China has quietly started to sail its first aircraft carrier, the Shi Lang. The name of this ship is explicit: AdmiralShi Lang (1621-1696) was the commander of the Manchu fleet who conquered the island of Taiwan in 1681.
Chinese Navy desired to acquire the aircraft carrier, which marks the importance of a nation internationally. The aircraft carrier is an air base that can move a thousand miles a day bypassing all the overflight clearances, sailing in international waters. This is the sign of the great naval powers such as the United States, France, and Russia with a ship named Kousnetzov, sister ship of Shi Lang.
The Shi Lang is not new. It had originally been placed on hold in Ukraine in 1985 under the name of Riga. Ukraine had hoped that Russia could pay its bills to complete building the ship. Yet Moscow was not able to pay and Ukrainians have proposed to sell to the Chinese or Indians, who were interested at the time. After tough negotiations, the Russians finally agreed to sell the Varyag to China. Although Chinese got the ship, the Chinese Navy had neither the culture nor the technology of aircraft carrier.
This ship will primarily serve as training ship to train fighter pilots. The Chinese also built a stunning concrete model of Shi Lang in Wuhan on an office building for the maneuvers of aircraft on a flight deck.
An aircraft carrier is only part of a full battle group. The Chinese have frigates, destroyers and refueling tankers that accompany a carrier battle group, as well as nuclear attack submarines . But the navy has not been able to monitor the sky, like Hawkeye, which are now essential. Helicopters can fulfill this mission, but not completely.
In order to conduct military operations, the Shi Lang needs at least five years or more. Americans had abandoned conventional aircraft carriers and replaced with catapult / nuclear powered ones. Since the Chinese Navy decided to acquire conventional aircraft in the future, they will have to find their own culture and management.