Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning

Liaoning (16), is the first aircraft carrier commissioned into the People's Liberation Army Navy Surface Force. She is classified as a training ship, intended to allow the Navy to practice with carrier usage.

Originally laid down as the Admiral Kuznetsov class multirole aircraft carrier Riga for the Soviet Navy, she was launched on December 4, 1988, and renamed Varyag in 1990. The stripped hulk was purchased in 1998 by the People's Republic of China and towed to Dalian Shipyard in north eastern China. After being completely rebuilt and undergoing sea trials, the ship was commissioned into the PLAN as Liaoning on September 25, 2012.

Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning
Class Ship
Type Aircraft Carrier
Manufacturer Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov
Production Period 1985 - 1988
Origin Russia (USSR)
Country Name Origin Year
Russia (USSR) 1988
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
China 2012 View
Russia (USSR) 1988 1995 View
Ukraine 1988 1995 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov 1985 1988 1 View
Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company 2011 1 View

The ship was laid down as Riga at Shipyard 444 (now Nikolayev South) in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on December 6, 1985. Design work was undertaken by the Nevskoye Planning and Design Bureau. Launched on December 4, 1988, the carrier was renamed Varyag in late 1990, after the famous cruiser. Often referred to as an aircraft carrier, the vessel's design implied a mission different from carriers of the United States Navy, Royal Navy or French Navy. The Russian term used by her builders to describe the ships is tyazholiy avianesushchiy kreyser (TAKR or TAVKR) "heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser", intended to support strategic missile-carrying submarines, surface ships, and maritime missile-carrying aircraft of the Russian fleet. The Soviet Union and later Russia argued that the ships are not aircraft carriers under the Montreux Convention and not subject to the tonnage limits imposed on these ships in traveling through the Bosphorus.

Construction ceased 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. Ukraine immediately began searching for possible customers, and made overtures to China, which sent a high-level expert delegation in 1992. Although the delegation made a positive report on the condition of the ship, recommending a purchase, the Beijing leadership declined because of the international diplomatic situation at the time. Nevertheless, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN, the Chinese navy) did not lose interest, and four years later took an independent initiative under cover of a commercial purchase.

In April 1998, Ukrainian Trade Minister Roman Shpek announced the winning bid of US$20 million from Chong Lot Travel Agency, a Hong Kong-based company, which proposed to tow Varyag out of the Black Sea, through the Suez Canal and around southern Asia to Macau, where the ship would be moored and converted into a floating hotel and casino, similar to the Kiev in Tianjin and Minsk at Minsk World in Shenzhen. Before the auction was closed, officials in Macau had warned Chong Lot that it would not be permitted to berth Varyag in the harbor. Chong Lot is owned by Chin Luck (Holdings) Company of Hong Kong; four of Chin Luck's six board members live in Yantai, China, the location of a major navy shipyard; the chairman Xu Zengping is a former career military officer and captain of a basketball team with the People's Liberation Army. The sale of the carrier was successfully closed in 1998.

In January 2015, further details of the transaction emerged from an interview with Xu Zengping by the South China Morning Post. Xu reported that he was commissioned by the PLAN to purchase the vessel on its behalf, with the floating hotel and casino as a cover story to avoid offending the U.S. and to placate Ukrainian concerns about potential military use. He was warned that there was significant risk from the lack of both a navy budget and support of Beijing for the purchase. Nevertheless, in 1998 Xu was so impressed when he boarded the ship in Mykolaiv, that he resolved to purchase it using his personal funds despite the risks. The previous year, Xu had already spent HK$6 million creating a Macau shell company, Agencia Turistica e Diversoes Chong Lot, having borrowed HK$230 million from a Hong Kong business friend. He described a harrowing negotiation in Kiev, lubricated by bribery and liquor, which helped to arrange victory at the auction. As a precaution, the next day he shipped the 40 tonnes of blueprints for the carrier overland to China in eight trucks. There also was a charge of US$10 million for late payment due to difficulties raising the funds during the Asian financial crisis.

Career (Soviet Union - Ukraine)
Name: Riga - Varyag
Namesake: Russian cruiser Varyag (1899)
Ordered: 1983
Builder: Nikolayev South
Nevskoye Planning and Design Bureau
Laid down: December 6, 1985
Launched: December 4, 1988
Completed: Uncompleted (68%)
Fate: Phased out in 1995
Career (China)
Name: Liaoning
Namesake: Liaoning Province, China
Builder: Dalian Shipbuilding Industry
Completed: 2011
Commissioned: September 25, 2012
Status: In active service
General characteristics for Varyag as originally designed
Class and type: Admiral Kuznetsov-classaircraft carrier
Displacement: 53 050 tons (Standard-load)
59 100 tons (Full-load)
67 500 tons (Max-load)
Length: 304.5 m (999 ft) o/a
270 m (890 ft) w/l
Beam: 75 m (246 ft) o/a
35 m (115 ft) w/l
Draft: 8.97 m (29.4 ft)
Installed power: Steam
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 8 boilers, 4 shafts, 200,000 hp (150 MW)
2 × 50,000 hp (37 MW) turbines
9 × 2,011 hp (1,500 kW) turbogenerators
6 × 2,011 hp (1,500 kW) diesel generators
4 × fixed pitch propellers
Speed: 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph)
Range: 3,850 nautical miles (7,130 km; 4,430 mi) at 32 knots
Endurance: 45 days
Complement: 1,960 crew
626 air group
40 flag staff
3,857 rooms
Armament: After refit:
3 × Type 1030 CIWS
3 × HQ-10 (18 Cell Missile system)
2 × ASW 12 tube rocket launchers

As designed:
8 × AK-630 AA guns (6 × 30 mm, 6,000 round/min/mount, 24,000 rounds)
8 × CADS-N-1 Kashtan CIWS(each 2 × 30 mm Gatling AA plus 16 3K87 Kortik SAM)
12 × P-700 Granit SSM
18 × 8-cell 3K95 Kinzhal SAM VLS (192 vertical launch missiles; 1 missile per 3 seconds)
RBU-12000 UDAV-1 ASW rocket launchers (60 rockets)
Aircraft carried: 24 Shenyang J-15
6 Changhe Z-18
4 Ka-31
2 Harbin Z-9
Total of 36 fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft.

End notes