- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2011

DENVER (AP) — A commercial U.S. satellite company said Wednesday it had captured a photo of China’s first aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea off the Chinese coast.

The aircraft carrier has generated intense international interest because of what it might signal about China’s intentions as a military power. China has said the carrier is intended for research and training, which has led to speculation that it plans to build more.

DigitalGlobe Inc. said one of its satellites photographed the carrier on Dec. 8. A DigitalGlobe analyst found the image on Tuesday while searching through photos.

Stephen Wood, director of DigitalGlobe’s analysis center, said he’s confident the ship is the Chinese carrier because of the location and date of the photo. The carrier was on its second round of sea trials at the time.

A Pentagon spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

DigitalGlobe, based in Colorado, sells satellite imagery and analysis to clients that include the U.S. military, emergency response agencies and private companies. DigitalGlobe has three orbiting satellites, and a fourth is under construction.

The former Soviet Union started building the carrier, which it called the Varyag but never finished it. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the carrier ended up in the hands of Ukraine, a former Soviet republic.

China bought the ship from Ukraine in 1998 and spent years refurbishing it. It had no engines, weaponry or navigation systems when China acquired it.

Beijing is believed to be years away from being able to launch and recover aircraft from it as part of a carrier battle group.



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