China Doubling Its Aircraft Carrier Fleet

Sure, it's only going from one to two, but the Chinese navy is on the march

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AFP / Getty Images

China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in the port of Dalian.

The Chinese navy is building a second aircraft carrier, raising the stakes for the U.S. Navy—and China’s nervous neighbors—in the western Pacific.

The South China Morning Post reported Sunday that construction of the follow-on flattop has begun in the port city of Dalian, and estimated it would be finished by 2018. It would be Beijing’s first carrier built from the keel up in China. The People’s Liberation Army Navy wants a flotilla of four carriers by 2020. The English language paper, based in Hong Kong, cited Chinese online news reports for the news. Those reports were subsequently deleted, it added.

The push to build carriers—the bluest of ships in a so-called blue-water fleet, designed to operate in mid-ocean—comes as China is expanding its territorial reach off its coast and developing the weapons needed to make such claims stick.

It’s still a long way from approaching the size of the U.S. Navy, which has 10 Nimitz-class carriers and is building two new Ford-class vessels. At nearly 1,100 feet, each of these classes of carriers are about 100 feet longer than China’s lone Liaoning vessel, which it bought, used, from Ukraine in 1998. The U.S. Marine Corps also has nine 840ft amphibious-assault ships, which the Navy describes as resembling “small aircraft carriers.” Two more are under construction. No other nation has more than two carriers.

China asserts its weapons are defensive in nature, designed only to keep foreigners at bay. The only foreign navy able to counter an expansionist China is the U.S. Navy, which under President Obama is shifting its focus, and might, to the Pacific.

Activity on the Liaoning aircraft carrier, China

DigitalGlobe / Getty Images

A satellite view of the Liaoning.

But not everyone thinks that “pivot” is sufficient. “It’s clear that Chinese leaders are ambitious and that their diplomatic policy and the military arm are moving them toward great power status or at least regional hegemony, in a series of small steps designed to achieve these ends with minimal resistance from their Pacific competitors, America’s allies,” former senior Pentagon official Seth Cropsey, now with the Hudson Institute, told a congressional panel last month. “The U.S. is not taking this possibility as seriously as it should.”

China’s military spending has tripled over the past decade, and is now roughly a third of what the U.S. military spends, Jim Thomas of the independent Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) recently told Congress. “Unlike the United States, however, with its competing global security responsibilities, China is able to focus its resources almost entirely on supporting its regional counter intervention strategy,” Thomas said. Its goal: “To conduct short, decisive campaigns before an outside party like the United States could intervene effectively.”

The Chinese strategy is twin-pronged. First, a fleet of aircraft carriers is a mark of a major military power and gives its owner the ability to attack targets far from the homeland. But building such ships is complicated, and operating them is even more so. It helps to think of carriers as being like nuclear weapons—as daunting as they are to build, deploying and using them in a militarily significant way is even more challenging.

“Carrier ops are about as complicated an operation as any we conduct,” Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last month. “[The Chinese] are a long way from being a threat to us with their aircraft carrier.”

That’s why the second prong of China’s strategy is vital. Instead of only challenging U.S. carriers on the high seas with similar warships, it’s developing land-based DF-21D missiles with maneuverable warheads, designed to reach out and kill U.S. carriers from at least 930 miles away.

wct

WCT

This Google Earth photo, with a carrier outline superimposed above, purportedly shows a pair of successful Chinese DF-21D missile hits on a carrier-sized target in China’s Gobi Desert last year.

In 1996, the U.S. Navy dispatched a pair of carriers to the waters off Taiwan after Beijing threatened the island nation, which it regards as a renegade province, by launching missiles in its direction. Development of the DF-21D is intended to make the U.S. think twice before doing that again.

Last year, China conducted a test of the DF-21D in the Gobi Desert. While its accuracy is questionable, “large salvo attacks” could make up for that, CSBA’s Thomas says: “China might be willing to expend hundreds of anti-ship ballistic missiles, with an estimated unit cost of $25 million,” he says, “in a saturation attack to destroy or `mission kill’ a single aircraft carrier, valued $10-15 billion.”

Pentagon officials, speaking privately, are more concerned with the new missiles than the new warships. In fact, Dempsey—the top U.S. military officer—has an even bigger concern when it comes to Beijing. “I worry more about a China that falters economically,” he said last fall, “than I do about them building another aircraft carrier, to tell you the truth.”

116 comments
JohnDayberry
JohnDayberry

In the modern American navy we currently have 10 Nimitz Class nuclear powered aircraft carriers and 2 more will be joining our ultra capable fleet from the newest Ford Class with weaponry capable of stopping any type of missile attack launched on them. The old sea skimming Exocet missle can easily be destroyed by the Aegis or Phalanx ship based anti missile defense systems. The Phalanx puts out a solid wall armor piercing tungsten penetrator, with discarding sabot just like the M1A Abrams Main Battle Tank. This Phalanx fires 4,500 rounds per minute of missile destroying firepower. This system is on ALL EXISTING US NAVAL WARSHIPS. The newest Ford Class will have Particle Beam Weapons and Kinetic Kill systems onboard, eliminating the dangerous requirement of storing explosive munitions onboard. That's just the carriers. Our newest Virginia Class submarines are ultra stealthy. Recently one tagged a Russian destroyer with a sonar ping which could just as easily been a Mark V torpedo sending it to a watery grave, then casually left the area on full stealth. The Russian vessel never knew our sub was there! And since the Russian navy is far more capable of being a formidable foe against any modern blue water navy, with the exception of the American Navy, what makes you think this backwards nation of China can even hope to compete successfully against the premier world power resources of the United States?

matthew.east.1989
matthew.east.1989

@JohnDayberry Perhaps that attitude for starters? Not saying national pride isn't a bad thing but you should never under estimate your opponent as that is a sure way to lose, If not suffer losses greater then need be.


You must always look at your opponents strengths and adapt to counter them, Not utilize your own strengths and ignore theirs. In open ocean warfare yes the USN would be king but in the shallow and packed waters of SE Asia or within a couple hundred nm of the Chinese mainland the USN would lose. The USN is focused mainly on warfare for deep oceans, Not shallow waters. Your submarines are too big that they lose effectiveness same with your larger destroyers etc. Never under estimate a diesel electric submarine because more then a few times they have sneaked up and surprised the USN and the Chinese PLAN has quite a few of them.


Just some food for fought

PhïlÇhïå
PhïlÇhïå

@JohnDayberry Might I just say, that's the kind of attitude that looses WARS. If you don't show respect for an adversary, they will come out of no where and kick you in the balls.


For all the technology and testosterone blustering, please see the sad example of USS Cole, Marine base , lebanon for recent incidents... oh and 911. Forgot that. 


It's attitude like that that which causes losses and lives.

RobertNguyen
RobertNguyen

In this new age of cruise missiles, super sonic long range missiles and drone warfare - AC carrier is more of a liability than asset. Let's the Chinese build more AC carriers, and this will provide more high value targets for our fighters...

matthew.east.1989
matthew.east.1989

@RobertNguyen Fighters if they are based off of land bases, Better idea is to build a larger fleet of submarines especially conventional ones. of varied sizes. Smaller ones 1-2,000t for home defense and larger ones 3-4,000t+ for long range attack.

adildriver
adildriver

American & its allies have to think fast about growing Chinese naval activities in pacific & Indian ocean

PeaceOnEarth
PeaceOnEarth

"China Doubling Its Aircraft Carrier Fleet" sounds a lot. LoL. So now China has more aircraft carriers than the US does!

JohnDayberry
JohnDayberry

How does doubling 50% of nothing amount to anything? China bought this used aircraft carrier over 16 years ago from the Soviets, and it STILL is not fully operational today! Even with say labor disputes every year here in the USA from union craftsmen and contractors that aircraft carrier would have taken just 5 years for the total refit! Remember this was an aging Soviet aircraft carrier they sold to China, so approximately 80% of the construction cost was already taken care of. And still not fully operational!

This aircraft carrier of the PLAN (People's Liberation Army Navy) is concrete proof to the world that China will NEVER be able to compete with our American blue water Navy. We've currently got 10 Nimitz Class Nuclear carriers and 2 more of the Gerald Ford Class, even more deadly with particle beam weapons and Kinetic Kill weapons onboard, eliminating the requirement of storing explosive munitions onboard.

Trust me, the ONLY power capable of challenging the American Navy is Russia, and their fleet is either rusting in port for lack of maintenance due to poor pay for their workers or being mothballed because the vessel keels have gone past their projected lifespan.

matthew.east.1989
matthew.east.1989

@JohnDayberry Ignorance is a down fall sir, The PLAN may be slow but they didnt go rushing into anything, They learned and adapted. They focused more on the economy then building a large number of second rate carriers from old tech. They put their economy first so that now they can support a larger number of modern carriers as well as other ships. The PLAN is far more potent then that of the Russian Navy. They Russian navy is poorly trained, equipped and they have had ships that have been in construction for a decade still being built because of rampant corruption taking all the funds, Chinese production times are only decreasing.

puniad
puniad

Anyone concerned about the Chinese 2nd carrier does not have a grasp on how powerful the US navy truly is. The US Navy today is more powerful than the combined battle strength of Russian, Chinese and Indian navies put together.  A single US Navy Carrier Battle Group (which includes a carrier and several supporting destroyers, submarines and other ships, when in battle formation) could take on the entire Chinese Navy, today. And the US navy has 11 such carrier battle groups. Ship-for-ship and fighter-to-fighter.. the US navy has far more firepower and sophistication that the Chinese cannot match at this point. In the decades to come the Chinese navy will continue to build more ships and more firepower and sophistication, but it will be several decades before they can pose any kind of threat.


The only concern the US policy makers have is if China prematurely starts believing that they can take on the US militarily and embark on military adventurism. That would be a serious miscalculation on China's part. If the US ever deliberately wanted a war with China the US might very well start by letting the Chinese believe they can take the US on  (say china controls the starts of malacca and the US gives the impression it wouldn't do anything) then the first misstep is taken by the Chinese and then the US will come down like a hammer.. 'hey.... we didn't want this war but the chinese were a threat to the world..". etc. etc.
Bottom-line, the Chinese and Indians can continue building their navies and feel proud, without making the mistake of thinking they are ready to take on the US navy. At least not for a 100 years.


Taishanese
Taishanese

@puniad I believe alot of people do have a grasp on how powerful the US Navy is.  But more accurately, I don't believe people have a grasp of China's potential.  You are extrapolating too far when you say not for another 100 years.


Keep in mind, what separates China from having a navy like the US is the technical know how.  Her industrial capacity to out build the US is already here and will only expand into the future.  Keep in mind, that Chinese steel production is equal to the rest of the world combined.  And that only two days of Chinese steel production is all that is needed to build an equivalent of the US navy.  And this is starting from zero.


Also, in regards to post Pearl Harbor, America came out on top because of her greater industrial capacity over Japan.  In the case of the US and China, China is actually slightly ahead and the gap will only widen.  What China lacks is the modern know how and designs to build the latest equipment and to integrate all that equipment via satellite.  Once China figures out how to build something, she could out produce the US, no question about it.  If China had the plans to say a Nimitz class carrier, she could build 20 of them easier than the US could build 11.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@mantisdragon91 @ReneDemonteverde @puniad  Oh Mantis. What have you done with your brain ? I was talking about Yalu River during the Kerean War and then the Vietnam war that came after. Do I have to bring a black board to yo so you could understand ? Told you meth is never good with your brain. Give up that meth pipe Mantis.

MichaelStewart
MichaelStewart

@puniad  Your overconfidence is your greatest weakness. America thinks it could destroy and country in the world. China can do  the same thing. It can decide to stop loaning the USA money. Then we will see how long the US Military will last after its soldiers desert because they are not being paid.

matthew.east.1989
matthew.east.1989

@puniad A single CBG against the entire PLAN and the US would win? In what fantasy world would that happen? Blind faith and assumed superiority has been the downfall of a great many super powers through out Earths history. Assuming ones invincibility would only provide an advantage to the opposition as they could use your arrogance against you. 


The PLAN has a great many diesel electric submarines which the last couple decades have shown to be more then effective in war games at sinking US ships. In fact if each war game was real then the majority of the US super carriers would have all been sunk along with dozens upon dozens of other ships and this was all caused by nations with navies much smaller then that of the Chinese.


Even in a US wargame the USN was over came using assets of lower quality then that of the Chinese. The Millennium Challenge 2002 was set up with the opposing team using assets at the time common within Iraq and within the first couple of days destroyed one aircraft carrier, 10 cruisers/destroyer and 5 amphibious assault ships, And then more where sunk with attacks using small boats (China has a great many more then the USN.)

matthew.east.1989
matthew.east.1989

@ReneDemonteverde @puniad Stopping MacArthur was the smart thing, The Chinese had given prior warning that he ignored. It was a common thing for Mac if the intel and warnings didnt suit him he ignored them and countless men died for it.

jsureszh
jsureszh

@puniad Hi Friend, you are thinking that China or India is going to bring its Navy to fight the US Carrier. No, instead, they would fire a volley of cruise missiles are the Aircraft Carrier and sink it along with its 100 + jets. Once the Jets are out of the picture , then comes the Submaries, Destroyers, Corvettes and missile ships. Since you are also close to their country, they could as well launch 100s of Aircrafts at the US Carrier. So.. please..

jsureszh
jsureszh

@puniad Hi, you are also forgetting something. US is a network centric military. It depends on Satellite too much. China has already demonstrated its ability to destroy satellited from earth. The first think China or India will do is take out US military satellites. Now US Carrier is blind. BOOM!!!

Nihal
Nihal

Isn't it surprising that China's neighbor, India though already have 2 aircraft carriers in service are building 2 more indigenous carriers? Yes! India has TWOO! It should be a threat TOO!

koji_takahito
koji_takahito

Chinese militarism spend money on the military, but I reflected in the timid to reverse.

Obbop
Obbop

@koji_takahito... That is among the most insightful, rational comments I have read anywhere upon the Web.  And FAR more logical than anything being babbled by the idiots infesting the USA Congress.

AuricGoldfinger
AuricGoldfinger

We have 11 carriers with 8 more coming on line, China has one! Wake up people China is a threat they have 1 and want to add 1 more.

We only  have a measly ELEVEN! + EIGHT more in the pipe line.

Quick we need to throw more tax dollars at our military industrial complex!
{sarcasm}

WillGaydos
WillGaydos

@patrickbec68 a RCOH (Refueling a Complex Overhaul) takes over 4 years to complete, not 2,  and @AuricGoldfinger we have 10 carriers in the Nimitz class, and 3 planned for the Ford class so far, (Ford, Kennedy, Enterprise) 

PeaceOnEarth
PeaceOnEarth

@AuricGoldfingerThe US military and contractors really want to use FUD to get more money. They think the general public is simple Joe six-pack. Well, it may be true (:-

puniad
puniad

@patrickbec68 

5 US carriers facing off against 4 Chinese (albeit in the future), doesn't sound like a significant superiority. But I think its relevant to the discussion to note that each of the US carriers are literally twice the size of their future Chinese counterparts and carry more than twice the number of aircraft each (75 vs 30). Just taking that fact alone one could logically say a single US carrier can balance off 2 Chinese carriers. In addition, if you factor in the greater sophistication of the US fleet in terms of operational capability, battle experience, technological superiority and just plain greater firepower of the aircraft on those carriers, its not a stretch to presume a single US carrier strike group could very well balance off 3 Chinese carriers in the future. On paper at least. My point is, a "5-carrier vs 4-carrier" comparison doesn't give the complete picture, when the carriers being compared are far apart in size and capabilities. 


The expansion of the Chinese navy (or the Indian navy for that matter) is to be expected and is the natural course of events as their economies develop and there IS actually something worth protecting and defending (unlike north Korea!). 

John_Citizen
John_Citizen

@puniad @patrickbec68You're absolutely right . . . up until your unnecessary divergence to "welfare."  Protecting our nation and protecting our most vulnerable are not mutually incompatible.  Of course, both are difficult when we take in so little in taxes.  Guess what?  Defense costs a lot.  Far more than "welfare."  Our top tax rates were incredibly high until Reagan.  He did increase defense spending after a temporary lull in the late 70s, but without asking the American people to pay for it.  Hence, the debt.

patrickbec68
patrickbec68

The US has 10 carriers (Nimitz, Eisenhower, Vinson, Roosevelt, Stennis, Washington, Lincoln, Truman, Reagan, Bush), not 11, one of which is always having its nuclear fuel replaced (a two year operation).  So that makes 9 available to deploy, deployed between two fleets. That gives the US 5 carriers the Pacific, to face 4 Chinese carriers by 2020-2022. The US is building two new carriers (Ford and Kennedy) to REPLACE the existing carriers, not to add to the fleet. Yes, more Dollars needs to be spent on defense, which is the primary role of the Federal goverment,  and less on welfare which is not a role of the Federal goverment (unless you misintepret the general welfare clause of the US Constitution). Its a cliche, but peace does come through superior fire-power, the weaker the US gets viz a viz China, the bigger the risk for war.

ChasL
ChasL

As propaganda it doesn't get any better than this - "Doubling" certainly sounds more dark and ominous than "one more". BTW how many carriers do we have? About a dozen.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

China doubles its aircraft carrier fleet - from 1 to 2. 

Holy smokes - stop the presses!!!

We outnumber the Chinese in ships and spending, and have far more advanced military technology than them as well.  China is more of a discontent regional presence than it is a threat.

matthew.east.1989
matthew.east.1989

@mattydies Over the last 2 decades the US has had bad performance against Australia, South Korea, Various Nato nations, Canada and hell even Chile has given the US a run for its money in war games.


The Biggest problem the US has is not the size of the defense budget but how it is used. Massive amounts of huge nuclear submarines that are absolutely hopeless in shallow waters, Why not give up a dozen nuclear submarines for 3x the amount of AIP submarines+. Over sized carrier, They have their uses but in todays world size is less of an advantage. Better off having a larger fleet of smaller carrier. Based upon costs the US could have 18+ carrier similar in size to the British Queen Elizabeth class carriers for the cost of the current fleet. And that is not taking into account price savings through bulk buying. Not to mention that with 18 carrier you would actually field more aircraft then the 10-11 can even if their capacity is below the Nimitz/Ford.

mattydies
mattydies

While I do not disagree I also realize the American Military has a poor performance record (often against 'lessor' foes)

raidx259
raidx259

“The U.S. is not taking this possibility as seriously as it should.”


Seriously? Is the U.S. taking any Chine threat as seriously as it should? The day we wake up from this daydream we are having China is going to have the ability to knock out our carriers, overwhelm us with drones, and land troops on our homeland. 


What's it going to take for this country to wake up?


 

CombatWarsJason
CombatWarsJason

@raidx259

"The day we wake up from this daydream we are having China is going to have the ability to knock out our carriers, overwhelm us with drones, and land troops on our homeland."

Sounds like a plot from video games....


To be more exact....that sounds exactly like the plot from Call of Duty Black Ops 2 but with a different country doing the actions...=.=

Obbop
Obbop

BIG, easy-to-hit targets.

patrickbec68
patrickbec68

If you can find them. During the Cold war US carriers could hide from the Soviets at will. Read some history. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@patrickbec68During the Cold War the Soviets weren't committed to attacking them. You can't hide an 1100 foot ship with no submersible capability.

martinburgisser206
martinburgisser206

the top U.S. military officer—has an even bigger concern when it comes to Beijing. “I worry more about a China that falters economically,”  

Sad when they care more about other countries.


Where are all of these low price chinese items? The waltons/etc are just selling us garbage at the same prices while destroying american companies.




mattydies
mattydies

I agree aside from the POS part.  

I am holding off judgement.   YES China is home of knock offs and cheap junk but odds are your computer worth $500 or $5,000 uses mostly components built in Taiwan.   They have the capability to do many things very well - obviously this is almost as far from an Aircraft Carrier as it gets but China does make 90% Cheap crap, 9% OK stuff and 1% GREAT stuff. 

I am not directing this part toward anyone in particular but I see many people comment on things and it is clear they do not see how some of these things (Incomplete AC, 'broken jets;) may evolve within a few years.  America Started their Industrial Revolution over 150 years ago.   China was more like 50.  Give them time...

EricElkins
EricElkins

@martinburgisser206 you need to learn a little economics. If China's economy falters it could and more than likely will, have a direct negative impact on the U.S. economy. This alone has a much greater impact on U.S. security than a single P.O.S.A.C.