China’s new 300m long ex-Soviet aircraft carrier is nearing completion,with top People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officials now confirming the existence of the ship.
The new carrier, now known as the ShiLang, is the ex Varyag, which was bought from a Ukrainian shipyard in 1998. The Varyag had been under construction in the Ukraine in the 1980s for the Soviet navy, before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 left it surplus to requirements and only 70 per cent complete. China has since spent more than a decade refurbishing the carrier, which is currently alongside in the northeast port of Dalian.
PLA General Staff head General Chen Bingde admitted the ShiLang was under refurbishment to a Hong Kong newspaper, but refused to say when the carrier would be completed. It is expected that the ship will be used as a training vessel for PLA-N pilots and sailors to become familiarised with carrier aircraft operations at sea.
China has since denied that the aircraft carrier poses any threat to surrounding nations, with assistant chief of General Staff Lt Gen Qi Jianguo confirming in the same newspaper that the ship would “definitely not sail to other countries’ territorial waters”.