Five Questions about China's aircraft carrier

09:46, July 30, 2011      

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On July 27, Geng Yansheng, the senior colonel and spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense, declared that China is currently carrying out a restoration of a salvaged aircraft carrier for the purposes of scientific research and training.

The reporter interviewed Li Jie, a researcher from the Naval Military Art Studies Institute and asked several questions regarding China's first aircraft carrier that readers are concerned with.

First, what is the purpose of restoring the aircraft carrier?

The restoration of the salvaged aircraft carrier depends on the national conditions. It will be mainly used for scientific research and training after the restoration.

Reporter: Could you tell us the specific conditions of the aircraft carrier, which was previously named "Varyag?" Why has China decided to renovate a salvaged aircraft carrier instead of building a new one? What are the main purposes of this aircraft carrier?

Li Jie: The previous name of this waste aircraft carrier is "Varyag." and after restoration, it will become an experimenting and training ship of Chinese Navy.

The "Varyag" under restoration is a conventionally powered aircraft carrier, the construction of which was launched by the Soviet Union in the 1980s. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, construction was terminated. In 1998, the salvaged "Varyag" was bought by a Chinese company and arrived in the Dalian Port of China in March 2002.

After restoration, the aircraft carrier will be mainly used for scientific research and training. In order to master the whole process of building an aircraft carrier, China has to start from the scientific research and experiments, and then solve technological problems in equipment of active force, piping design, material and the electronic equipment one by one.

Additionally, this aircraft carrier will also be the platform for personnel training. For example, training pilots of the carrier aircraft, which could only be carried out on land previously…In the future, the training for the takeoff and landing could be conducted on the aircraft carrier.

From the restoration of the salvaged aircraft carrier, China has chosen a road of introduction, digestion, absorption and recreation, which is a road of developing an aircraft carrier with Chinese characteristics. Besides, the timesaving aspect of the aircraft carrier restoration is also an important element. This is a decision made according to national conditions.

Second, why do we need an aircraft carrier?

The possession of an aircraft carrier is helpful for the defense of Chinese marine safety, which is also a significant step in the process of navy modernization.

Reporter: What's the significance of having aircraft carriers for China, and what are the functions in terms of elevating the combat effectiveness of the Chinese navy?

Li Jie: The aircraft carrier is the most advanced offshore military platform the mankind has presently mastered, and it is taken as a symbol of the comprehensive national strength and navy strength of a country.

In recent years, a trend has appeared in the world, some countries are building larger and more advanced aircraft carriers, and there are some other countries that are designing and building small aircraft carriers suitable for the needs of their own country, and China is a newcomer in the research and reformation of aircraft carriers.

China is not only a great power on the land but also on the ocean, with about 3 million square kilometers of "blue territory" and endless coastline.

It's impossible to defend this "blue territory" without large warships that could reach the territory and defend the sea border. Especially in the era of increasingly large-scale warship development throughout the world, without the equipment of aircraft carriers, the armed forces of China could neither defend the national security, the sovereignty of territorial seas, maritime rights and interests, nor fulfill the holy responsibilities it assumes.

As a result, the restoration of the aircraft carrier is helpful for the defense of national maritime security, and having aircraft carriers is the dream of several generations of Chinese people! Meanwhile, it is also a significant step in the process of navy modernization.

Reporter: Why could the aircraft carrier win the broad favor of all the countries, and what deterrent forces does it have?

Li Jie: The history for navies of strong Western powers that build and use the aircraft carrier has lasted over hundreds of years. After the two world wars, the large-sized warship, which could be considered as a new type of warship in the warship family, has occupied the position of "Maritime Supremacy", and so far, no weapon has challenged its position.

In short, the reason why aircraft carriers are so popular in every country is that the aircraft carrier formation has great striking power and defense force, which is invincible in sea battles, and its significant functions have been increasingly obvious.

Third, how should we regard the "China Threat Theory?"

Of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, China is the only one that does not have the aircraft carrier, and the "China Treat Theory" is baseless.

Reporter: How do you regard the re-emerged "China Threat Theory" caused by China refitting the disused aircraft carrier platform?

Li: The reason for China to research and develop the aircraft carrier is that China wants to strengthen its abilities to safeguard its national security and keep the peace. China just wants to improve its self-defense ability and does not wants to threat any country.

In my opinion, the "China Threat Theory" is baseless. Of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China is the only one that does not have an aircraft carrier. Around China, six or seven countries have already had or will have a aircraft carrier or helicopter carrier, including India, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Russia, United States and Australia.

Even if China has the carrier, the navy of China will not change its offshore defense strategy and China will not change its national defense policy, which is defensive in nature.

Fourth, which technologies are needed to build the aircraft carrier?

The aircraft carrier is an integration of many modern technologies and a complex "super system." Building the aircraft carrier could improve a country's comprehensive power.

Reporter: what key technologies are needed to build the aircraft carrier?

Li: The aircraft carrier is an integration of many modern technologies and a complex "super system." To build it, a lot of key technologies are needed, such as the designing technology, carrier-aircraft matching technology, shipboard aircraft technology, ejection technology, intercepting technology, weapon technology, power technology, steel board production and welding technology and other corresponding equipment guarantee technologies.

Of all these technologies, the shipboard aircraft technology and carrier-aircraft matching technology are very important. A large-scale carrier of the United States is usually equipped with 70 to 80 aircrafts of various types, and even will equipped with 100 during the wartime. How should these aircrafts be deployed and arranged on the carrier board and in the hangar? How should they smoothly take off and land? How should the carrier cooperate with the other unites and its subordinate ships to accomplish its mission? To successfully solve these issues, a series of technologies will be needed.

Regarding the shipboard aircraft, it not only should have excellent technical combat capacity but also should be able to smoothly fit its carrier and cooperate with the other carriers of the same country. In a word, the aircraft carrier has high demands on the shipboard aircrafts, weapons and corresponding equipment, and a lot of technical means will be needed to solve the difficulties.

Reporter: What role will the action of building or refitting the aircraft play in promoting the industrial production and technical innovation of China?

Li: Regarding the technical progress, the aircraft's demands for high and new technologies and advanced weapons will inevitably stimulate the innovation in related scientific research realms. The aircraft, as a comprehensive reflection of a country's industry, science, technology, organizing ability and system will promote the reform and development of related realms.

The production of aircraft carriers will involve hundreds of thousands of components developed and produced by a large number of domestic factories. The development, production, transportation and assembling of the components will involve many domestic factories and can effectively boost domestic demand.

Furthermore, the construction of ports, airports and research bases for aircraft carriers will involve almost all maritime-related industrial and building sectors. Building aircraft carriers will promote China's industrial transition and increase new job opportunities, which are generally welcomed at home and abroad. Therefore, developing aircraft carriers will rely on and enhance a country's comprehensive strength.

Five, what difficulties were seen in transforming the aircraft carrier?

China has faced all-round technical challenges in transforming the aircraft carrier that has a considerable gap with advanced ones.

Reporter: What technical problems has China overcome when transforming the aircraft carrier?

Li Jie: Modern aircraft carriers are maritime "monsters" equipped with various types of advanced technology and weapons. Transforming the aircraft carrier demands vast new knowledge, techniques and materials, such as comprehensive designs, engines and radars. Developing these technological capacities needs the support of the entire country.

China is still in transition from mechanization to mechanization and is thus faced with many difficulties. The country used to start from scratch in many fields, but after great efforts, many difficult problems have been solved and many advanced mature technologies have been developed and put into use.

Of course, there is still a considerable technological gap between China's aircraft carrier and the world's most advanced aircraft carrier. There is a long way to go in technological innovation for China to build an advanced aircraft carrier that meets the needs of modern warfare.

Reporter: How long does an old aircraft carrier wait to enter service after it is revamped?

Li: There are no fixed rules. It mainly depends on the time spent ensuring the stability, reliability and compatibility of the aircraft carrier.

Foreign experiences have shown that sometimes it is fast, and sometimes it is slow. New problems are bound to occur when various aspects of an aircraft carrier, including the coordination between the carrier and aircraft, are tested in the dynamic and harsh marine environment. It takes time to solve these problems.

Therefore, we should obey the laws of science and make rapid progress without undue haste.

By Feng Chunmei from People's Daily, translated by People's Daily Online
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