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Fri, Dec 16, 2011

Satellite Snaps China's First Aircraft Carrier

Photographed During Sea Trial Off The Chinese Coast

A satellite belonging to a Colorado company has captured an image of China's first aircraft carrier during sea trials off the Chinese coast in the South China Sea. DigitalGlobe Inc. posted the image on its website Wednesday, and analyst Stephen Wood told the Associated Press that the location and date of the photo make him confident it is of the Chinese ship.

2006 Chinese Government Photo

The Chinese government purchased the hull of the ship from Ukraine in 1998 with no engines, weapons, or or navigation systems. The Chinese refurbished the vessel over three years, and say now it is intended for research use. The government did not even admit that it had the ship until it announced it was going to sea.

That has led to speculation that the Chinese may be attempting to reverse-engineer the aircraft carrier to be able to build one of their own. The AP reports that the U.S. DoD says it could be made operational by the end of next year, but no aircraft are currently available for the ship. A DoD spokesman said in an e-mail that it would likely be several more years before the carrier would be "operationally viable" as a warship.

FMI: www.defense.gov

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