Skidmarks on China’s aircraft carrier?

Fascinating question posed by former Defense Tech editor John Reed who now directs the Killer Apps blog for Foreign Policy: Who left the skidmarks on China’s brand new aircraft carrier?

The pictures the Chinese government has leaked out from the commissioning ceremony for the the Liaoning aircraft carrier leaves plenty to be determined, namely the origin of those skidmarks. The Chinese have supposedly not yet completed development of their carrier jet, the J-15.

Mockups of the fighter show up on the deck of the carrier and pictures, but reports indicated the J-15 and its pilots still has to make considerable progress before it can start landing successfully on the Liaoning.

As Reed points out, the skidmarks could very well just Chinese sailors driving a tractor on deck and slamming the breaks to provide the intended look. But if not, what could it be?

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • dimeck

    What landing gear has a 3 tire configuration?

    • George Gauthier

      Tricycle gear.

      • Antony

        That was a good burn, a sizzling burn.

    • FormerDirtDart

      “If” it is aircraft landing marks, it would likely be three separate starboard landing gear contacts. The marks are to close together to be from a single aircraft. Also, that big dashed white line? It is the landing centerline. If you look closely, you can see similar marks to the port side of the line further aft

      Now, how would they get there? Surely the PLA has already begun training its instructor cadre the fine art of boltering on land based airfields to simulate deck landings with other aircraft, likely the J-11BH. It would be reasonable to consider that some aircraft approaches & bolters were conducted during previous sea trials.

    • JEB (chop)

      It’s a “used” new carrier. The marks could be from the FSU satellite country that sold it to the PRC.

    • Ron James

      You’re all incorrect. Those are heel marks as they dragged the first ever Chinese Air Boss and Assistant Air Boss up to PRIFLY (the ship’s control tower). I’ll bet one or both of them commit suicide about mid-cruise.
      CDR Ron James, USN (Ret.) Carrier Pilot for 14 years

  • DGR

    Touch and goes on a docked ship would be a fairly simple feat to pull off. I could easily see these as training marks left from pilots practicing the approach angles. Would be easy to do on a parked ship, and it would be the first step in establishing carrier operations.

    The lighter marks do indeed look like vehicles though. I dont think any aircraft has that kind of tread, but the darker ones could be from a touch and go I guess.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Morning Folks,

    I agree that the outside tire marks are no far enough for a carrier plane. Also the picture appears to have been taken at the commissioning ceremony, I would think that any skid marks or any other marks on the ship that didn’t belong there would have been either scrubbed off or in the best of Naval tradition painted over.

    Has anybody here ever heard of PhotoShop?

    Byron Skinner

    • Dean

      Photoshopping in skid marks to make it look like you have fixed-wing ops capability is something Iran would do.

      But you are just about spot on. Yes the deck would have been immaculate in preparation for the ceremony. So what could have landed there after that? These are the skid marks of the helicopter that flew in the brass and dignitaries. Damn sloppy landing if you ask me.

    • Red

      Photoshopping skid marks wouldn’t work because another nation could always take their own independent photos of China’s aircraft carrier, in which the skid marks wouldn’t be present.

      • Woody

        You must be new…..

  • Lance

    Easy answer its a helicopter they tried helos on the carrier already so its a scrape from a rescue helo they flown as a test.

  • Matt

    Duh, its from helis.

  • headinajar

    Construction equipment often includes small Hi-Lo tractors, which may have solid rubber wheels, easily making a skid mark like this. One wheel spins when it hits a slippery spot, leaving a skid mark

    • Nico

      As said below by someone else, the marks do have a spiky points, directed toward the bottom of the picture, that looks more like something landing than a tractor which i think would make more rectangular skidmarks.

  • Rick

    Those damn neighbor kids and their dirt bikes.

    • hhhh

      Hey guys, whats this? Some kind of slingshot?

    • TLAM Strike

      [angry old man]Get off my carrier!!![/angry old man]

  • Joe

    Whenever china keeps military secrets they are not being transparent. When the US does it it is because of national security and the need to avoid aiding our enemies.

    There is no such thing as a double standard…either their is a standard or there is not.

  • justsayin

    Fake commie propaganda! Painted on with lead paint made by child slave labor indoctrinated with commie propaganda stolen from our western labs. Let’s nuke ’em.

    • qweqwe

      so constructive

    • tiger

      While I miss being a Cold Warrior, There are folks MORE deserving for the above response. Sorry, China is not on my wish list.

    • cozine

      Dude, he is just being sarcastic.

    • Guest

      Great post.

  • dee

    Somone got Montezuma’s Revenge after some bad Kung Pao Chicken.

  • zap

    the jets are in the hanger so no doubt they made the tyre marks .
    pic here

    • zap

      i mean how else would they get the jets on the ship . either fly them on like everybody else does or load them on at dock which nobody has noticed

      • Charlie Lima

        Zap, interesting photo of aircraft in the hangar bay. I’m guessing that the aircraft is designed to give the ship’s company practice at moving the aircraft around the flight deck and hangar bay; maybe even fire fighting drills. I hope that is a dummy missle hanging from the wing. It is also odd to me that they would be manning the rail and facing inward and not over the side.

  • Brad

    Helicopters…..its been well documented that many have landed on the deck. Perhaps a landing in less than ideal conditions during a sea triel. Cmon, i turn my computer on for better reasons than this….

    • Woody

      Documented?…..really?….show me these documents please…

  • Woody

    Who cares what these commie idiots do, we all know they haven’t carrier qualified pilots or planes for that matter….what the matter with all you guys?….are ya new?….sheesh!..

    • Spot

      “All warfare is based on deception.”____Is it that quote to which you keep referring?

  • ffac

    A forklift? or other load handling vehicles.

  • Tribulationtime

    Are there these kind of marks on decks of other countries?

  • psypher

    that grammar…. (of the article) was abhorrent…. :-(

  • Matb

    Not sure which way we are looking (fore or aft) but the taper of the skids indicates movement away from the bottom of the picture.

    • FormerDirtDart

      Initially I thought aft. But, after looking at some other pictures of the carrier, I would say we are looking fore-to-port.

    • cozine

      Yes, yellow line is the port-side long take-off line leading to the ski jump. white line is the center line of the angled flight deck. Tyre marks on either sides of the white line but nothing in the middle, so touch-and-go all right.

  • Stephen

    “The pictures the Chinese government has leaked out”
    “Mockups of the fighter show up on the deck of the carrier”

    Hello,, rocket scientists, if they have the duh to go to the trouble of creating a full sized fighter jet mock up to “scare the west” I think there marketing department has the intelligence to paint some scary marks on the runway…..

  • Big-Dean

    You all got it wrong, this is a photo of the “collective” skid mark the Chinese Admiralty
    made after they realized that they have no way to protect their new precious jewel-that it”ll be sunk in the first 5 minute of a shooting war with the US ;-P

  • tribulationtime

    OK other landing decks have these marks (sometimes unnotice by black finished). On other hand that was a suicide landing try. Why? the red “barrier” (I don´t know the name of that thing which keep static the plane before engines reach full power for launch) in the left corner (of the photo) and the crossed “taxi lines” shows the skidmarks are few meters from the end of deck. Other point is that to have training importance there must be hundreds of them. Plus I have to say what I expect less time to chinese pilots sea-landing capable because they makeshift a landing strip on top of a building ;).

  • Tata

    Funny! Why u all are so ‘panic’ with the skidmark? It’s only a matter of time for China to manage to land a fighter on their carrier! They can rebuilt the carrier why can’t they land a fighter? U all idiot! Maybe they will land one on oct 1

    • Stan

      Why we are so panic? Amused and mildly curious maybe. Why are you so much want us panic be?

      • Johnny Ranger


  • ernest

    For Tata & all idiot: Landing a fighter on a carrier is not a big deal at all. However, to convert a “sitting-duck carrier” into a true defensible one will be a constant challenge, even for the US.

  • James

    Looks like James Bond’s car has been snooping around.

  • jimc5499

    Line rats racing the tow tugs again.

  • doc young

    Who says it was a jet? Don’t we still have COD’s and Hawkeyes? Surely with all the stealing of technology that the gooks have done over the decades, they stole the plans for at least one of those or even an old AE-1 !!!!!!

  • DennisJP

    If you look on u tube you will find Chinese pilots having landing and takeoff training on the Russian Carrier Kusnetsov. I found it the other week.

  • DennisJP

    The thing of it is you don’t put on your breaks when you land on a carrier. Actually you go full throttle because if you don’t and miss a wire you will be in the ocean.

    • Mike

      Brakes, Dennis, brakes. The thing of it is, you don’t have to put on yer brakes to make skid marks. The tires are going about 150 mph and the deck is going about 20 mph. Go down to y’r local airport where the runway is going 0 mph and you will hear the tires chirp when a plane touches down. If you can get close enough, you will see the skid marks.

  • Tata

    For Ernest, the earlier comment/discussion n subject is about the skidmark! I can’t jnderstand some people say it’s a photoshop or invented! It just a matter of time n i tell you, they are very amazing fast with everything! I’m working n living in China for over 6 years n witnessed many of things! For those people who maybe never step out from us or just read Abt china from the internet PLEASE SHUT UP!! The skidmark is photoshop or not, they will still land a fighter on the carrier and believe me you will see it soon from your INTERNET!!!

  • Tata

    For Ernest, the earlier comment/discussion n subject is about the skidmark! I can’t jnderstand some people say it’s a photoshop or invented! It just a matter of time n i tell you, they are very amazing fast with everything! I’m working n living in China for over 6 years n witnessed many of things! The skidmark is photoshop or not, they will still land a fighter on the carrier and believe me you will see it soon from your INTERNET!!!

  • Tata

    For Ernest, the earlier comment or discussion n subject is about the skidmark! I can’t jnderstand some people say it’s a photoshop or invented! It just a matter of time n i tell you, they are very amazing fast with everything! I’m working n living in China for over 6 years n witnessed many of things! The skidmark is photoshop or not, they will still land a fighter on the carrier and believe me you will see it soon from your INTERNET!!!

  • Ron

    I thought when the Chinese bought this carrier from Russia, it was to be used as a gambling casino, no offensive weaponry allowed. the Russians supposedly gutted everything like catapults, etc… So the Chinese get this carrier, and guess what? Building an offensive attack carrier, .We should go bomb the hell out of it.

    • Mike

      Ron, wrong carrier. They are playing with several carriers, studying them, copying things, figuring out what they are about. They are very good at this. They are building a new carrier based on what they are learning, soon coming to an ocean near you.

  • Arthur

    They look like they were most likely created by that plywood stealth bomber that they were parading in a slow taxi a few months back!!

  • AG3Wayne

    “Brakes”. Not “Breaks”. Yu mus lern Ingris!! It impotent!!

    • Mike

      Wayne, I try tell Dennis Brakes. Then I try tell Dennis brakes got nothing to do with these skid mark, Dennis. Methinks Dennis not listening. I try tell Dennis speed differential between deck and aircraft. We got long way try educate Dennis. Good luck to us.

  • Kevin

    Those skid marks came off the CO’s Lexus.

  • NFZV

    Can anybody say…”heli-cop-tor”???

  • Silverbull8

    US Navy F-35 pilot punking the Chinese?

  • Silverbull8

    Those skid marks are on the port side of centerline (white dashed line).

  • ranger-12

    How about if you just ask the government the question and see what they say. you never know you might get an answer to your question. if you don’t have the nerve send me the address and I will write them a letter and ask.

  • Tim W.

    Let us freek out the crazy Americans…..go out and put some skid marks on the deck and leak the pictures out to the media……they will spend 100’s of hours and millions of dollars trying to figure it out !

  • Ron

    The Chinese are known for deception. Even if they don’t have planes, as much as they control media, do you think the pictures which appear to be focused on the skid marks are the intended focus point. A picture says a thousand words. How difficult would it be to replicate skid marks? Does it benefit China if the world thinks they may be further along in full carrier operations than current intel believes? I know from commissioning a carrier, everything was painted an polished like a new car. I think the skid marks are there to make a statement, without coming right out and saying it.

  • ncomedic

    Skid marks are skid marks. Deducting scientific answers from some “rubber” left on a surface is moronic, at best sophomoric. Please don’t embarrass yourselves by trying to explain what a communist country has posted for the world’s review.

  • Homer

    wHAT ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT. READ A KJV BIBLE IN GENESIS 9:20-27 AND IT WILL TELL YOU THAT only THE Caucasian is the race that will expand beyond its borders and be enlarged to fill the nations of the world!! The chinese will not have a navy that can do what the white mans navy has done! Look at Japan, they tried to come out of their place and look at what happened! EVERY nation is still bound by The Word of God…whether they beleive it or not!!

  • Homer

    PROPAGANDA!!! LOLOLOLOLOLOL everyone freaks out!! Now that’s funny!!

  • bravo33

    I know, it’s a china man underwear that before landing he shit on himself, just follow the trial it got to be one of the guys on deck.

  • Steven

    A skid mark??????????/ Big f-ing deal. A non story. A many people have skid marks in their underpants.

  • Mike

    That’s just a copy of an old photo from the Oriskany touched up for propaganda purposes. John McCain made those skid marks with an A4.

  • Vikash

    Marks looks like made by some vehicle. They (marks) are on an aircraft career. India is also building an air craft career with the help of Russia.

    • Mike

      Vikash, Methinks Aircraft career good career. Make aircraft go way up in air. Zoom zoom.

  • Who cares. It’ll be a Very long time before they can ever get to where we’re at now.

  • Model Citizen

    These new Chinese aircraft carriers are on sale cut rate at Walmart all this week,

  • mike ABH1

    skid marks on the deck…oh well, bet they’ll have a lot of their new pilots with skid marks in their draws when they start their CQ’s