoning isbut one ship and it still takes time to train up a ship and its air wing todeploy–that’s after they complete developmental work and correct anydeficiencies they find in test. China also has to integrate the carrier intoits fleet and develop a doctrine for its use. The ship will probably be used todevelop those concepts of operation and act as a kind of template for futureChinese carriers.
When those future Chinesecarriers might start to appear is anyone’s guess. There have been some reportsthat suggest China’s first truly indigenous carrier will be launched next year,but so far there is no concrete evidence to suggest further vessels are alreadyunder construction… Nor do we know for certain (or at all) if or when theChinese government might approve more aircraft carriers.