An Aircraft Carrier of One’s Own

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http://China%20finally%20has%20its%20very%20own%20--%20ostensibly%20functional--%20aircraft%20carrier,%20named%20Liaoning.%20As%20Andrew%20Erickson%20and%20Gabriel%20Collins%20explain%20in%20a%20recent%20article%20for%20FP,%20%20the%20Chinese%20had%20to%20overcome%20multiple%20obstacles,%20and%20"All%20%20[those%20watching%20the%20Liaoning]%20must%20have%20felt%20the%20weight%20of%20history%20on%20their%20%20shoulders%20as%20they%20witnessed%20the%20unfulfilled%20ambitions%20of%20their%20civilian%20and%20%20military%20predecessors.%20This%20milestone%20was%20a%20long%20time%20coming."%20The%20Liaoning%20%20was%20originally%20the%20Varyag,%20a%20Soviet%20%20vessel%20that%20was%20purchased%20by%20China%20from%20Ukraine.%20After%20years%20of%20retrofitting,%20as%20%20of%20Sept.%2025%20the%20Liaoning%20is%20finally%20%20entering%20service%20in%20the%20People's%20Liberation%20Army%20Navy,%20but%20its%20capabilities%20are%20%20largely%20unproven%20and%20sea%20tests%20of%20the%20ship%20have%20stayed%20close%20to%20its%20home%20port%20%20in%20Dalian.%20Above,%20the%20Liaoning%20%20appears%20at%20the%20Dalian%20shipyard%20before%20being%20commissioned.

China finally has its very own -- ostensibly functional-- aircraft carrier, named Liaoning. As Andrew Erickson and Gabriel Collins explain in a recent article for FP, the Chinese had to overcome multiple obstacles, and "All [those watching the Liaoning] must have felt the weight of history on their shoulders as they witnessed the unfulfilled ambitions of their civilian and military predecessors. This milestone was a long time coming." The Liaoning was originally the Varyag, a Soviet vessel that was purchased by China from Ukraine. After years of retrofitting, as of Sept. 25 the Liaoning is finally entering service in the People's Liberation Army Navy, but its capabilities are largely unproven and sea tests of the ship have stayed close to its home port in Dalian. Above, the Liaoning appears at the Dalian shipyard before being commissioned.

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The Liaoning née Varyag has spent a decade docked at the Dalian shipyards in China's Liaoning Province, the carrier's namesake. China's aircraft carrier program was approved in 2004, after which the process of overhauling the ship began. Above, Chinese crews work on reconstructing the carrier in July 2011.

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China purchased the Varyag as a hull from Ukraine in 1998, but it did not leave for China until late 2001. The ship had been stripped of its rudder and engine and had to be towed by tugboats from the Black Sea, through the Mediterranean, and around the Cape of Good Hope, to China. Here, the heavily corroded Varyag transits the Bosporus in November 2001.

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A Turkish woman watches as the Varyag passes through the Bosporus Strait in Istanbul on Nov. 1, 2001. Three days later, while being towed through the Mediterranean, heavy winds broke the Varyag from its tugboats. The seven-person crew aboard the powerless ship had to be airlifted to safety. It took months for the Varyag to arrive in Dalian. Reports at the time -- before China's aircraft carrier program had been approved -- stated that the Varyag would be turned into a floating casino.

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The Varyag was not the first Soviet aircraft carrier purchased by China, and much like the reports that the Varyag would become a casino, the others have become tourist havens and event spaces. Above, a couple kisses while other party-goers dance on the flight deck of the Binhai Aircraft Carrier Theme Park in Tianjing, China, at the 2010 annual Great Aircraft Carrier Party.

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When not hosting its annual dance party, the flight deck of the Binhai Aircraft Carrier Theme Park is used for other trendy events. Here models in a fashion show strut down a different kind of runway in May 2011. The centerpiece of the theme park is the retired Soviet aircraft carrier Kiev, purchased by China in 1996.

http://The%20former-Soviet%20aircraft%20carrier%20Minsk%20was%20converted%20into%20a%20museum%20--%20%20Minsk%20World%20--%20moored%20in%20Shenzhen,%20China.%20Above,%20a%20Minsk%20World%20guide%20greets%20%20visitors%20in%20a%20Soviet%20naval%20costume%20in%20March%202004.

The former-Soviet aircraft carrier Minsk was converted into a museum -- Minsk World -- moored in Shenzhen, China. Above, a Minsk World guide greets visitors in a Soviet naval costume in March 2004.

http://Above,%20a%20child%20explores%20a%20control%20%20panel%20in%20the%20control%20tower%20of%20the%20Minsk.

Above, a child explores a control panel in the control tower of the Minsk.

http://Soviet%20helicopters%20and%20MiG%20%20jets%20are%20also%20on%20display%20aboard%20the%20Minsk.

Soviet helicopters and MiG jets are also on display aboard the Minsk.

http://Chinese%20children%20visit%20the%20Military%20%20Education%20Center%20exhibition%20space%20in%20September%202007.%20Instead%20of%20a%20former%20Soviet%20%20ship,%20the%20center%20is%20a%207/8 scale%20replica%20of%20the%20U.S.S.%20Nimitz%20aircraft%20carrier.%20Located%20on%20%20Dianshan%20Lake,%20China,%20near%20Shanghai,%20the%20museum%20opened%20in%202002.

Chinese children visit the Military Education Center exhibition space in September 2007. Instead of a former Soviet ship, the center is a 7/8 scale replica of the U.S.S. Nimitz aircraft carrier. Located on Dianshan Lake, China, near Shanghai, the museum opened in 2002.

http://Chinese%20president%20Hu%20Jintao%20attended%20%20the%20commissioning%20ceremony%20for%20the%20Liaoning%20%20on%20Sept.%2025.%20In%20this%20still%20from%20video%20broadcast%20on%20Chinese%20state%20television,%20he%20%20stands%20on%20the%20ship's%20bridge%20with%20military%20officials.

Chinese president Hu Jintao attended the commissioning ceremony for the Liaoning on Sept. 25. In this still from video broadcast on Chinese state television, he stands on the ship's bridge with military officials.

http://Chinese%20sailors%20in%20the%20PLA%20Navy%20stand%20%20at%20attention%20during%20the%20commissioning%20ceremony%20for%20the%20Liaoning on%20Sept.%2025.

Chinese sailors in the PLA Navy stand at attention during the commissioning ceremony for the Liaoning on Sept. 25.

http://A%20folding-wing%20aircraft%20is%20visible%20in%20%20the%20hangar%20bay%20of%20the%20Liaoning%20during%20%20its%20commissioning%20on%20Sept.%2025%20in%20this%20still%20from%20a%20China%20state%20television%20%20report%20on%20the%20ceremony.

A folding-wing aircraft is visible in the hangar bay of the Liaoning during its commissioning on Sept. 25 in this still from a China state television report on the ceremony.

http://The%20Liaoning%20on%20Sept.%2025,%20festooned%20with%20flags%20for%20its%20commissioning%20%20ceremony.

The Liaoning on Sept. 25, festooned with flags for its commissioning ceremony.

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