The photos below show the transformation of the Soviet (then Ukrainian) Kuznetsov-class heavy aircraft cruiser Varyag into the first aircraft crrier of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) – the Type 001. The warship was originally laid down as “Riga” in 1985. She was launched in December 1988 and in 1990 she got the new name – “Varyag”.
Ukraine put Varyag on sale after the collapse of the USSR and sold it for $25m to China in 1998. The warship’s hull was towed to the Dalian naval shipyard in northeast China where Varyag became Liaoning. The aircraft carrier entered service with the PLAN on September 25, 2012.
It should be noted that by the moment when then Varyag was sold to China, she was ready by around 68%. Therefore, China had to contribute significant efforts to finalize the warship.
According to estimations, in the current situation, it would cost around $600-800m to build a new Kuznetsov-class heavy aicraft cruiser. However, there are doubts that even Russia is capable to build such a ship from the scratch. The main reason is the lack of the technical capabilities. For comparison, one Nimitz-class aircraft carrier was $8.5 billion in FY 12 dollars.
The sold out of the Soviet fleet did not end up with the Varyag case. The Kiev-class heavy aircraft cruiser Kiev, that served the Soviet Navy and the Russian Navy from 1975 to 1993, was retired due to a low military budget and worsening ship’s condition, including weapons and equipment. She was sold for $1.6m to unidentified persons that sold her once again – for $8.2m to China. At the same time, the real market cost of the warship was around $20m. For example, Brazil bought the Clemenceau-class aircraft carrier Foch (launched in 1960) from France for $30m. She entered service with the Brazilian Navy as São Paulo.
The Kiev-class heavy aircraft cruiser Minsk, that served the Soviet Navy and the Russian Navy from 1978 to 1994, faced a similar situation. In 1995, Minsk was sold for scrap to a South Korean company and then resold to the Chinese state-owned Guangdong Ship Dismantling Company.
The transformation of Varyag into Type 001 (photos source):