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China The Military Technology

Satellite Spots China's First Aircraft Carrier 449

Posted by timothy
from the making-more-real-estate dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Commercial satellite company DigitalGlobe Inc. has announced that it has an image of the People's Republic of China's first functional aircraft carrier, taken during the carrier's first sea trials in the Yellow Sea. The carrier was originally meant for the Soviet navy, but its construction was halted as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and engineers in the Ukraine disarmed it and removed its engines before selling it to China in 1998 for $20 million. The vessel, an Admiral Kuznetsov class aircraft carrier measuring 304.5 meters long, and having a displacement of 58,500 tons, has been refitted for research and training in China. The Ministry of National Defense says the steam-powered aircraft carrier has completed all refitting and testing work as scheduled after its first sea trial in mid-August, and was heading back out to sea for additional scientific research and experiments. According to Andrew S. Erickson at the US Naval War College, China's long term strategic dilemma is whether to focus on large-deck aviation or on submarines (PDF)."
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Satellite Spots China's First Aircraft Carrier

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  • by InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:21PM (#38386752)
    I would feel much safer to take off from a carrier that has ski-jump at end of the ramp. Without it you're basically taking off from under the deck, almost hitting water if you don't have enough speed. Ski-jump gives you much more vertical speed on take off.
    • by the linux geek (799780) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:24PM (#38386788)
      The US uses steam catapults, which are even better but are more expensive and are fairly involved to design.
      • by roothog (635998) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:32PM (#38386926)

        The US uses steam catapults, which are even better but are more expensive and are fairly involved to design.

        Ford class carriers (2 currently under construction) will use magnetic launch rather than steam launch.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:39PM (#38387032)

          The US uses steam catapults, which are even better but are more expensive and are fairly involved to design.

          Ford class carriers (2 currently under construction) will use magnetic launch rather than steam launch.

          To be followed in 20 years by the Obama class which use Hope

        • by dj245 (732906) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:01PM (#38387396) Homepage
          I don't understand why they did this at all. A steam catapult is relatively simple mechanically, and any pipefitting company can work on it as long as they have the appropriate government qualifications. Our carriers are going to have nuclear reactors for a long time, and that means a readilly-available source of steam. Going to magnetic launchers just hints to me that the principal contractor wanted to drive up the costs in order to increase their profit, and the ability for them to charge out the ass for aftermarket service and parts.
          • by roothog (635998) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:05PM (#38387458)

            Magnetic launch puts less stress on aircraft, requires a smaller physical space on the ship, and requires less manpower to operate and maintain.

          • by ArcherB (796902) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:07PM (#38387486) Journal

            I don't understand why they did this at all. A steam catapult is relatively simple mechanically, and any pipefitting company can work on it as long as they have the appropriate government qualifications. Our carriers are going to have nuclear reactors for a long time, and that means a readilly-available source of steam. Going to magnetic launchers just hints to me that the principal contractor wanted to drive up the costs in order to increase their profit, and the ability for them to charge out the ass for aftermarket service and parts.

            From what I understand, the magnetic catapults are much more reliable and preform much better than using extremely high pressured steam. Components tend to break when place them under high pressure, release the pressure in an instant and the slowly pressurize it again.

            • by ericloewe (2129490) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:57PM (#38388448)
              Also more efficient. I think they're around 20% efficient, compared to steam catapults that only manage ~2% efficiency. They're also far easier to control: You can have a controlled acceleration instead of a huge acceleration that quickly drops, launch smaller, lighter stuff (a steam catapult won't work at "half power", so if you tried to launch an UAV, it would be ripped apart by the catapult operating at full power). Of course, the coolness of any object is automatically improved by adding magnets, so you get that added bonus.
      • by clarkc3 (574410)
        the new Gerald R Ford class will have electromagnetic catapults
    • by iluvcapra (782887) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:26PM (#38386828)

      Better to have your nose straight at Vstall, than have your angle of attack inclined at Vstall. Ski-jumps don't work for heavier ASW/AWACS aircraft, and they deprie you of landing space for helicopters.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ramps limit the types and weight of aircraft and external loads. Anything a ramp can do a flat-top can do. The reverse is not true. The US navy has never accepted that compromise.

    • by roothog (635998) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:35PM (#38386976)

      almost hitting water if you don't have enough speed. Ski-jump gives you much more vertical speed on take off.

      With flat launch, you do hit the water in high seas [youtube.com] if they don't time the catapult launch correctly.

      • almost hitting water if you don't have enough speed. Ski-jump gives you much more vertical speed on take off.

        With flat launch, you do hit the water in high seas [youtube.com] if they don't time the catapult launch correctly.

        That video was of a non-catapult launch, and in fact instances such as that depicted were quite the reason for introducing catapults in the first place.

    • by damiangerous (218679) <1ndt7174ekq80001@sneakemail.com> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:42PM (#38387082)

      Large, heavy aircraft cannot take off from ski jumps. That makes them mostly unsuitable for US carriers as the Super Hornet is one of the mainstays of the airborne fleet.

    • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:54PM (#38387278) Homepage Journal

      So they've finally figured out they have to Build them in the OCEAN?!?!?!? [theregister.co.uk]

      • by ross.w (87751)
        I've seen this up close. It's a mock up for a military aircraft display in a tourist resort near Shanghai.
    • by NEDHead (1651195) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:19PM (#38387730)

      Ski jump technology is doomed as global warming will limit the latitudes where it can be operational

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:25PM (#38386800)

    China's aircraft carrier sounds like pretty old tech. Our aircraft carriers are the most advanced in the world, with nuclear power and now electromagnetic launchers. At something like $5 billion apiece, they aren't cheap. Maybe we can get back some of those dollars we've sent to China by selling them a fleet of our new Reagan-class aircraft carriers.

    • by kcbnac (854015) <kcbnac@gmai l . c om> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:30PM (#38386900)

      This was sold as a research vessel only, not to be converted back for active military use. Who knows if China is going to follow that, but being an old design and stripped of many useful things, they'd be better off building a fresh one with new design, tech and materials, and keep using this as a "research" ship.

      Also sell the one superpower that could actually give us a run for our money the equipment we use? That would be VERY stupid, also they wouldn't take it - they'd want to make sure none of it was sabotaged. (As we've done several times with commercial gear when the Soviets would buy it through 3rd parties)

    • by roothog (635998) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:38PM (#38387022)

      Reagan-class aircraft carriers.

      Such a thing does not exist. The new class of carrier is Ford class. The USS Ronald Reagan is Nimitz class.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      China's aircraft carrier sounds like pretty old tech. Our aircraft carriers are the most advanced in the world, with nuclear power and now electromagnetic launchers. At something like $5 billion apiece, they aren't cheap. Maybe we can get back some of those dollars we've sent to China by selling them a fleet of our new Reagan-class aircraft carriers.

      They'll probably use it for harrassing Japan, Taiwan and South Korea over disputed islands, fishing areas and oil exploration.

      China has fish to fry close to home, before they think about projecting power.

    • by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp.Gmail@com> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:36PM (#38390272) Homepage Journal

      China's aircraft carrier sounds like pretty old tech. Our aircraft carriers are the most advanced in the world, with nuclear power and now electromagnetic launchers. At something like $5 billion apiece, they aren't cheap. Maybe we can get back some of those dollars we've sent to China by selling them a fleet of our new Reagan-class aircraft carriers.

      $5 billion? The Ford Class is expected to hit $15 billion apiece. Which is why the Navy is planning to stretch carrier construction from 5 year cycles to 8 or even 9 year cycles. They simply can't afford as many at those costs. The DDG-1000 may be $7 billion dollars apiece for a destroyer. The F-35 is now as expensive as the F-22, with much less capability. We're pricing ourselves out of a Navy with any significant numbers of ships.

  • by Haedrian (1676506) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:33PM (#38386950)

    "According to Andrew S. Erickson at the US Naval War College, China's long term strategic dilemma is whether to focus on large-deck aviation or on submarines "

    Does it really matter? Are we expecting WW3 anytime soon?

    • by Sez Zero (586611) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:47PM (#38387176) Journal

      Does it really matter? Are we expecting WW3 anytime soon?

      You can't rattle your saber if you don't have a saber!

      And nuclear powered mobile military bases are great for rattling

    • "According to Andrew S. Erickson at the US Naval War College, China's long term strategic dilemma is whether to focus on large-deck aviation or on submarines "

      Does it really matter? Are we expecting WW3 anytime soon?

      It's the job of the US military to prepare for just about anything. We've even got plans for war against England and France. They'd be completely derelict if they didn't have information about what the world's 2nd or 3rd superpower is up to.

      During World War II, Churchill ordered English ships to fire upon French ships because they didn't want them to be captured by the Germans, and the French commander didn't want to turn them over, even to an ally.

    • by readin (838620) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:59PM (#38388476)
      WWII was started by two countries that, though historically capable of supporting strong militaries, had not taken advantage of the colonial age due to circumstances - Germany due to disunity and Japan due to a period of shutting itself off from the outside world. Both countries were looking to take their rightful place on the world stage. Both believed themselves racially superior but victims of historical wrongs committed against them. Germany at least, did not claim its initial moves were aggressive but were merely recovering what should have been theirs all along, in particular areas where German culture existed.

      Does any of this not apply to China?
  • by Kenja (541830) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:33PM (#38386952)
    Time to drop the trade agreement for furs and hope they dont halve aluminum or uranium within their borders.
  • Just curious, what would they burn in an application like this to power its boilers? Oil? Diesel? Coal? (Lead-lined cadmium? Child laborers?)

    • Re:Steam powered? (Score:4, Informative)

      by dj245 (732906) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:50PM (#38387218) Homepage
      If they didn't stuff a nuclear reactor in it, they are probably burning Heavy Fuel Oil [wikipedia.org], sometimes referred to as Bunker C. It is a heavy oil which needs to be heated before you can even pump it. HFO is the nasty stuff left over after you refine the gasoline, diesel, and other useful oils out of crude. It burns dirty, but at sea nobody cares. In port, some countries/ports make you switch to marine diesel to improve the air quality. I didn't check, but I doubt China is concerned with burning HFO in their ports.
  • Brilliant! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:39PM (#38387036)
    This was a brilliant move on China's part. A cold war is about making the other country spend too much money so that it collapses...at least that's basically what happened in the last cold war right? China spends 20 million on a ship...let's pretend they double that cost refitting it so maybe $40 million, and this will be used as an excuse for congresscritters to approve billions more in spending that we don't have on "defense."
  • by future assassin (639396) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:39PM (#38387038) Homepage

    our floating Chinese overlords.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:45PM (#38387132)

    They've got thousands of young unemployed engineers, recent advances in the design of hulls and they invest in um, the height of Ukranian technology (OK, maybe borrowed Russian technology). Surely they could have done much better starting from scratch.

    Three gorges dam is another strange project. Yes, you can build ONE BIG DAM or 1 hundred little ones that are cheaper, achieve better flood control, yield as much or more power and are easier to dredge when they silt up. And if one of a hundred dams break, it's not as big a deal. If the three gorges dam breaks, we have a real problem.

  • Aircraft carriers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0123456 (636235) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:47PM (#38387170)

    If you're fighting a real enemy who can shoot back, a carrier fleet is just a target-rich environment for cheap missiles. This is the modern equivalent of building battleships before WWII only to see them sunk by cheap aircraft.

    • Re:Aircraft carriers (Score:4, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:32PM (#38390190) Homepage Journal

      Not really.
      1. It is not easy to get within range of a us carrier group with Aircraft. They have E-2s which give you great radar coverage plus F-18s armed with AIM-120s.
      2. If you manage to get past the CAP then you have to deal with the escorts. Both the DDs and CGs classes in use today have great air defense systems. Not to mention a lot of SAMs.
      3. You then have to get past the point defenses of the ships to hit a carrier. It could be done but you better bring about 100+ aircraft to the party.
      As far as using a surface ship? The Carrier can reach out and hit you from a long way.
      4. Subs? well they are actually slow. A fast sub is a loud sub and likely to be a dead sub.

      As long as the carrier is out to see it will be tough nut to crack. Now if you can get it close to shore and used shore mounted weapons you may have a chance.

      The only reason that the Brits lost any ships was they lacked any AEW assets like the E-2 and only had Sea Harriers.

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:50PM (#38387222)

    The carrier was originally meant for the Soviet navy, but its construction was halted as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and engineers in the Ukraine disarmed it and removed its engines before selling it to China in 1998 for $20 million.

    ... says "Not made in China".

  • by Truekaiser (724672) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:02PM (#38387408)

    but considering they now are the source of a lot of stuff made in the world. if their leader went out and said. "i want 20 more in less then ten years" they will be able to build them in less then 5. and it takes us what about 2 to 3 years to build a single one of ours?

    congratulations, the united states is like the early ww2 german war machine. were more advanced but it takes longer for us to build our tanks, ships, and planes while our enemies will be able in a short while replace that one much cheaper and faster made one with 2 or more every time we knock one down.

  • by dtmos (447842) * on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:05PM (#38387450)

    What even a modest carrier can do in the near term caught the Chinese by surprise in early 2005,when they watched in horror as Indian and Japanese carriers conducted post-tsunami relief operations. Thus, in reconceptualizing the PLAN carrier, China’s two potential role models—and competitors—are not the United States and the former Soviet Union but rather India and Japan. [Andrew S. Erickson and Andrew R.Wilson, "China's aircraft carrier dilemma [usnwc.edu]," Naval War College Review, Autumn 2006, Vol. 59, No. 4, p. 36.]

    Would that this were true -- it would be nice to see countries build military weapons platforms to compete with each other to provide the best humanitarian assistance possible. [/pollyanna] However. . . .

  • by rabenja (919226) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:10PM (#38389774) Journal
    Having been in the Navy for 14 years I do not see China being able to operate a carrier effectively for a decade at least. First you need to have planes an pilots that can land on one, then you have to be learn how to replenish at sea (*not* an easy task), then you need a grunch of ships and submarines to protect the carrier, not to mention operations for achieving that, and of course the entire logistics and training infrastructure to pull the whole thing off.

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