China near restoring Soviet-era aircraft carrier: Report

China will use carrier as a model for its indigenously built ship in future.

Beijing: After unveiling its first stealth jet recently, China has almost finished restoring a Soviet-era aircraft carrier, which will be used for operations and as a model for its indigenously built ship in future.

China has completed the major steps required to fully restore a partially built aircraft carrier purchased from Ukraine in 1998, Chinese state-run Global Times reported quoting Hong Kong based media reports.

Also, China reportedly bought Russian SU-33 carrier-based fighters and has modified domestic J-11 jets for carrier landings and takeoffs.

The aircraft carrier, Varyag, is being worked on at a shipyard in Dalian, Liao-ning Province.

All the living and work compartments, engines, navigation systems and power-generating equipment were restored, according to the report.

Virtually confirming the reports Chinese "military sources" told Global Times that many foreign media reports about China`s plan to build an aircraft carrier are based on satellite images, and those reports may not be completely wrong.

Li Jie, a researcher at the Naval Research Institute in the People`s Liberation Army (PLA) said the visible parts of the aircraft carrier, such as the radar system and the communication equipment, could be seen by a satellite.

"The construction of an aircraft carrier always follows a certain procedure, so the completion time could be deduced from the visible parts on the deck," Li said.

"In 2009, China put forward a plan and a program for building an aircraft carrier," an official report said. The report by China`s Ocean Development Report (2010), a book published in May by the State Oceanic Administration which is under the Ministry of Land and Resources, said that "this shows that China has started entering a new historic era of comprehensively building itself into a great naval power."

Some reports said that the carrier could become operational by July coinciding with the 90th anniversary celebrations of the ruling Communist Party of China, (CPC).

He Jun, a senior researcher at the Anbound Information Group in an article, said that the maintenance and usage of aircraft carriers cost 5.5 times more than the construction cost.

Li Jie said that aircraft carriers have strategic significance for a growing power such as China. "Just like what Defence Minister Liang Guanglie said, the fact that China does not have its own aircraft carriers won`t last forever," Li said, adding China needs carriers to carry out marine missions and develop marine interests.

Two weeks ago China conducted the test run of its J-20 stealth fighter coinciding with the visit of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates. The fighter makes China the second country after US to have a stealth aircraft which has the ability to evade radars.