Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag passing the Bosphorus

Varyag was to be a Kuznetsov-class multirole aircraft carrier. She was known as Riga when her keel was laid down at Nikolayev South (formerly Shipyard 444) in Nikolayev 6 December 1985, and she was launched 4 December 1988, but she was renamed Varyag (Varangian) in late 1990, after a famous Russian cruiser.

Construction stopped by 1992 with the ship structurally complete but without electronics. Ownership was transferred to Ukraine as the Soviet Union broke up and the ship was laid up unmaintained, then stripped. In early 1998, she lacked engines, a rudder, and much of her operating systems. She was put up for auction.

Currently the ship is being examined and repaired by China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) after purchasing it at auction. It was widely reported that the ship would become a casino in the Chinese SAR of Macau. This has been proven incorrect as the ship is in a PLAN drydock in Dalian. It has been painted PLAN grey. Many analysts believe that the ship will be used for training as China builds an indigenous aircraft carrier with greater capability.

In April, Ukrainian Trade Minister Roman Shpek announced the winning bid—$20 million USD from a small Hong Kong company called the Chong Lot Travel Agency Ltd. Chong Lot proposed to tow Varyag out of the Black Sea, through the Suez Canal and around southern Asia to Macau, where they would moor the ship and convert it into a floating hotel and gambling parlor. It would be similar to the attractions Kiev in Tianjin and Minsk at Minsk World in Shenzen.

However, considerable evidence suggested that the future of Varyag is linked to the People’s Republic of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and its program to develop an aircraft carrier.

Before the auction was closed, officials in Macau had warned Chong Lot that they would not be permitted to park Varyag in the harbor. The sale was carried out anyway. Chong Lot is owned by a Hong Kong firm called Chin Luck (Holdings) Company. Four of Chin Luck’s six board members live in Yantai, China where a major Chinese Navy shipyard is located. Chin Luck’s chairman is a former career military officer with the People’s Liberation Army. However, the large involvement of former PLA officers is not necessarily a sign that the firm is a cover organization, because, for historical reasons, it is not unusual in mainland China for a company that actually is involved in tourism or travel to be controlled by former PLA officers.

However, the People’s Republic of China’s interest in Varyag is puzzling. Due to the poor condition of the hulk, it is thought highly unlikely that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will commission the carrier; rather, many analysts suggest that the PLAN intends to examine the carrier as a model for an indigenous carrier to be built later. Others counter that the carrier does not represent modern technology; the PLAN could probably have learned all they needed from Varyag without towing it all the way to China.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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