Here's something we haven't seen before. China's first aircraft carrier, the ex-Soviet Varyag, steaming under its own power in the open seas. This satellite photo was taken by the group Digital Globe during the ship's nearly two week-long cruise that ended last weekend.
This is a pretty significant development. until now, we've only seen her moving under the accompaniment of tugs. If all went well during this recent trip, I'd expect to see the Chinese conduct limited flight tests from her decks on one of her upcoming cruises. Heck, we've already seen a Z-8 chopper operating from ex-Varyag's deck while she sat in port.
Lcick throuhg the jump to read an exerpt fomr Naval War College professor Andrew Erickson's report on what shipboard tech PLAN officials were likely testing during the cruise.
From Erickson's report titled Beijing's Starter Carrier and Future Steps:
Ex-Var yag is currently undergoing a series of predelivery tests and modifications by Dalian Naval Shipyard and the Chinese defense industry, including trials in a rectangular area off Dalian, within China’s territorial waters.Click here for more on what missions China is likely to use the ex-Varyag for.
This has been an incremental process.
First, under PLAN supervision, the shipyard checked all major systems and equipment (main propulsion, auxiliary, damage control, deck, electrical, interior environmental safety protection, navigation, and spares) to ensure that the carrier’s hardware met contract requirements for sea trials. Testing of the engines, for instance, explained the appearance of smoke at the pier. Then, several days before the first sea trials, design and construction teams continued to work while PLAN personnel rehearsed the task of getting the ship under way as realistically as possible and made preparations.
The PLAN is apparently satisfied now with the quality of the ship’s refurbishment; China’s defense industry and its oversight organizations have been restructured to address previous concerns about inadequacies in development and production of military systems. Following completion of the test and trial program, there will be a ceremony to name the vessel, and it will be commissioned and accepted into PLAN service. The crew members can then leave the auxiliary vessel (hull number 88), currently being used to house them and to serve as a base for their training, and take up residence on board the carrier itself.