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China as Shipbuilder

Two aircraft carriers in the closed city of Severomorsk.jpg
INS Vikramaditya (left) with RFS Admiral Kuznetsov (right), 2012

Another piece at the National Interest, this time looking at China’s potential to build and export aircraft carriers…

The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov has entered what is expected to be a substantial refit. Its performance in a recent deployment off Syria was not adequate; in addition to engine problems, it suffered flight-deck issues that contributed to the loss of two fighters, a substantial portion of its flight group. The readiness of Kuznetsov has suffered across its entire career, in large part due to a lack of experience and maintenance funding. As it is already nearly thirty years old, it is unclear how much more service the Russian Navy can wring from the hull.

And yet there is little reason to hope for a replacement on the near horizon. Despite occasional claims that a new carrier will be laid down soon, serious design work has yet to begin. Moreover, in a time of defense austerity, Russia seems to be deemphasizing its surface fleet. It is not at all clear that Russia could build an aircraft carrier in a reasonable time frame even if it wanted to.

But, what if Russia decided to look elsewhere, as more than a few countries have done in the past? What if Russia decided to purchase an aircraft carrier from China?

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