I'm not sure if the image above showing smoke coming from the funnel of China's aircraft carrier Shi Lang is Photoshopped or not but one thing is for certain, the ship is close to being put to sea. Also check out the photo at the end of this post of her meatball Optical Landing System (and what appear to be cameras to document landings). These images, along with pictures of her lights running, jet blast deflectors up, weapons mounted and construction gear removed, paint a picture of a carrier that will indeed be operational soon.
(Note that you can see life raft pods along the rails in the picture above.)
Still, you've got to laugh at the Chinese government's latest claim that the ship is going to be used for scientific purposes. Yes, one of the world's most badass types of weapons is going to be used for scientific research. Oh, and military training, lots of military training.
Here's a very carefully worded article (or should I say press release?) from China's state-run Xinhua news agency about the Shi Lang. It's got some very telling sentences that hint at china's ambition to deploy the carrier operationally around the world; from pacific ocean sea lanes to the Arabian sea:
BEIJING, July 27 (Xinhua) -- The Defense Ministry officially confirmed Wednesday that China was pursuing an aircraft carrier program aimed at refitting an imported carrier as a platform for scientific research, experiment and training.Here's the rest of the article over at China Defense Blog.
It appears China is a long way off having a carrier with real fighting capacity since developing and building this type of vessel is a long and complicated process.
Even if China does equip its naval force with a carrier, it is unlikely to have much of an impact on the world, given a traditional military power such as the United States has 11 in service, and even lesser powers, such as Thailand, Brazil and India, each have one.
China, with an estimated total coastline of more than 10,000 km to defend and long, busy sea lanes to secure for the flow of materials and manufactured goods in and out of the country, is entitled to an aircraft carrier.
Apart from its need for national defense, the program will better serve China's purpose of international cooperation against maritime crimes, including the fight against Somali pirates.
Chinese navy fleets had by June escorted 3,953 ships from countries all over the world through the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, among which 47 percent were foreign commercial ships.
The carrier program will gear up China for a bigger role in peaceful cooperation worldwide.