In their growth from a small coastal protection flotilla to a blue water navy, the next milestone for China’s navy will be the completion of the Shi Lang:
Work is picking up on what appears to be China’s first aircraft carrier, the Shi Lang. For eight years now, China has been tinkering with a half finished Russian aircraft carrier. Two years ago, this ex-Russian aircraft carrier, Varyag, was renamed the Shi Lang (after the Chinese general who took possession of Taiwan in 1681, the first time China ever paid any attention to the island) and given the pennant number 83.
Until last year, progress was slow. But there has been a lot of work lately. Early in 2009, China moved the Shi Lang into dry dock, where work is now obviously underway to install engines and other heavy equipment. A year ago, the radar mast was completed, and now there is a Chinese radar system being installed. Officially, the Chinese say nothing. But the dockyard workers keep at it, and it’s possible to take photos from a distance. It appears that the Shi Lang is a year or so from going to sea.