HONG KONG, July 27 (RIA Novosti) – Kanwa, a Hong Kong defense news agency, said Friday purchases by China of Russian aircraft carrier components suggested that Beijing was planning to build one or two aircraft carriers, possibly by 2015.
The agency cited a senior source in the Russian Navy, saying that Russia and China have an agreement to purchase four deck landing systems capable of handling heavy deck-based fighters such as the Su-33 Flanker.
Kanwa experts suggested that one landing system would be studied and copied, and another would be installed on the Varyag, a Soviet-made carrier, which was bought incomplete from Ukraine for $20 million in 1998 by a Macao tourist agency.
The agency, Diversoes Chong Lot Limitada, promised to convert the ship into a large “riverboat casino,” but disappeared shortly after the Varyag was towed to the Chinese port of Dalian. Regional media have repeatedly suggested China would use the Varyag as a template for its own carriers.
Two other deck landing systems, Kanwa expert Andrei Chang said, will be installed on two new carriers China unconvincingly denies it is going to build. He said the recent purchase of a T10K, an earlier version of the Su-33, from Ukraine, demonstrates that China also plans to build its own deck-based long-range fighter.
Official confirmation of the carrier project was likely to be made after the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
“Until then we will probably not hear anything official on this issue; moreover, Chinese docks are unable to handle such large projects at the moment,” he said
The project, he said, could be announced in 2009-2012 and completed in 2013-2017.
Last year, Alexander Denisov, who runs Russia’s agency for military-technical cooperation and headed the Russian delegation at the Air Show China 2006 in Zhuhai, said Russia could help China with building an aircraft carrier if they asked for assistance. This March, a senior Chinese official conceded that Beijing was studying the possibility.