HMAS Melbourne, Beyond 1982
History of R21 after de-commissioning
Bound for China
|Beginning the long tow from Sydney to China||Helped out of Sydney Harbour by tugs|
The tow encountered heavy weather off the Northern NSW Coast so put into Moreton Bay near Brisbane, but unfortunately the Melbourne went aground! After waiting for a suitable tide the ship was refloated and the tow resumed. Chinese crew members on the ship sent post cards to their families.
In February 1985, Melbourne was sold to China for breaking up, and arrived at a Shanghai yard in 1985 according to the issue of Far Eastern Economic Review dated 20th. October, 1994, where she lay undisturbed except for regular visits by PLA engineers and may still be in existence (1994). It is clear from an article entitled "The Aviation Dream of the Chinese People" that appeared in the July, 1994 issue of Shidian, a semi-official magazine of the China News Service, that PLA(N) officers are being trained in large ship handling courses and flight deck operations.
Melbourne was finally moved to the northern port city of Dalian where she was broken up. There have been several reports of the Chinese reconfiguring a runway to resemble an aircraft carrier deck for flight deck landing training by PLA pilots. Additionally, in 1987 an F-8 Chinese fighter was launched from a steam catapult at the Lushun naval air base near Dalian according to the Far Eastern Economic Review.
A US private sector intelligence agency believes that the Chinese Navy may be using an old aircraft carrier, HMAS Melbourne, to help develop its own carrier and boost Chinese military capability. Stratfor (Strategic Forecasting) based in Austin, Texas, said the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) had acquired three different types of carrier to study for development of their own capability. One of them was the HMAS Melbourne.
On 13 January 2001, the online Australian magazine in Melbourne "The Age.com.au", indicated that China has been using the flight deck of the former Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne to train its pilots ahead of the launch of its first locally-made aircraft carrier. Quoting unnamed sources, the Hong Kong based independent Chinese language Ming Pao daily reported that the Chinese 4.8 billion yuan ($A892 million) aircraft carrier is slated to be in the water in 2003, although it will take another two years to have it fully ready for service. There is Satellite imagery of the reconstructed Melbourne flight deck attached to the end of a runway in northern China. The angled flight deck centerline is aligned with the main runway and aircraft were catapulted out over the salt pan and bay. Although this claim was made in 2001, that a carrier would be ready for service in 2005, China has to date not built a real aircraft carrier. China purchased a Russian carrier of 60,000 tons but it had no engines. They then built a wooden carrier complete with model aircraft, as a curiosity fun park.