Chinese Carrier Shi Lang At Sea

These photos from Alert5 are the first I’ve seen of the Chinese aircraft carrier Shi Lang’s first cruise that happened last week. The pictures may be of her making her way in or out of port. Notice how the ship is generating almost no wake and in one shot you can see a tow line attached to her.



  • Tim

    May be they were just testing the towing device to make sure it will work because that’s exactly what happened to its old siblings… 4 times out to sea and 3 of those times had to be towed back in.

    • kong king escort ships? rumor has escorting ladies in uniform ready to “service” the sailors.. oh wait!

  • John Moore

    Are those white things life rafts in the 2nd pix from the bottom?

  • Stratege

    Varyag’s second, “beyond the grave” life!

  • STemplar

    I’d like to know what ‘tests’ were conducted. Zilch I’m sure, big show for the cameras right when we are discussing budget issues and in the midst of the current review by the DoD.

    • Chimp

      Couple of odd things about these pictures.

      The carrier left port in the wee hours… well before dawn. These pictures were obviously taken during daylight hours.

      In at least two of the five pictures on the linked site the carrier seems to be moving (there’s a wake) and there are no tugs in front of it. It is pretty foggy, though.

      My guess is that the PLAN crew have limited experience in handling 75,000 tonne aircraft carriers (like, none) and are learning as they go, with help from tugs.

      Still no pennant number.

  • blight

    It has lines attached astern, which would suggest something is being towed? However, picture three is from astern and shows no tow lines.

    What’s going on?

  • Lance

    So it floats BIG news… yeah right it floated in Russian hands too DT blog is too fixated on China why don’t your look at India’s carrier and the MiG-29Ks it has for it?

    • Hale

      Because India is not the ‘enemy’ that China is.

    • CSZ

      Lance you are a baby crying to get attention. The fact is, hard as she’d tried, India was never a worthy enemy of US or China. It’s been played by the powers like a pawn to divert the attention and resource of their opponents.

      • jhm

        well, china and india have clashed, producing a stalemate before….

  • @Earlydawn

    An excellent combination of offensive satire and irrelevancy.

    • blight

      Feels like Fred.

  • Bill

    Does it seem to be riding very low in the water considering ther are no aircraft on board?

    • Skyepapa

      It’s riding high, especially at stern. Note the color difference in the hull paint — the dark line is sub-surface anti-fowling paint. This upper border of this paint is generally mere inches above the water line at full load. It is meters above in these photos. You’ll see similar

      • Skyepapa

        please ignore that last half a sentence.

      • Bill

        Thanks for the reply and info . I can now see what to look for. I was looking at the overall silohouette of the ship in the water from a distance which seemed kind of low.

        • Curt

          The ship has less freeboard than a CVN, more like the KITTYHAWK class or the MIDWAY which given the displacement difference makes sense.

  • Hale

    Is Shi Lang the official name yet? Didn’t think the Chinese generals would be so open about their intentions.

    • justsaying

      It was never even considered the official name. It is simply a concoction by the western media.

    • Chimp

      If “Shi Lang” is the official name, expect the next Nimitz class to be named the USS Benedict Arnold.

      It’d be funny if it wasn’t so ignorant.

      • blight

        Or the Jefferson Davis, in honor of a man who serves his country, then goes off and makes his own?

    • CSZ

      A navy ship is not named until she is commissioned. Also according to PLAN ship naming convention, TRAINING SHIPS are named after prominent figures.

      • blight

        Thought it was cities, at least for the Anshan class…?

        • CSZ

          You piqued my interest so I looked it up. Anshan (DD101) is ex-soviet “Gordy” class WWII-era destroyer. Didn’t find another Anshan class or vessel in PLAN fleet. But if a ship is named after city then it is either a DDG (major city) or an FFG (smaller city).

          PLAN training ships such as “Cheng-ho” are named after historical figures. So concoction or not, if the Varyag is truly named “Shi-lang” then it is a training ship with PLA naval academy. Ironic, right?

          • blight

            Anshan is ex-Soviet stuff, but it needs a class name in the PLAN.

            Haven’t found the info on the Zheng He (or Cheng-Ho, whatever floats your boat). I would find it strange to have one ship named for a Chinese explorer and the other for a guy that forcibly seizes Taiwan and becomes the final holdout against the Manchus.

          • blight

            Take that back

            There’s also the Shichang, which is aviation related. Is that it for the PLAN’s training ships…?

  • DK

    Is it me or the Americans are really Panaroid about this Floating Carrier which doesn’t even have jets to fly on its deck nither expertise to handle a carrier……….. India has two such carriers joining the Navy one is under sea trials in Russia and the other would be floated in Cochin, Kerala this December witg fighter planes already delivered and Navy Pilots sweating their ass out in Goa and US……with them plus ths decades of expertise Indian Navy has while operating them since 1960s.

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      “Panaroid”??? (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

      Reminds me of an old joke:

      Q: What did the early arctic explorers get, if they sat out in the snow for too long?

      A: Polaroids (tidy-bom!)

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen

      • blight

        polaroid > hemorrhoid?

    • Have some sense

      so true

  • MCQknight

    This was probably taken wile it was still in the harbor, considering the water is so calm it looks like glass.

  • Nick

    I feel like the Chinese just want to drive US defense spending in some “wrong” direction (like how we did with the Soviets), considering the timing of these pictures.

  • Stephen N Russell

    This is NOT the same carrier seen in the yards right being fitted out or Yes?
    Or were we seeing that casino hotel carrier Refit instead.

  • cody

    well obviously this thing in no way competes with a nimitz! and even if it did they dont have the aircraft to make it competitive. I doubt the pentagon will have much of a reaction to it. that being said. if this thing becomes operational i’d bet that it will have a little underwater puppy following it around! ha ha!

  • justsaying

    The Chinaman was right about one thing… you are a pig.

  • Andrew

    Whether or not this thing could take on a Nimitz (not likely given the doctrine, experience or manpower comparisons); when we get to a point in time where that’s even a probability I’m sure we’ll all have a hell of a lot more to worry about.

    • E_Khun

      You’re right, this thing will never have to take on a Nimitz because it was never intended to do that. In Russian doctrine these were for local fleet defense. For attacking other ships they had their own battery of anti-ship cruise missiles.

      I think I read somewhere that the Chinese removed these missiles but it’s likely this carrier is more for training purposes and for showing the flag.

    • Kurn

      That’s why they built the Dongfeng 21-D anti-carrier missile.

  • Curt

    From the wake, the ship is clearly underway but going slowly (which makes sense as it is foggy). The tugs are not towing the ship but more the otherway around since they are astern of the ship. The tug is riding behind the ship so if there is an engineering problem they can immediately work to stop the ship or turn it. You see this all the time with Tankers and other merchant ships but it is the first time I have seen it on a Carrier but it may be common practice for sea trials or after major availabilities, not certain.

  • RYW2

    This obssesion with China is becoming very disturbing, lets just worry about protecting the United States and not the rest of world.In other words our borders, and forget about the need to hold onto and maintain an empire. China does not have to be an enemy of the United States unless we want them to.

    • orly?

      Isolationism, WW2 proves it. Learn from it.

      • orly?

        Sorry, I meant to say isolationism will ultimately lead to war on your doorstep.

        • asdf


        • blight

          Alternatively, nothing you do prevents war from coming onto your doorstep. You can minimize its frequency, but the shoe eventually drops. The UK tried very hard to prolong the peace post-WW1, but you can only do so much before you become an enabler.

    • Have some sense

      RYW2 you’re spot on, allow this paranoia and obsession with china’s military

    • blight

      In principle, I agree with the notion that obsessing about another nation’s military tends to create a threat, both in the minds of people here; and in the PLA attention by a military superpower filled with citizens who can only think of killing people with exotic tech is likely to provoke a round of local military buildups.

      We’re creating the threat in our minds, and the Chinese are responding to our perceptions of them as a threat by making themselves a threat, to deter us from thinking of pre-emption and overmatch.

      Obama’s initial foreign policy was to try and back off on nations overseas to discourage them from continuing their armament policies. It’s been hit or miss: the Varyag is still going to launch, Pakistan is still nuts; but I feel that he got Russia off our backs and kept NATO together…that or Medvedev is just a more sane player than Putin ever was.

      In foreign policy land, fingers are crossed that Arab Spring brings democracy to the Middle East. However, democracy and peace lovers go together as well as coups by the military or coups by hardliners. The United States is still not viewed well in the MidEast, and so our hands are tied when it comes to supporting democracy movements. Clearly doing so with troops is a bad idea, and our experiments in soft power have yet to pan out. Hopefully we do not dig into our Cold War era bag of tricks of deposing leaders and imposing new ones-it didn’t work out for us in the MidEast or in Central America!

  • Chimp

    “Round eye” is a western / movie invention. He would have called *you* a tortoise. Get your insults straight.

    • Brian Black

      Western culture has crept into Chinese society, Chimp. You can even find in Beijing those clown themed burger restaurants that you American turtles love so much.

  • joe

    Would have been rather amusing if the answer was “no”.

  • John

    There is a story how China acquired this Russian built carrier because someone defauted on the payments. The engine is the only thing that is not working. I believe it was an intended nuclear propulsion. Naturally, the builder didn’t finish because the buyer defaulted on the payments, so China picked up the tab and now they are probbably figuring out how it works.

    • blight

      “Construction stopped by 1992, with the ship structurally complete but without electronics. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, ownership was transferred to Ukraine; the ship was laid up, unmaintained, then stripped. In early 1998, she lacked engines, a rudder, and much of her operating systems, and was put up for auction.”
      ~The forbidden Wikipedia

      It was bought by a travel agency with plans in Macau. The plans fell through, then the Varyag magically wound up in Dalian.

      • @jamesmarinero

        Auctioned off by the Ukraine government - $20m including blueprints. Why they needed the plans for a casino, I don’t know ;-)

  • George

    Shouldn’t any ship that sets sail have a name? Or do they do things that different in the Orient?

    • CSZ

      not until she is commissioned and have a null number painted on.

  • blight

    Apparently before the Russian aircraft buying spree, China acquired the old HMAS Melbourne, and since they were scrapping it had intimate access to the ship’s innards.


    This is why the US should consider offering Nimitz class aircraft carriers to our allies, let countries like Australia, Germany, Singapore, South Korea build battle groups with Nimitz class carriers armed with F-18 Hornets and Super Hornets (until F-35s are available); as this would allow these countries to defend themselves better and be a major boost to the US economy as well as save some money in not needing to defend these countries with US Naval battle groups.

    • blight

      They’d refuse on those grounds. Expensive as heck and their defense is already bought and paid for. Not every nation wants or needs aircraft carriers, they don’t envision themselves launching airstrikes on some target far away round-the-clock. What they want is deterrence.

      Missiles, anyone? If the US wants deterrent power, it would be by distributing nuclear weapons through the Pacific Rim under PAL, just as they did during the Cold War with NATO. Ideally there would be a better delivery system like an IRBM, but we no longer have Pershings. We do have the original TLAMs, and if we sell GLCMs to someone with TLAM-N you could have economical deterrence without breaking the bank.

      Besides, one carrier without a strong battlegroup and appropriate logistical support is just a target for an enemy’s Surveillance-Strike Complex, and if you lack the infrastructure to project your own or neutralize theirs…

    • tiger

      Nobody wants a clapped out 40 year old ship that needs a crew of 5000 to run.

  • JRL

    What would those nations do with Nimitz class CBG’s - burden themselves with monstrous debt like the US has?

    Do you have any idea how much it costs to own and operate a nuclear super carrier battle group? Or any idea of what kind of credible security threat would have to exist for that kind of massive expenditure to be considereda rational use of funds?

    Those nations wouldn’t accept such a monstrous floating white elephant if you offered it to them for free…

  • Guest

    usually tugs dont attach themselves to the ship using lines..they push the ship using their bow

    • blight

      Only image 5 shows tugs working as intended.

  • jrcobbstr

    Nice target. Got subs to protect it. Doe!!!

  • jcobbstr

    The Japanese sure would look good in the retired Enterprise. (or Ranger, Kitty Hawk, America, Constellation…)

    • tiger

      They have to worry about Earthquake rebuilding. No cash for a CVN.

    • blight

      Their Constitution also stands in the way of offensive action.

      That said, Japan does have a “helicopter destroyer”…but the ROKN’s gator ships are larger.

  • Timothy Smart

    The Americans are bound to be worried for a few very simple reasons. Aircraft carriers (like battleships and amphibious deployment ships but on a grander scale) are what is known as a ‘capital ship’. It’s a floating airfield. Using aircraft you can invade a country, bomb a country, support a country and so on and having them forward deployed on a mobile platform is always going to be something everybody wants. Usually the deal is if the US Navy shows up with a carrier (and appropriate nuclear weapons onboard) and a few cruisers or destroyers (you know, anything large enough to knock out a city, knock out a navy and son) people are obliged to sit up and behave themselves. Carriers and their battlegroups work. We saw it with the UK, the US and Japan in World War 2, we saw it with the British/Argentina Falklands war and we still see it now. Who is going to stand up to a navy with a carrier containing enough power to remove you as quickly as you can make beans on toast.

    China has strategic ambitions. It has to compete with India and Pakistan. It’s obsessed with the belief that Taiwan “should just be returned to it’s rightful owners”. Just like Hong Kong and the Falklands. Right? It also has to compete with all the nations that lay claim to part or all of the mineral and oil rich Spratly Islands (like the Phillipines, Vietnam, Taiwan, and the rest of them, about 8 I believe. Owning a carrier and such weaponry gives them an “I can punch harder than you”, it gives them a “Are you really gonna compete with us?”. More importantly it puts them on level pegging with the other carrier deploying nations of the world (Brazil, Russia, UK, US, France, Spain, Italy, South Korea, Thailand). Note that not all of those countries have a carrier per se, but rather operate an amphibious warship with a flat-deck for aircraft operations.

    China having an aircraft carrier takes superiority away from the Americans who always assume safety in numbers. Now that China has that equipment (albiet antique) it can dramatically alter the balance of power in the China sea, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific or wherever it pleases them to send it! No-one has sunk a carrier in 60+years. Even the Royal Navy in 1982 felt that sinking the old Argie Venticinco de Mayo would have been overkill. In short, China wants a carrier so it can alter the power balance and then give it momentum to launch operations of whatever pleases them.

  • edward matejcek

    It looks like there testing the waters or everyones parinoia think about the different wars back ik in history how every nation has a way to test the insinceabilty and qwerks in the last few hundred years .I would not call it parinoia like every other country there looking for vunrability in the systems .checking to see who is paying attention to the hype

  • Mariner

    I wonder if it has an Almon A Johnson towing machine aboard? lol. I have worked on and tested the machines on old asrs at yards. Amazing piece of machinery.

  • Jerry

    The A/C a real embarrassment to China..a laughing stock around the Super Powers…best scrap this ship and use the metal to make car parts…and that is a joke as well..
    Vietnam Vet..

  • Cakvin

    The Chinese have 1 Carrier or at least a 1/2 carrier,We have 12.besides the biggest weapon China has on us is already here.They have 3000 WALMARTS here they they send their cheap stuff to (Full disclosure I havd brought some of it myself) for us to buy.

  • Robert

    She doesn’t look properly ballasted; low by the bow maybe and listing a degree or two to port for sure. She looks like a relatively low deck vessel (freeboard, is that?; especially for a carrier?) Probably a trick of an eye not used to such large vessels. Wide for stability, clearly, but from astern you can see the start of the bottom curve inward towards the keel, so she may be floating _relatively_ high, at least aft.

    I go with the politically scheduled trip notion, and recall that there was a problem with engines or lack of them. Continuing lack of engines could do a lot to make a vessel light astern. That _really_ doesn’t look like much of a wake! Not much crew in evidence (yes, most of a trial crew would be below.) There are no clear bow closeups. There could be a towline off into the fog up there, and in the last frame it looks like she’s getting a push.

    ‘Course I’m not one that can claim to be a nautical authority or anything ;-) Just what it looks like, what makes sense.

  • 4locs

    China will attack and then will be in a world of hurt

  • @jamesmarinero

    Interested as to why she appears to have such a low aspect ratio. Recent UK carriers (now decomissioned and much smaller - 1/3 the displacement) had ski-jumps and were much higher for their length viewed side on; the Nimitz and Gerry Ford Class are much higher - more decks. Maybe it’s related to the flight wing complement (Nimitz) which is not VTOL either (though J35 carrier variant will have the capability on the G R Ford).