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Aero India 2023

China building aircraft carrier: PLA Chief

Varyag was bought from Ukraine in 1998.

BEIJING (BNS): China has, for the first time, officially confirmed reports that it is building an aircraft carrier it acquired from Ukraine in 1998.

“I have nothing more to say about Chinese aircraft carriers, since prominent media outlets have already reported on them so much,” Chen Bingde, Chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), said on Monday.

“Our American friends all know that China bought an old aircraft carrier, the Varyag, from Ukraine. It’s very valuable for us to research these things this way,” the top military official was quoted as saying by the China Daily newspaper.

China had bought the partially-built aircraft carrier from Ukraine at a cost of $20 million in 1998. The vessel was originally being built for the Soviet Navy but could not be completed due to the fall of Soviet Union in 1991.

Earlier this year, media reports said that the Varyag was being reconstructed at a shipyard in Dalian city and all its living and work compartments, engines, navigation systems and power-generating equipment were being restored.

“China is a big country and we have quite a large number of ships, but they are only small ships,” Chen said, adding that this was not commensurate "with the status of a country like China."

“Having 11 aircraft carriers makes the United States a real world power,” the military official said.

The 67,500-ton Varyag is considerably smaller than the Japan-based US carrier George Washington, which has a displacement of more than 100,000 tons. But when it goes into service, it will make China one of four countries besides the US, France and Russia to have an operational carrier with a displacement of 50,000 tons or more, the China Daily said.

In April this year, the Chinese media also officially unveiled a heavy fighter jet, J-15, which could be stationed on board the ski jump-style carrier Varyag.

According to some reports, the aircraft carrier could begin initial sea trials by July or August this year. It is expected to be used by the Chinese Navy for conducting training and operations and also as a model of China’s indigenously built ship in future.


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