Home / Robert Farley / China’s Aircraft Carrier

China’s Aircraft Carrier


Everyone I know sent me a link related to this event. First things first, congratulations to the PLAN and to the people of China on turning a half-finished hulk into a major, if limited, warship.  Some thoughts from around the internets:

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  • FMguru

    Very hard to what? :ohdear:

    • Robert Farley

      I was going to add commentary to the Axe article, then forgot, then decided against and deleted.

      And now you know the rest of the story.

      • James E. Powell

        Also too, I’m not sure what this means:

        Especially given that Kuznetsov is going in for a major refit soon, I doubt we’ll see Russia operating more carriers at any one time than China again in our lifetime

        • Robert Farley

          To rephrase….

          Particularly with Russia’s only carrier going into extended refit, for the foreseeable future we can expect that China will have a larger carrier force than Russia.

  • scott

    Congratulations! You too get to own an aircraft carrier, a big fat undefendable target against missiles for decades. Just don’t pour as many billions into that particular ocean abyss as we did, which I trust you won’t – you seem to have perfected your strategy of reaping all the benefits of being a rising power without bearing all the dumb prestige costs that superpowers seem to want to take on. Cheers!

    • Heron

      The problem is, can they get away with avoiding those costs. Some mainland-based, western-audienced China bloggers I read -Jottings from the Granite Study and Rectified;Name- have been reporting on the recent rash of nationalist marches, proto-riots, and flat-out violence in China. I wouldn’t say they’re actually making arguments about it, but they’re certainly asking the question, “Will the CCP be able to keep a lid on this stuff down the line, or will they get gradually dragged into conflict and wastefulness by this toleration of belligerent nationalism?”

      • Heron

        Oops, “Granite Studio” rather.

    • ajay

      You too get to own an aircraft carrier, a big fat undefendable target against missiles for decades.

      Yes, you’d think they’d have learned something from all those other carriers that have been sunk by missiles over the last sixty years. Like the USS… er… um….

      • Heron

        They weren’t missiles necessarily, but carriers haven’t fared too well in red v blue war-gaming over the last decade. The basic Chinese and Iranian strategies for dealing with carriers -throwing lots of inexpensive drones, guided rockets, and explosive-laden fishing boats at them- has consistently proven rather effective and difficult to counter in war-game settings. That the US tends to pick fights only with people who lack the capacity even for that level of asymmetry doesn’t prove that the vulnerability is just fantasy.

        • ajay

          Well, I imagine the Chinese will bear that in mind when next they play Harpoon. Here outside the Matrix, though, no one’s lost a carrier to drones, guided rockets, bombs, shells, fishing boats, suicide dolphins or anything else for six decades. It’s not like no-one’s tried, either.

          • Major Kong

            In six decades we haven’t fought anybody with that kind of capability.

            It’s more likely that the carrier group would be forced to stand off out of missile range. This would protect the carrier but would also limit its striking range.

            You don’t really have to sink it, all you have to do is keep it from hurting you.

            The more resources the carrier group has to dedicate just to defending itself the less offensive power it has.

            • ajay

              In six decades we haven’t fought anybody with that kind of capability.

              Aha, but there are non-American countries with carriers, and they have.

    • Jon H

      It’ll probably end up being turned into a yacht for a Chinese zillionaire.

  • John Casey

    If this vessel is as described, even ‘aircraft carrier’ is too strong: until it is associated with aircraft that operate off it as an actual weapons platform, ‘large ship that someday may be an aircraft carrier’ seems more appropriate.

  • Those loss numbers for US aircraft and crew cited by Erickson are startling. Between 1949 and 1988 “the Navy and Marine Corps lost almost 12,000 aircraft and more than 8,500 aircrew.”

    Whew. I imagine the early jets didn’t have as high a unit cost as the current ones do, either.

    • It’s not immediately clear (to me) whether those are strictly accident losses or whether those figures include combat losses during, for example, Korea and Vietnam. Even if it’s just accident losses, there’s bound to have been a lot more of them during the wars. Forty years are an awful lot to lump together.

      • ajay

        I am amazed it’s so few. Wikipedia: “In all, 1,261 Crusaders were built. By the time it was withdrawn from the fleet, 1,106 had been involved in mishaps. Only a handful of them were lost to enemy fire in Vietnam.” And that’s just one aircraft type.

    • Major Kong

      Accident rates with early jet fighters were extremely high – both carrier based and land based.

      The early jets had poor thrust-to-weight ratios and some of those early jet engines took a very long time (up to 20 seconds) to spool up from idle to full thrust. That made a go-around maneuver especially tricky.

      • ajay

        23% of USN pilots in the 1950s were expected to die in flying accidents at some point in their careers. Normally at a point towards the end of their careers, to be exact.

  • heckblazer

    My reaction to China is more or less “Congratulations with catching up to India and Brazil!”, but I feel like I’m missing something.

    • ajay

      My reaction to China is more or less “Congratulations with catching up to India and Brazil!”

      Or indeed “congratulations on getting to where the Royal Thai Navy was in 1996”.

  • VOR

    Agree, this is a testbed and not a production weapons system. Think of it as USS Langley or HMS Argus circa 1920. You have to start somewhere.

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  • mike in dc

    It would seem like the next-gen approach to the issue of airpower projection would opt for, perhaps, drones launched from large carrier submarines, perhaps modified boomers. A 500+ foot submarine could probably carry a couple dozen UCAVs with combat capabilities not far removed from the type of aircraft carried by a Russian-style CV. And it could do it with a reduced vulnerability to counterattack/pre-emption. If you built one to the proportions of the Nimitz, of course it would be far more vulnerable to detection and counterattack than any existing sub class, but on the other hand its payload capabilities(in terms of drones, missiles, etc.) would be staggering.

  • Jon H

    “that should make the Russians (who are still futzing about with INS Vikramaditya).”

    Make the Russians what?

  • dsn

    This appears to be the only place where articles on china are not immediately followed commenters accusing the writer of “racism against the peace loving chinese people”.

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