The DEFCON Warning System™

Ongoing GeoIntel and Analysis in the theater of nuclear war.  DEFCON Level assessment issued for public notification.  Established 1984.

China’s Navy Is Growing More Powerful By the Day

China’s surface fleet is increasingly footloose—including its aviation component. Backed by an impressive armory of shore-based weapons, the fleet need no longer be closely tethered to defense of home waters and skies. It can be more venturesome and range farther from home. It’s even possible China will found a standing expeditionary for some important expanse like the Indian Ocean. 

Take notice, Asia. 

Exhibit A: the aircraft carrier Fujian, China’s third flattop, departed for its initial round of sea trials on May 1 and remains at sea as I write. Much has been made of the technological advances manifest in the new carrier. It displaces more than its predecessors Liaoning and Shandong, for one thing. Shipwrights dispensed with ski jumps for launching aircraft, opting for catapults. As a result the vessel has the lines of a supercarrier of U.S. vintage, sporting a flat flight deck. Indeed, the ship reportedly features electromagnetic catapults and arresting gear—suggesting that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy) has staged a leap to parity with the U.S. Navy on certain technologies. 

If so, that’s an impressive engineering feat. Only recently did USS Gerald R. Ford, the first U.S. carrier incorporating electromagnetic launch, recovery, and weapons elevators, complete its first major overseas deployment after being commissioned in 2017. Gee-whiz tech was that tricky to master. And yet Chinese naval architects may well have pulled it off. 

Two Fujian-related points about fleet design, one about fleet tactics, and one about maritime strategy on a grand scale. First of all, fleet design. The PLA Navy now has enough aircraft-carrier hulls—or verges on having, assuming Fujian proves out—to keep one or even two carrier groups at sea at all times should the high command ordain. The Pentagon estimates it takes 1.5 carriers permanently forward-deployed to Japan to keep one on cruise at all times, factoring in the cycle of training, upkeep, and overhaul. With a 3:2 ratio between battleworthy and laid-up carriers, in other words, the PLA Navy is about to find its rhythm in carrier aviation, opening up new strategic vistas for the Chinese Communist Party regime in Beijing. 

Read more at National Interest

Ongoing Geointel and Analysis in the theater of nuclear war.


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