US statements and imagery show that China is making progress in completing the refurbishment of the ex-Soviet/Ukrainian aircraft carrier Varyag , now reported to have been renamed the Admiral Shilang . Admiral Robert F Willard, Commander of the US Pacific Command, told the US House of Representatives on 23 March that "China's leaders are pursuing an aircraft carrier capability. ... I expect this carrier [the ex- Varyag ] to become operational around 2012 and will likely be used to develop basic aircraft carrier skills." While it remains to be seen whether China can also assemble its new carrier air wing by 2012, Adm Willard's statement marks a reversal of the US intelligence community opinion expressed in the 2002 annual US Department of Defense report on Chinese military modernisation, which stated: "While continuing to research and discuss possibilities, China appears to have set aside indefinitely plans to acquire an aircraft carrier." Near the time of Adm Willard's testimony, on about 17 March, imagery available on Chinese military issue web pages showed the Shilang had emerged from, and had been placed beside, the new Dalian harbour area drydock it entered in late April 2009. By 23 March this source was showing that the greatly modified hull structure had entered the process of degaussing (demagnetising) to reduce vulnerability to magnetic mines and to aid the operation of sophisticated electronic components. Major modifications began on the carrier's prominent island in mid-October 2009. Sections fore and aft the stack were removed and replaced with new pre-fabricated structures to accommodate the four arrays of its new phased-array naval radar. This radar is likely to be similar to the Ukrainian-influenced active phased-array system developed early in the last decade for the Chinese Navy's Type 052C destroyers. Recent imagery also shows increased activity on the carrier's deck: an indication that work may also be under way to replace the aircraft arresting gear or rebuild engine-blast barriers used to help launch aircraft off the carrier's ski-jump ramp. A lack of progress in negotiations with Russia to purchase a useful number of modernised twin-engine Sukhoi Su-33 carrier-borne fighters, because of a combination of Russian frustration over copyright protection and Russian demands that China purchase an economically viable number (between 30 and 40), has turned attention to the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation's longstanding effort to produce its own carrier-based fighter. Inasmuch as Shenyang's J-11 is a modified copy of the Su-27SK with an improved radar and eventually a Chinese turbofan, Shenyang is expected to produce its own version of the Su-33 or a carrier-capable version of the J-11, sometimes referred to as the 'J-15'. In late August 2009 unconfirmed Chinese reports emerged that a prototype for this Shenyang carrier-borne fighter had made its first flight. The Chengdu Aircraft Corporation also appears ready to produce a carrier-capable version of its J-10, although this single-engine fighter would require significant modification. However, in November 2009 a Chengdu test pilot was reported by Chinese media as saying Chengdu had conducted simulations of a J-10 carrier launch. The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is also developing critical support aircraft for its future carrier air wing. In late October 2009 internet images emerged of a Changhe Z-8 helicopter carrying a new retractable radar array, similar in configuration to the French Horizon radar used for battlefield support and mounted on a Super Puma helicopter. However, there are also indications that the PLA may be considering a version of the Sukhoi Su-80 twin-boom utility turboprop or another indigenous twin-turboprop design for airborne early warning, anti-submarine warfare and carrier onboard delivery missions.