Naval Air: March 14, 2001


China is apparently thinking of building aircraft carriers. The evidence begins with scrap. The Russian navy sold many ships for scrap in the 1990s. This is a common practice in all navies. Weapons and electronics are removed and the ships is towed, or moves under its own power, to a yard for disassembly. This is a labor intensive process, and most of this work is done in the Far East. China, Korea and India all possess shipyards that specialize in this work. In 1995, Russia sold two Minsk class light carriers to South Korea for scrap. But this ships weren't dismantled. In 1998, a Chinese firm bought one of these Russian carriers so they could turn it into a tourist attraction. This was done. But staff on the carrier admit that Chinese navy officials visit the ship constantly and study it's construction intensely. Further investigation revealed that two other Russian carriers bought for scrap in the last few years also underwent intense examination before being reduced to scrap. A retired Australian carrier received the same treatment. Chinese officials have also talked to Spanish and Italian firms that have built small carriers. What the Chinese are doing is documenting the techniques used to build aircraft carriers. These ships are very complex bits of technology and the Russian ships were modified as the Russians learned to successfully operate carriers. The Chinese now have a good idea of what it takes to build carriers. If they decide that's what they want to spend their money on, they will know what they are doing.


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