Saturday, July 2, 2011

Do the Chinese Aircraft Carriers pose a Threat?

As I have reported a couple of times now, China has been intent on developing a naval air power. Many of the experts I have been reading on this subject are saying that this is meant as a direct challenge to American Naval power in the western Pacific. I am not so sure. It is one thing to have an aircraft carrier but it is quite different to have a carrier strike force and China just does not possess a blue water navy with the assets capable of protecting and supporting such a force. In other words, if a direct confrontation or even open hostilities developed between the US Navy and China, the Chinese aircraft carrier and its planes would not be much more than a short-lived, big fat target.

As I said, deploying an aircraft carrier even with a complement of strike aircraft is not the same thing as having an operationally effective carrier strike group. The PLA Navy would have to develop the capability to provide 360 degree air and missile defense, fleet ASW, underway replenishment and air/sea coordination. Where is the Chinese navy’s equivalent of the Aegis air/missile defense system, E-2D airborne surveillance and C2 or the Los Angeles class SSN submarine?

In reality we should welcome the Chinese effort to create its own blue water navy. The U.S. Navy has a seventy year history of being able to engage and destroy hostile surface fleets. The PLA Navy, even with its aircraft carrier would not have the resources, the experience nor the area of maneuver to effectively challenge the 7th fleet.

So, no, I do not believe the Chinese are seriously trying to create a direct threat to the American Navy. What then is the purpose of building aircraft carriers and bearing the enormous associated expenses? The PLA Navy wants to project power among China’s weaker neighbors in the Western Pacific, just as American carrier strike groups have spent most of modern naval history intimidating or attacking weaker military forces around the world.

Admiral Hyman Rickover himself admitted that his nuclear-powered aircraft carriers would only last “about two days” in a full-scale war with the Soviets, whose admirals probably could give the flattops’ exact locations in their sleep (Much as American commanders always will have a very good idea about the whereabouts of the Shi Lang, China’s first carrier, if they don’t already). But carriers have continued to serve around the world because they’re so useful for so many other jobs besides full-scale war, and that kind of gunboat versatility is what China wants.

So let’s not get too nervous. Let's sit back and enjoy the show as China finds out just how expensive Naval Air Power is….


By-the-way, for those history buffs out there -do you know what anniversary today is? This is the day in 1776 that the Continental Congress voted the official Independence of the American Colonies from British rule. The Declaration explaining thier decision was signed 2 days later, on the 4th of July....

Live Long and Prosper....

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