The Complex

Is this the prototype for China's first aircraft carrier catapult?

Does this satellite image of a facility outside Shanghai provide evidence that China is trying to developing catapults for its next generation of aircraft carriers?

The image shows what may be a catapult test track similar to those used by the U.S. Navy at its Lakehurst New Jersey research site. Killer Apps spotted the picture above posted on numerous defense forums while researching a different story about old Soviet aircraft carriers.

(Click here to see the facility on Bing Maps. Click here to see the site compared to the U.S Navy's test catapults.)

Keep in mind that China is reported to be working on two to three new carriers that some speculate may be based on the design for what would have been the Soviet Union's first catapult-equipped carrier -- the Ulanovsk. (Others claim the new ships will be based on China's first carrier, the Liaoning, a ship that used to be the Soviet ship, Varyag.)

Remember the Liaoning uses a ramp on its bow -- dubbed a ski jump -- to help fighters get airborne in a short amount of space. This design has obvious drawbacks since only a relatively small fraction of aircraft have the power-to-weight ratio necessary to perform such a take-off.

The Ulanovsk was scrapped in 1992 when it was only 20 percent complete, due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Ulanovsk's design called for two catapults that could launch heavily-laden fighters, attack planes, and larger aircraft such as prop-driven radar planes similar to the U.S Navy's E-2 Hawkeye.

These satellite images might be of a short version of a high-speed test track, however, similar to the ones the U.S. Air Force has in New Mexico and California, not a prototype catapult. Although, the Chinese facility seems much shorter in length than the Air Force's test tracks that are used for much crazier things than launching 20-ton aircraft from ships.  Furthermore, it would make some sense for China to develop a catapult system for its future carriers, especially because it appears to be developing its own version of the Hawkeye. Planes of that size require catapults to take off from carriers. 

Rumors abound that China is working on developing both a traditional steam-powered catapult and an electromagnetic system -- similar to the one the United States is developing, called EMALS -- for its next generation of carriers. Electromagnetic catapults are supposed to be easier to maintain and take up far less space than steam powered catapults.  

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The Complex

Mike Rogers wants legislation to combat international IP, trade secret theft

Expect to see Congress take up legislation to punish nations and people that back global intellectual property theft and industrial espionage, House intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers said today. Such legislation could revoke visas of those involved in economic espionage or sanction countries that back such behavior.

Such actions would punish "nation-states that steal intellectual property and repurpose it for government companies to illegally compete in the market," Rogers told reporters after a breakfast in Washington, alluding to Chinese intellectual property theft. "That's something I'm working on, and we've got some great bipartisan support on this and great bicameral support, and we'll have an announcement on this soon."

He added that legislation to punish countries engaged in economic espionage will not be included latest version of CISPA, set to be voted on next month, but rather it will be "announced and ready sometime this year."

He hinted that the legislation could also punish people who knowingly do business with foreign entities that rely on intellectual property theft for their business model.

"I steal from your house, and I come to [another person's house] and try to sell it, it is both a crime for me to steal it and a crime for you to take stolen property. This should be no different. The only difference is, the value of it is exponentially bigger," said Rogers, a former FBI agent.

Early last month, Rogers said the U.S. must do more to confront China on its state-backed economic espionage campaigns.

"We need direct talks with China and it needs to be at the top of a bilateral discussion about cyber espionage," Rogers told Killer Apps on Feb. 13. "This is a problem of epic proportions here, and they need to be called on the carpet. There has been absolutely no consequences for what they have been able to steal and repurpose to date." Rogers suggested that the U.S. implement trade sanctions and identify "individuals who participate in this, go after their visas, go after family travel, all of the levers we have at the Department of State. The problem is that bad."

Last month the White House unveiled its strategy to combat the international theft of intellectual property and trade secrets. This effort is focused on international law enforcement efforts to catch IP thieves and diplomatic cooperation aimed at curbing state-backed theft of trade secrets.

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