28 March 2007

I’m a big fan of the Danger Room at Wired, so I’m gonna help them out. They recently posted this item, entitled “China’s Secret Nuclear Carrier”, starting with the line “The Korean newspaper Hankyoreh is reporting that it’s obtained information on a top-secret dossier that claims China plans to build a nuclear-powered carrier by 2020.” (emphasis mine)

OK, so if I put the Chinese word for “aircraft carrier” (航空母舰 ) and “085” in Baidu, what do I get? Oh my gosh, it’s a top secret dossier on a BBS! Posted in January 2006! And recently again at Tiexue! And wait, here it is again in 2003! And what does it say? “Recently the Central Military Commission adopted the 085 conventionally powered aircraft carrier program.”

Wait, what did Hankyoreh say? Oh yeah, that’s right:

“A source close to Chinese military affairs said on March 27 that China has been promoting the construction of a 93,000-ton atomic-powered carrier under a plan titled the “085 Project.””

Oh, Hankyeroh. It’s the 089 that’s nuclear powered. OK, OK, so maybe it got mixed up in Korean translation. Anyway, Hankreyoh’s “dossier” discussed specifications. Here’s the specs from the BBSs:

  • Modified version of the Varyag, the Ukrainian carrier China bought in 1998
  • standard displacement 48,000 tons, full load displacement 64,000 tons
  • carries 30-40 J10s or 10-20 Su33s.
  • built at Dalian shipyard.
  • Varyag will be for training

All of that is in the Hankreyoh article. Those BBS posts don’t mention dates to finish the carriers, but this article says a Lt. General indicated they were on schedule to finish one by 2010. Here’s something that’s not:

  • The Dalian shipyard will also build 2 escort destroyers.
  • 12 batteries of 12 anti-ship missiles with a range of 500km capable of going Mach 4
  • The idea, apparently, is that in the event of full-scale nuclear war, China would only be able to get its nuclear missile submarines into the open sea with the cover of an aircraft carrier battle group.

There’s a bit more, and I’m not 100% on that last bit, but I’m not fluent in Chinese or navy lingo. But I know one thing for certain: no dossier required. Hankyeroh didn’t get anything wrong (except for mixing up the 085 and 089), but there’s no secret here. In Chinese, this stuff is pretty much public record. Perhaps if the Pentagon wants transparency they should try Baidu.

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