Speaking of aircraft carriers...after decades of buying old British and Russian Cold War-era aircraft carriers and turning them into museums and theme hotels, China converted the hull of the incomplete 1980s vintage Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag into its first operational carrier: the Liaoning. Chinese investors purchased the ex-Varyag from Ukraine in 1998, claiming they would turn it into a casino. That obviously didn't happen, and China spent much of the last decade completely modernizing the old hulk, installing new engines, electronic warfare gear, radars, defensive weapons, and modernized interior spaces (right down to the galleys). She took to sea for the first time in August 2011 and was commissioned into Chinese naval service in September 2012. The first carrier landings and takeoffs by Chinese fighters occurred in late November.
Interestingly, China's first carrier fighter, the J-15, is a knockoff of another Soviet/Russian design, the Sukhoi Su-33. China may have purchased a partially completed Su-33 from Ukraine in 2001, after Russia refused to sell it the aircraft because China was reverse-engineering the very similar Sukhoi Su-27s that Russia was selling to China. (Got that?) While many are quick to point out that China is conducting its first carrier ops more than a century after Eugene Ely landed on the deck of the USS Pennsylvania, it's worth noting that China plans to have at least three carriers by the middle of this decade. Still, the learning curve is extremely steep for carrier ops. As we've said before, it took the U.S. Navy decades to master the art of landing jets on ships.