NEW IMAGE: Chinese aircraft carrier at sea
In this exclusive image from the DigitalGlobe Analysis Center, the Chinese aircraft carrier Varyag is seen from space during its second sea trial in the Yellow Sea, approximately 100 kilometers south-southeast of the port of Dalian.
December 15th, 2011
06:37 PM ET

NEW IMAGE: Chinese aircraft carrier at sea

By Adam Levine

China's refurbished Russian aircraft carrier was snapped at sea in this exclusive image taken by DigitalGlobe's satellite. The Varyag aircraft carrier image was grabbed while the carrier was on its second sea trial in the Yellow Sea on December 8, 2011, according to DigitalGlobe Analysis Center. The location is approximately 100 kilometers south-southeast of the port of Dalian.

The carrier had previously been seen in dry dock.

The aircraft carrier is a partially refurbished version of the old Soviet Admiral Kuznetsov Class and was left over from the Cold War.  A Macao-based casino group initially arranged for the purchase but ulimately it was taken over by the Chinese military, according to a Stratfor analysis which posits they were likely the original buyer. (WATCH A VIDEO OF THE STRATFOR/DIGITAL GLOBE ANALYSIS HERE)

While its appearance has gotten a lot of attention, Stratfor notes "its actions seem threatening long before there is a capability to match" because it will be years before China can add additional carriers to keep one active at all times.  The carrier also appears to lack surface-to-surface missiles and other air defense systems, according to Strafor, and the intention seems to be to use the Varyag as a training vehicle.

"The focus on naval development, which goes far beyond the work on the Varyag, reflects less a desire to be considered one of the “big” players than a response to a fundamental threat to its economic system, and thus to social and political stability," Stratfor observes.

China's rapid growth has led to a heavy dependence on resources that must be shipped in via the sea.

"This vulnerability of resources and market access forced China to make the costly decision to rapidly pursue increased naval development, to become more assertive in its neighboring seas (particularly in the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea), and to expand port development agreements around the Indian Ocean basin," according to Stratfor.

As Stratfor notes in its analysis, China has only a few options: depend on U.S. to keep sea lanes open and operational, find land routes to supplement maritime routes or "try to develop a counterweight to defend China's maritime supply routes."

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Filed under: Analysis • China • Military • Satellite imagery • Stratfor
soundoff (54 Responses)
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    July 27, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Reply
  5. Betelguese

    And China has hundreds of millions without a toilet too.
    One last point. Some people seem to have the additude that fixed-wing aircraft carrier operations is some esoteric thing that only several nations can do. If Thailand, Brazil, and India can carry out carrier operations, so can a country like China.

    July 3, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Reply
  6. Betelguese

    India is a country where 500 million people don't have a flushing toilet to squat on.
    China has initiated construction on two indigenous aircraft carriers. The Song class diesel electric submarine which 'snuck' through the USS Kitty Hawk's sphere of influence was no fluke. The carrier group's various counterdefenses were compromised by an outdated submarine.
    If Secretary of DoD Gates says something, pay attention. It's better to be objective and reasonable versus spewing things about a country you really don't know much about. Gunpowder has come full circle. China's economy will be larger than that of the U.S. within 20 years. Not so long for that civilization.

    April 8, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Reply
  7. spygoat1

    Philippines have a secret deal with the Russia on Military Hardware education and strategy. U.s must be keep on watching on this two country. Philippines have billion of Peson spending with their military arsenal....

    February 3, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Reply
  8. USN Chief

    Let just one US carrier show up off your coast. I bet folks get just a little nervous!

    January 10, 2012 at 10:35 am | Reply
  9. str8vision

    Built using the technology/funds our free trade agreements handed them. But hey, a few of us made out like bandits to bad so sad for the other 99 percent.....

    January 3, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  10. Jack Beadling

    Do the Chinese have a nice catchy tune to sing about their navy.
    I'm sure that our tunes are much better tan theirs

    December 24, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Reply
  11. Jack Beadling

    The U.S. arrogance is ignorance. We are not the rulers of the World. In fact we are poised to be educated on exactly what our realm of influence is. All of the big mouthed Americans , pushing other Countries around, and then taking military action against those who won’t submit to our terrorism, are about to receive an adjustment to their concept of reality. The pendulum of time has reached its zenith and it is returning. There are still those who have a concept that we are: bigger, stronger, and more intelligent than the Chinese. In reality, we are the World’s biggest terrorists. If we don’t have enough level headed citizens to bring ourselves out of this, the World communities will find our leadership for us. How can the U.S. citizenship allow the crooks running the Country to continue in their destruction of our Nation. In reality it is too late to stop the destruction, we are going down. What we do have control of is how we conduct ourselves beyond our Countries demise. If we cannot help our neighbors in a constructive and loving manner, we should hold our heads down in shame and fade away into history. To think of all of the good that we could have done, and then reflect on our run-away greed that we have in our attempt to take the wealth of our neighbor Countries. Look at how we treated the South American neighbors. Many of our South American neighbors see us for the terrorists that we are. They have learned to pay NO attention to what we say, and to watch what we do very closely.
    God, help us to see who we really are.

    December 24, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Reply
    • Eric

      Ron Paul,..... Is that you?

      January 4, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Reply
  12. r.ortiz

    like always the u.s. carriers are better and look better, thank god for the united states navy.

    December 21, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Reply
    • joseph

      you can thank the military industrial complex for the us navy

      January 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Reply
  13. Gary

    I understand the U.S. has a great military. But Id like to know if they are so great, how did a Chinese sub pop up undetected in a carrier group?? I also understand the anti ship missiles can be defeated (most times) but do we remember the Argentinians firing a French Exocet and blowing up the Sheffield?. Certainly technology has advanced on both sides (offensive and defensive) but to say a ship cannot be sunk is rather foolish.

    December 17, 2011 at 8:20 am | Reply
    • Sayan Majumdar

      Indeed, on 26th October 2006, a Chinese Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Song-Class conventional-powered attack submarine (SSK) reportedly surfaced in close proximity to the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier battle group (CVBG) in international waters near Okinawa.

      However it can be safely deducted that it did NOT slip through the United States Navy (USN) CVBG Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) screen UNDETECTED (Song Class SSK are particularly not renowned for their acoustic silence), something that will never be permitted after outbreak of hostilities.

      As for destruction of Type 42 HMS Sheffield, do bear in mind that British Royal Navy (RN) during the Falklands campaign was devoid of effective integral air cover. Sea Harrier FRS1 on HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible were firmly subsonic with limited combat persistence and lacked an effective fixed-wing Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) support.

      Unfortunately the highly volatile aluminium superstructure of HMS Sheffield ensured destruction of the warship by only a single Exocet AM39 anti-ship missile. In fact the warhead of the missile failed to explode, the fatal damage was sufficiently caused by the burning missile sustainer.

      Sayan.

      December 18, 2011 at 7:06 am | Reply
  14. Patriot

    Boy I would LOve to Blow that Baby out of the Water.

    December 16, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Reply
    • M

      Seriously – Patriot! How dare another country have a military – that's so un-American and un-patriotic! Can you believe the gall of the Chinese to dare to build up a strong military, especially after all we've done for them like helped them earn good karma by keeping US luxury brands afloat, or giving them nearly an investment opportunity worth a trillion dollars.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Reply
    • Jim

      @Patriot

      Why bother? Its a training carrier. Even if it wasn't, again, why bother? The USA gains nothing by its destruction.

      One can expect the Chinese to develop their own navy to further their own interests, same as the USA has done.

      January 9, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  15. RichP

    The really funny part is the civilian sat has better pictures than the government gives to the press of Iranian nuclear sites or anything else actually.

    December 16, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  16. peter

    only Jehova God knows

    December 16, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Reply
  17. Sayan Majumdar

    @ J.Pollard, be pragmatic, the Moskit (SS-N-22) sunburn carrying hostile platforms will be (among others) the initial platforms for devastating precision strikes at the onset of the potential conflicts.

    On top of it with allied Indian Navy ever expanding their operational footprint in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) the United States Navy (USN) will be in a position to allocate intensive resources at flashpoints.

    USN represents a formidable force, in fact the restrained attitude of China and Iran are proofs of that. And never underestimate the Research & Development potential of United States military industrial complex.

    Sayan.

    December 16, 2011 at 8:54 am | Reply
    • J. Pollard the zionist spy

      Sounds to me you have never been in combat.

      Your gibberish with a british twang, kills me . . . ha ha . Pragmatic nothing! Theorize all you want, the proof is in the missiles. The U.S. navy can't win WW3 and that is where we're heading, unless you think otherwise, then for sure you're a la la land.
      Plus, the Indian Navy is as strong as the Mexican Navy – so pleeeeese stop with the indiand whatever. Who needs them?

      My point again, surface ships are death traps.

      To stop all this madness would be best solution. The solution is to disarm the dirty evil zionists and for Imperial America to get off its high horse. It what real American Patriots want. Vote Ron Paul for president. Kick the zionists to the curb.

      Let india be india who cares?

      December 16, 2011 at 9:49 am | Reply
      • Sayan Majumdar

        Your ignorance over the subject stands totally exposed,further worsened by sub-standard fundamentalist attitude.

        I do not feel need to enlighten you any further.

        Sayan.

        December 16, 2011 at 10:28 am |
      • dreamer96

        One Chinese Carrier, which they did not build themselves, but bought from Russia...and you guys sound like a bunch of high school boys flexing your new muscles....A carrier needs a armada of support ships and rings of defense ships, and subs..

        China has 1.3 billion people and is grow economically at a rate we have not seen since WWII...This was expected and they do have many supplies arriving by sea....This Chinese Carrier are a threat to sea pirates from Somalia, and that region of the open seas, and not the U.S. Fleet, or Russian Fleet....and besides the Russian and U.S. fleets have both been watching the Somalia seas too, protecting shipping lanes for all the World's many travelers...

        December 16, 2011 at 10:31 am |
      • Clinton

        And you have? You're the village idiot you know that right? This is the internet and you're so dumb, that you're THE "idiot" of the blog... I've been in combat, I served in the Army and have been deployed to Iraq. I can tell your dumb A** hasn't seen combat, you're some moron spewing ignorance because you got nothing better to do. seriously though, any moron that believes Iran poses a threat to our Navy should probably just take their own life because you're that friggin stupid. You shouldn't exist and you shouldn't pass your genes on because the world doesn't need someone as stupid as you in it.

        December 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Clinton

      There is ZERO threat to the USN from Missle strikes... how do you morons not understand that? The USN has anti-missle capabilities and the best sensor equipment on the face of the planet. You can't suprise the Navy and even if you launch they will shoot your missles down. Besides all that, in open warfare, the Navy can simply choose to move outside the range of those missles and annihilate whichever country opposes it from outside the enemy's range. You people are so stupid it's unbelievable. The USN can project more firepower from a greater distance than ANY nation on the PLANET and if they wanted to, the USN could literally destroy any country on Earth in a matter of hours. None of you even have an idea of what you're talking about.

      December 16, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Reply
      • J. Pollard the zionist spy

        Clinton: You're what, a combat whatever . . . and you know all that . . . fine chisel chest. But read on:

        Defence analysts have called the Dongfeng 21 D missile a “game changer” since it could force US aircraft carriers to stay away from waters where China does not want to see them. These include the Taiwan Strait where a potential conflict could develop over the self-ruled island which China claims.

        The land-based missile is designed to target and track aircraft carrier groups with the help of satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles and over-the-horizon radar. Aircraft carriers and their accompanying ships are unable to defend themselves against such a threat.
        Aware of the missile’s development, the Pentagon has already started considering ways to counter the new threat, including a new concept for more closely integrated navy and air force operations.

        Robert Gates, US defence secretary, said in September, the development of such a missile would force the Pentagon to rethink the way carriers were deployed.
        “If the Chinese or somebody else has a highly accurate anti-ship cruise or ballistic missile that can take out a carrier at hundreds of miles of ranges and therefore in Asia puts us back behind the second island chain, how then do you use carriers differently in the future?” Mr Gates asked.

        Okay, so you know more than Mr. Gates?

        Let me remind you, some things are so apparent . . . like you don't know Jack!.

        December 16, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
      • AmericaFail

        Clinton, pall, lay off the steriods and brainwashing seminars. The USN is not the unstoppable force you think it is, if it was we wouldnt still be in Iraq and Afganistan. If Iran was no threat, its leaders would be dead by now. You really believe the crap they feed you at basic dont you soldier boy. If you actually believe we are untouchable, please kill your entire family and remove everyone you influence from the gene pool. You are in fact the worst type of person in America, the idiot patriot that are brainwashed into thinking you cant be beat. You have no proof of any American Naval dominance. Throughout our entire history our coastline has been dotted with enemy ships, undected, but of course why would the government announce it? Think with the muscle that counts soldier boy..... Also buy a rope and tie a noose. Bullets are worth more than you.

        January 6, 2012 at 5:29 am |
  18. Sayan Majumdar

    Fixed-wing naval aviation is one of the most challenging expertises to acquire.

    Expect a prolonged series of crashes and disasters aboard Varyag (now named Shi Lang) for at lest a decade; depressing enough to compel the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to scuttle their carrier ambition once and for all.

    Sayan.

    December 16, 2011 at 7:38 am | Reply
  19. J. Pollard the zionist spy

    Carriers are old hat, they are yesterday's news. Just wait until the dirty evil zionists in illegal israel/the terrorist state starts WW3 – then our zionist masters will demand obama send in the navy to attack Iran. Iran will bust a cap in the navy's arse with sunburst missiles. They have a thousand of them or more. Were going to lose thousands of our sailors in showesr of sunburst missiles that will show once and for all, navy ships or carriers are outdated. Too bad so many u.s. sailors will die to prove it.

    December 16, 2011 at 7:37 am | Reply
    • Sayan Majumdar

      Did you mean Raduga P-270 Moskit (SS-N-22 Sunburn) anti-ship missiles? Do some serious research before you post.

      And can you please elaborate how an United States Navy (USN) aircraft carrier will fall prey to this missile system considering USN carriers enjoy a “security bubble” in excess of 500-km around it.

      Sayan.

      December 16, 2011 at 7:55 am | Reply
      • J. Pollard the zionist spy

        Get you head out of the sand The world powers do not fear the U.S. Navy anymore – call it what you want, but anti-ship missiles like Russia's 3M-82 Moskit anti-ship cruise missiles( NATO calls is the SS-N-22 Sunburn) – are a grave threat to the U.S. Navy. China is not afraid of the U.S. Navy. Iran is not afraid of the U.S. Navy. It is well known the U.S. Navy has no defense for these missiles.
        Just so you know the SS-N-22 Sunbrun has been called "the most lethal missile in the world today." Iran has them, China has them and better versions of it – So now what? My point: Surface ships no longer mean anything – they will become death traps.

        December 16, 2011 at 8:33 am |
      • Clinton

        yet again pollard you continue to point out your ignorance for the entire world to see. The USN HAS ANTI MISSLE CAPABILITIES YOU IDIOT!!!!!!! THEY WOULD SHOOT DOWN ANY MISSLES BEFORE THEY EVEN GOT CLOSE!!!!! THEN THEY HAVE THE ABILITY TO LEVEL AN ENTIRE NATION IF THEY WANT TO... YOU'RE SO IGNORANT IT'S UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!

        December 16, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
      • ChicagoRich

        Defenses exist, but you don't know for sure if they will work unless you can test them in the real world against the real missiles, and that is something no one wants to actually see. Without certainty, would you risk a super expensive and not easily replaced air craft carrier and its crew? I would think these missiles would have to effect the way our forces are deployed. They have likely encouraged development of more stand off weapons of our own to take out bases and missile and radar sites before approaching coastlines during hostilities, which I am sure we hope to avoid. No sane person hopes for war. I would rather trade with the Chinese and Russians than fight with them and all of these countries have significant interests in common.

        January 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Rob

      Not to mention the Sea Spearow missle defence system outfitted to virtually all navel vessels of any importance. They can shoot down our own anti ship missles with a high succsess rate let alone the peice of crap anti ship missles the Iranian military probabley field. It will take less than 1 fleet of U.S. warships to smash Irans military and give the U.S. a decisive victory before the troops have to hit the ground and prove to the world once again that nobody can stand against the U.S. military.

      December 16, 2011 at 8:04 am | Reply
      • J. Pollard the zionist spy

        Rob, keeping staying stupid, the zionist like you that way. Keep believing the u.s. is all that, right to the every end.

        Ha ha very funny Iran is going to kick our butts.

        December 16, 2011 at 8:35 am |
      • mike

        american ships have multiple antimissile systems such as c-ram

        December 16, 2011 at 10:42 am |
      • Rob

        The U.S. military can crush Iran and you are going to feel really stupid when the U.S. navy smashes Irans military and U.S. marines are taking Tehran and dismantaling their nuclear facilites so all of this foolishness can finally end and we can have real lasting peace. I don't care what you claim this country or that country claim they have that can beat us because it cant and no military whether its China's Russia's or Iran's could even hope to win against us we are the worlds only superpower and will be for a long long time. Also all of these people who are hating on Jewish people need to stop because the Jewish people I know are some of the nicest, kindest, most humble and thoughtful people I have ever met and don't do anything to harm anyone so all you people calling zionist evil really need to stop. That

        December 16, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Clinton

      To J. Pollard the zionist spy – You sir are an idiot. You understand nothing of modern Naval tactics and capabilities. The U.S. Navy has nothing to fear from Iran, or any other nation for that matter. The USN is more powerful than the rest of the world's navy's combined. They have anti-missle capabilities onboard and the best sensor equipment in the world. They have absolutely NOTHING to fear from Iran, they could eliminate Iran without even getting in range of Iran's missles you dunce. Seriously you don't know anything why do you talk about something that you have such limited knowledge of? The USN has every little tool you can think of, this isn't WW2 you moron, we aren't rolling out there with Iowa class battleships... get a clue you moron and quit spewing your ignorance all over the internet, it just makes you look dumber by the minute.

      December 16, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Reply
      • dreamer96

        Maybe this will not mean much coming from one of the village idiots...but Thank You for your service

        I was just a lowly DOD Avionic Analyst for the NAVY, and civilian scum with a TS....you mentioned you were in the Army in Iraq, so I think I owe you and even bigger THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE...For putting your boots on the ground and going face to face with the real situation of there...I hope you can take it easy now, and I hope it's all gravy from here on for you...

        December 16, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
      • RichP

        True, but nothing says "Hey listen up" like 9 1900lb HC rounds, each one literally lifting a football field and roto tilling it in a blink of an eye. There is something very comforting calling for fire and hearing those freight trains rumble by overhead. And my god talk about accurate and a 900meter sheaf.

        December 16, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  20. Jeffrey Crowell

    I think that China having an aircraft carrier is their way of gaining a higher status in the eyes of the rest of the world. A carrier is not just a projection of military assets, its a statement of financial and industrial capability. Countries with aircraft carriers are taken more seriously, because they can park one at your doorstep.

    December 16, 2011 at 12:23 am | Reply
  21. Jose

    It should be promptly sunk simply out of meaness.

    December 15, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Reply
    • Connor

      Quite honestly if I have been researching this correctly this aircraft carrier is nothin more then something the chinese were able to salvage from old russian tech. I mean sure it's an amazing feat that they have there own now, but they still dont have the requirements necessary to actually BUILD their own. Until I see them actually start producing their own battle groups at enormous rates I'm not concerned. I do though see their reasons for patrolling the waters i mean America patrols the crap out of middle eastern waters and they have good reason too but hey most people agree "Everyone wants Protection"

      December 16, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Reply
      • Peter

        Just so you know, China bought this carrier without any weapons, navigation, equipments, or engines, only an empty shell. If they can refit it and make it sea-worthy as well as carrier worthy, then all they need to do is to build new hulls. Last I check, they can build million ton hulls in their commerical shipyards already.

        December 16, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Betelguese

      India is a country were 500 million people don't have a flushing toilet to sit on.
      India by and large buys most of their military hardware. The exceptions are the Arjun MBT and the Brahmos cruise missile. The Song class diesel-electric submarine that 'snuck' through the Nimitz class USS Kitty Hawk's carrier group's sphere of influence was compromised by an outdated submarine. If Secretary Gates of the DoD says something, listen up. China has already laid the keels for two INDIGENOUS aircraft carriers. To Sayan, remember 1962? The two times China has become involved in a conflict in the Far East involving the US as an adversary, they're objectives were achieved. North Korea exists because of Chinese intervention in 1950. A poor peasant army fought the world's premier military power and it's henchmen to a standstill. The U.N. action was no 'police' action- when the 1st Marine division is bested, it's more than that. Wonder what might happen now. In the Vietnam war or as the Vietnamese call the 'American war', China deployed 170,000 engineering troops in the North to rebuild the infrastructure (bridges etc....) that the U.S. Airforce and Navy were constantly destroying. That left 170,000 Vietnamese to join the NVA. Gunpowder has come full circle. Within a time frame of 20-30 years, the Chinese economy will be larger than the U.S. economy. Not too long for a civilization that's been around for 4500 years or so. One last thought. Imagine the U.S. and China as strategic allies. It's not out of the complete realm of possibilities.

      April 8, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Reply

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