Steve Mollman May 04, 2017
China’s first nuclear submarine was a joke. Launched in the 1970s and now an exhibit in a museum, it was loud, couldn’t fire missiles while submerged, and exposed its crew to high levels of radiation.
But it got the ball rolling. The nation’s modern subs make the US nervous with their technical advances, and China is now constructing the world’s largest submarine factory.
It isn’t just the subs. While China still lags the US badly in some areas, and its exported weapons have had reliability issues, signs abound that its military hardware is either catching up or becoming good enough to pose a real challenge in a potential conflict. A military modernization program pushed by Chinese president Xi Jinping is spurring things along.
“A ship that can fly”
Last week the world’s largest amphibious aircraft made its first taxiing test. The AG600, made by the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, is about the size of the Boeing 737 and is designed for marine takeoff and landing (or it can use conventional airstrips). One of its designers describes it as a “ship that can fly.”
The company says the plane will be used for marine rescue missions and fighting forest fires—it can scoop up 12 metric tons (13.2 tons) of water in 20 minutes. But given Beijing’s maritime ambitions in the South China Sea and elsewhere, the plane, with room for 50 passengers and a range of 4,500 km (2,800 miles), can also serve the People’s Liberation Army nicely, including via maritime patrols and troop and supplies transport—in other words, power projection. The hefty plane’s maiden flight over land is scheduled for this month, and over water later this year.
A made-in-China aircraft carrier
For years China has had just one operational aircraft carrier—hardly befitting an emerging maritime power. To make matters worse the Liaoning CV-16 was refitted from a laughably outdated Soviet-era Ukrainian ship. Last week China unveiled its first domestically built carrier at the northeast port of Dalian (see top image). The as-yet-unnamed vessel, to be fully operational in a few years, is technologically well behind its US counterparts. For instance it lacks a catapult to boost planes off the runway (making for inefficient operations) and uses conventional rather than nuclear power. But like China’s early subs, it’s a stepping stone to greater things. A third carrier is already under construction—one that more closely resembles a US carrier.
Stealthy fighter jets
China is making real progress in fighter jets, as evidenced by the J-20 that went into service in March. The supersonic aircraft packs stealth technology, advanced radar and sensor capabilities, and a nifty 360-degree helmet display that lets the pilot see “through” the aircraft itself. It’s also bigger than the US’s F-22 Raptor—to which it’s often compared—allowing it to hold more fuel and travel farther. While it might be stealthy from the front, however, it probably isn’t from the side. But China is testing another advanced fighter jet (the J-31) that does better in the stealth department and will possibly operate from aircraft carriers.
A new spy ship
China launched in January a new electronic spy ship. The CNS Kaiyangxing, or Mizar, is capable of conducting all-weather, round-the-clock reconnaissance on multiple targets. During its unveiling, China shared an unusual amount of detail about the ship and the rest of its small intelligence fleet, now at about a half dozen vessels (the US has at least 15). That openness was probably for the deterrence factor: Beijing wants other navies know to that, should they operate in disputed waters, its forces will be able to detect them. Vessels like this one lack firepower but can be more dangerous than warships.
A (really) long-range air-to-air missile
Being able to hit enemy aircraft in a combat zone is expected. From well outside that zone? That’s a useful bonus. In January the state-run China Daily reported on a new, long-range air-to-air missile that could, a Chinese military researcher speculated, hit high-value targets like early-warning aircraft from up to 400 km (249 miles) away. That would be far better than China’s current range of less than 100 km for such missiles. It would also outdo US capabilities in that department—one where China might actually be in the lead.
Source: Quartz Media “China’s military tech is becoming less of a joke and more of a threat”
Note: This is Quartz Media’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
By Michael Martina | BEIJING Wed Apr 26, 2017 | 7:30am EDT
China launched its first domestically built aircraft carrier on Wednesday amid rising tension over North Korea and worries about Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.
State media has quoted military experts as saying the carrier, China’s second and built in the northeastern port of Dalian, is not expected to enter service until 2020, once it has been kitted out and armed.
Foreign military analysts and Chinese media have for months published satellite images, photographs and news stories about the second carrier’s development. China confirmed its existence in late 2015.
The launch “shows our country’s indigenous aircraft carrier design and construction has achieved major step-by-step results”, Xinhua news agency said.
State television showed the carrier, its deck lined in red flags, being pushed by tug boats into its berth.
Fan Changlong, a vice chairman of China’s powerful Central Military Commission, presided over the ceremony, Xinhua said, during which a bottle of champagne was broken on the bow.
The launch follows China’s celebration on Sunday of the 68th birthday of the founding of the Chinese navy, and comes amid renewed tensions between North Korea and the United States over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
Little is known about China’s aircraft carrier program, which is a state secret.
But the government has said the new carrier’s design draws on experiences from the country’s first carrier, the Liaoning, bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in China.
The new conventionally powered carrier will be able to operate China’s Shenyang J-15 fighter jets.
Unlike the U.S. navy’s longer-range nuclear carriers, both of China’s feature Soviet-design ski-jump bows, intended to give fighter jets enough lift to take off from their shorter decks. But they lack the powerful catapult technology for launching aircraft of their U.S. counterparts.
“NO NEED” TO MATCH THE UNITED STATES
China’s navy has been taking an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and new Chinese warships popping up in far-flung places.
The Liaoning has taken part in military exercises, including in the South China Sea, but is expected to serve more as a training vessel. State media has said the new carrier will be more dedicated to military and humanitarian operations.
China claims almost all the South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, and has been building up military facilities like runways on the islands it controls.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.
Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as its own, has said China is actually building two new aircraft carriers, but China has not officially confirmed the existence of another carrier.
Chinese state media has quoted experts as saying that the country needs at least six carriers. The United States operates 10 and plans to build two more.
Major General Chen Zhou, a researcher at the Academy of Military Science, told reporters in March that China would not exceed the United States in carrier groups. “China has no need for this,” he said.
Sam Roggeveen, a senior fellow at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, said that by the time China had half that number, it could go toe-to-toe with the U.S. navy in the Asia-Pacific.
“Given that the Americans have global obligations and responsibilities but China doesn’t, then effectively by that point they would be evenly matched,” Roggeveen said.
Most experts agree that developing such a force will be a decades-long endeavor but the launch of the second carrier holds a certain prestige value for Beijing, seen by many analysts as keen to eventually erode U.S. military prominence in the region.
“With two aircraft carriers you could say without much fear of contradiction that China, other than the United States, is the most powerful maritime force in the Asia-Pacific,” Roggeveen said.
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry and Nick Macfie)
Source: Reuters “China launches first home-built aircraft carrier amid South China Sea tension”
Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
SCMP says in its report “America’s hidden role in Chinese weapons research” yesterday, “Many scientists have returned to China after working at Los Alamos and other top US laboratories”.
It says, “China has been trying to woo foreign-trained scientists back home since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, with one early success being Qian Xuesen, who returned to China from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955 to lead the country’s space and military rocket research.”
In fact, Qian was among the group of 40 plus top scientists who returned China at the same time and made great contribution to China’s modernization in all fields not only military. Having been benefited by experts trained abroad, it is only natural that China “has stepped up its efforts in recent years, using financial incentives, appeals to patriotism and the promise of better career prospects to attract scientists with overseas experience” not only “in defence research” but also in other researchs and not only from the US but also from other countries.
For example, China attracted back world top quantum scientist Pan Jianwei from Austria, who has been in charge of China’s development of quantum communications, including the successful launching of world first quantum satellite for both civilian and military purposes.
Military scientists are certainly a priority as all countries employ their best scientists for weapon development. No wonder, according to SCMP, China has attracted lots of scientists from US Los Alamos laboratories, but they are only a small percentage of top scientists and engineers trained abroad and making contributions in China. In fact, China has also attracted quite a few foreign scientists from abroad. Ukrainian scientists and engineers have been making great contributions to China’s development of aircraft carriers and large aircrafts.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2082738/americas-hidden-role-chinese-weapons-research.
On March 17, I reblogged Newsweek’s article “What Are the Chances of the U.S. and China Going to War?” by David G. Gompert, which regards China’s activities in the South China Sea as the major cause of conflict that may cause the US and China going to war. In addition, the US is unhappy about China’s trade policy, however, the article says, “The stakes are not high enough, and the disputes not severe enough, to prompt leaders of either country to start a conflict outright.”
The article seems ignorant of US desire to contain China in order to prevent China from growing into its rival for world leadership. Obama’s pivot to Asia precisely aims at that and he seemed quite popular at home for that pivot militarily though economically his TPP to contain China met quite loud opposition as the US may suffer instead of benefit from TPP.
Therefore, we shall be very clear that national interests are the major factor that drives a nation into war.
A nation starts a war for gains; therefore, it will not do so if there are no prospects of victory as without victory, the nation will only suffer losses instead of obtaining gains.
China certainly will not start a war with the US as there are simply no prospects for China to win the war. As China seeks no world hegemony, it gains nothing in winning a war with the US but will be benefited from win-win cooperation with the US.
So will the US as if it attacks China. Though its military is anxious to attack China to prevent it from growing into a rival to US world hegemony, its aircraft carriers do not have enough fire power to deal with Chinese air force and air defense (see CIMSEC’s article “The Age of the Strike Carrier is Over” by LT X at http://cimsec.org/age-strike-carrier/30906 and National Interest’s article “5 Ways Russia and China Could Sink America’s Aircraft Carriers” by Robert Farley at )
The US has to wait till it has B-21 bombers to attack China, but we do not know whether China has developed any weapons to deal with B-21 by that time. If China has, the US has to wait for its further new weapons. With the US declining and China rising, the US does not seem to have a bright future to win a war with China; therefore, the chances of war between the US and China are small and will be increasingly smaller in the future.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Newsweek, CIMSEC and National Interest’s articles, full text of which can be viewed respectively at http://europe.newsweek.com/what-chance-us-and-china-going-war-567717?rm=eu, http://cimsec.org/age-strike-carrier/30906 and http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/5-ways-russia-china-could-sink-americas-aircraft-carriers-19811.
February 22, 2017
By LT X
The age of the strike carrier is over. As the United States enters an era where the potential for modern great-power war is increasing dramatically in Eurasia, a return to the traditional roles of the aircraft carrier is required to maintain maritime access. Carrier-borne over-land strike warfare has not proved decisive in previous conflicts in heavily contested air defense environments, and will not prove so in the future. In the potential high-end conflicts of the twenty-first century, the likely utility of carrier-based land strike is largely non-existent. Thankfully, the traditional carrier aviation roles of maritime interdiction and fleet air defense remain highly valuable in wars against modern navies, but are precisely the roles, missions, and tactics sacrificed for sea based over-land strikes over the past sixty years. Regaining this capability will require a modest investment in existing and developing systems and capabilities and should be the force’s, the service’s and the nation’s highest objective in the coming years.
Aircraft Carriers in Over-Land Strike
American carrier airpower received its combat indoctrination in the Pacific War. However, pollution of the history of that campaign by naval aviation and airpower enthusiasts caused the lessons of that war to ossify over time. During Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s campaign aircraft carriers and their air wings almost exclusively provided maritime interdiction and fleet air defense. There are three major exceptions to this rule; Doolittle’s raid, the offloading of the Enterprise air group to Henderson Field during the Solomon Islands operation, and the strikes against the Japanese redoubts and the home islands late in the war. Additionally, carrier air forces provided strikes to Marine landings and naval aviation supported the Army landings of MacArthur’s campaign, most famously at Leyte. Admiral Kinkaid’s light carriers supported much of this effort, as well as Vice Admiral William F. Halsey’s and Raymond Spruance’s fast carrier task forces of Third and Fifth Fleets.
Doolittle’s raid, a strategic success due to its propaganda value, did not obtain any operational or theater-strategic gain, provided no notable hindrance to the Japanese war effort, and was conducted with US Army Air Corps (USAAC) B-25 Mitchell aircraft. Only the USAAC aircraft possessed the combination of ordnance load, endurance, and thrust to make the adventure over the Japanese home islands possible, even as a publicity stunt.
When the Enterprise disembarked her air group to Henderson Field, her aircraft provided valued support to the Marines fighting their way across Guadalcanal and to American naval forces fighting for sea control in Iron Bottom Sound. During the campaign, the major value of those aircraft remained air defense and anti-surface warfare. The Enterprise air group made combat air patrols, searched Iron Bottom Sound during daylight, and engaged any Japanese ships unfortunate enough to find themselves in range in daylight. The Enterprise air group’s combat air patrols made daylight resupply of Japanese Army units impossible, a sea control, anti-surface warfare capability. While the air group could not provide enough firepower accurately enough to dig the Japanese out of the jungle by themselves, it successfully isolated the battlespace to allow the Marines to do their work as it controlled the approaches to Iron Bottom Sound.
After Midway and the Solomon Islands campaigns, American carrier air power did begin to conduct some overland strike, mostly in the form of raids on enemy bases, but the fast carrier task forces remained focused on fleet air defense and anti-surface warfare. This alludes to the fact that, despite its ailing naval forces, Japan’s air and surface units still represented a potential threat to the American war after 1942. This was true as long as they possessed the capability to conduct a highly destructive strike against American fleets.
Leyte Gulf totally destroyed this capability and thereafter American carriers began wholehearted support of major fleet landings. However, in these endeavors they posted a mixed record, being unable to provide enough ordnance precisely enough to make the Marines’ tasks much easier as they tried to advance over hard volcanic rock on Iwo Jima and the difficult terrain and defense in depth on Okinawa. Indeed, in these campaigns, American carrier air power’s signature achievement proved the destruction of the Japanese super-battleship, not any air-to-ground ordnance delivery.
The history of the Second World War has been polluted by naval aviation, claiming the conflict as the age of the aircraft carrier. This stands almost no historical scrutiny. The campaign hung in the balance in the Solomons as much as Midway or Coral Sea, with no U.S. carriers available. Moreover, battleships proved highly useful throughout the war with their extensive anti-air armament and state-of-the-art radars providing close-in air defense for task forces. The Pacific War’s history is much more nuanced than naval aviation enthusiasts give credit for, and at its conclusion, not the carrier but the aircraft carrier task force proved to be the central weapon of war, with naval aviation posting meager results in ground support or strategic land strike.
What commonly became known as the “strike” aircraft carrier (CVA) was, in fact, the atomic carrier. In a memorandum as assistant Chief of Naval Operations for guided missiles, Rear Admiral Daniel V. Gallery opined that the U.S. Navy could strike more flexibly, as effectively, and at less cost than land-based, atomic-armed bombers requiring local bases to launch their fighter escorts. Gallery’s motivation was at least partially parochial. The newly-formed U.S. Air Force was, at the time, attempting to cultivate a monopoly on nuclear strike planning. In the era as the only nuclear superpower, it seemed nuclear delivery would prove the best option for continued longevity of the U.S. Navy’s fleet. In this effort, the Navy reconfigured attack carrier air wings to deliver Navy special weapons. This reconfiguration was the first time a carrier air wing was doctrinally tooled for ground attack and strategic strike, vice the sea control disciplines of fleet air defense and anti-surface warfare. Over time, this strike carrier became the norm. Rather than provide value to the fleet, misperceptions of the efficacy of land attack caused the platform’s gradual devolution from a system that provided capability to the task force to a platform that sucked capability from it. With its air wing largely servicing land targets, the strike carrier now required the very anti-surface, anti-submarine, and anti-air capabilities it used to augment, to allow more substantial (although increasingly less effective) overland raids.
This strike configuration premiered during the Korean War. The Peninsula lacked a sophisticated air defense or early-warning system and communist forces only contested air superiority in MiG Alley on the western Sino-Korean border. Therefore, naval and Marine aircraft operating off of carriers did produce notable results in ground support. However, given the limited nature of the conflict, the austere environment of the peninsula, and the technical lack of sophistication of Chinese and Korean forces, it is hard to determine the overall effect of carrier air power. At any rate, whatever the tactical, operational, or strategic limitations imposed, the conflict ended inconclusively, whatever naval aviation’s record.
Likewise, the utility of the attack aircraft carrier proved mixed over Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, the communist North enjoyed competing Chinese and Russian military (as well as diplomatic and political) support. The Soviets provided a totally linked and integrated air defense network around vital areas including Hanoi and Haiphong Harbor, the two most strategic areas. This air defense system proved too dense and advanced for American carrier-launched aircraft to reliably penetrate and deliver ordnance. Indeed, during Operation LINEBACKER II, only B-52Ds with their improved Electronic Countermeasure (ECM) packages, proved able to operate in the zones. This represented a failure of American carrier air power. If the multiple aircraft carriers operating in the Gulf of Tonkin could not reliably penetrate North Vietnamese air defenses, what chance did they have off the Kola Peninsula or the Baltic?
Despite an air defense network similar to that installed over Hanoi, U.S. Naval Aviation contributed, but did not prove decisive in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. While fixed-wing, fast moving aviation assets provided impressive combat support, it took US Air Force F-117 Nighthawks, cruise missiles, and Air Force delivered precision munitions to penetrate the Iraqi air defense screen. Naval air forces proved totally unprepared for the precision munitions revolution, lacking laser target designators on the A-6s and A-7s that still formed the mainstays of the fleet. Instead, most naval aviation delivered Mk 80 series unguided weapons instead of the Paveway series carried by a small but growing section of Air Force platforms, including the Nighthawk. This made them incapable of delivering ordnance to targets with high risk of collateral damage and precluded many targets in Iraqi population areas, limiting the force’s contributions to the campaign to tactical and some operational strikes.
In the Balkan wars and later in Iraq and Afghanistan, American naval aviation never again faced an integrated air defense system. High hard decks precluded the efficacy of man portable surface-to-air rounds and obsolete mobile systems made air defense suppression a forgone conclusion rather than an aspirational goal in the early 2000s. Naval aircraft, belatedly modernized to take full advantage of the precision munitions revolution, delivered substantial amounts of ordnance in these conflicts, complementing American land-based air power. However, the aircraft lacked on station time and payload, showcasing a service preference for multi-role fighter-bombers with limited range vice the ultra-long range fighter and attack aircraft required for intercept and long-range anti-surface warfare. However, confronted with a total lack of modern air defense systems, they, like the Air Force, reigned supreme.
Never in its history has American naval aviation confronted a state-of-the-art, integrated air defense system and provided effective, strategic ordnance. Hypothetically, at times during the Cold War, American strike-configured carriers might have done so, but an era of fiber-optically interlinked, multi-frequency, phased array air defense systems totally precludes such operations. Moreover, naval aviation assets lacked the range to strike strategic targets deep in mainland China and central Russia, limited to around 1,000nm inland.
Modern Aircraft Carrier Utilization in Great Power War
The utility of the STRIKE carrier in great power conflict is over. More accurately, as the previous section highlighted, it never really existed. American strike carriers throughout their history proved incapable of gaining and maintaining access to heavily defended areas and this trend will only grow more severe. China’s Great Wall of air defense on the northern Taiwan Strait will again preclude American carriers from gaining access to strategic areas in mainland China. Russia’s high-value areas are already well defended. China’s continued investment in air defense systems will cause this problem to continue to distribute throughout Asia. Further, a series of anti-access systems fielded by China, but also increasingly by Russia, are pushing U.S. carrier task forces out of range of present naval aircraft.
American planners are hoping, almost as a matter of faith, that an increase in the range of carrier-based aircraft would provide for continued access. This approach is wrong-headed. First, what land targets would such aircraft service? Perhaps Hainan Dao, or some rocks in the South or East China Sea, hardly a war-winning strategic strike. Second, how will these aircraft gain access in order to deliver the strike? American naval aircraft are too obsolete to deal with any but the most lightly defended of modern targets, and the F-35 will not markedly change this equation.
So let’s give up? Call it a day? Beef up Air Force appropriations? Not even close. American naval air power is the critical capability in the U.S. arsenal in the Western Pacific and the North Atlantic. Instead, force planners should recall why the U.S. built aircraft carriers in the first place, and where they last played a critical strategic role: in anti-surface warfare and fleet air defense. American carrier air power in the Pacific War hinged not on great strikes against the home islands, but rather on massing striking power against Japanese naval surface forces, Japanese air forces, and by protecting the fleet during operations and major landings. This is where naval aviation must again put its efforts.
Air wings at present are much better configured for low-risk ground attack than for operations against other navies. Air operations in the Pacific War required mass, exercising Halsey’s axiom that carrier air power increased at the exponent of the number of carriers engaged. Those operations encompassed large sorties, with hundreds of aircraft in major fleet actions. Over the past twenty-five years these skills have been lost. American carrier forces now exercise in single or dual carrier configurations. In Halsey and Spruance’s era, their fleets swelled into double digit large flattops, with myriad small deck escort carriers providing combat air patrols, anti-submarine forces, and landing support. Additionally, that war featured raids of hundreds of naval aircraft against enemy surface formations. Critics will claim that such mass is no longer required in the precision munitions era but such claims ignore that defense systems have also improved dramatically, making saturation the only sure way to put sophisticated, modern air defense ships out of action. To be clear, this author is not advocating a wholesale return to Nimitz’s fast carrier task force. However, the tactics, techniques, procedures, and training of American carrier air forces are out of touch with a modern, sea-control war, and a single U.S. CVN must be able to generate the mass and firepower necessary to fight in a modern, contested sea environment.
American naval aviation forces have not experienced platforms with the anti-air capabilities of ships as capable as the current generation of Chinese Navy Luyang hulls. U.S. tactics presently involving two or four aircraft sorties are totally inadequate for destroying an AEGIS-equivalent ship. To overwhelm a Chinese, or even an aging Russian surface formation, will likely require dozens of anti-ship cruise missiles. A single carrier must contain the capability to put such a ship (ideally many such ships) out of action, quickly. However, at present such a task requires the bulk of a modern air wing to generate the volume of fire required. This would likely also require a total re-arming of carrier magazines with a focus on sea control weapons and systems lest a CVN run itself out of anti-ship missiles in a few early engagements.
Moreover, distributed lethality requires a distribution of air power. Without fast-moving defensive counter-air formations operating with small surface action groups, American light forces will find themselves extremely vulnerable to attack. Modern surface combatant anti-air weapons range remains about 100nm. Modern air-launched anti-ship cruise missiles regularly feature twice that range and increasingly much greater. Without defensive counter-air formations attached to light surface forces, enemy aircraft will use the haven of range to mass firepower, overwhelming a formation’s air defenses while maintaining relative safety over the horizon. Allowing distributed light forces some measure of defensive counter-air capability will allow those formations to break up air attacks, ideally precluding saturation of U.S. platforms, offset electronic emissions away from the formation to make enemy targeting of the group more difficult, and therefore dramatically increase survivability.
The United States certainly has the capability to maintain the primacy of its carriers, especially in the maritime-dominated Western Pacific. The U.S. must use its large-decks to maximum potential. This includes American large-deck amphibious shipping, in the form of LHDs and LHAs. Such ships’ amphibious capability will likely not add much to the initial phases of great power war when sea control and air superiority are contested. Importantly, small carriers proved highly useful in both Atlantic and Pacific theaters of the Second World War, providing long-range air defenses for convoys and robust anti-submarine capability outside of the range of land-based air power. In the 1960s, the U.S. began using Essex-class carries in an anti-submarine configuration (CVS vice the strike carrier CVA). In fact, USS Intrepid, a CVS-configured carrier, conducted strikes into northern Vietnam off Yankee Station, when it became apparent that PRC submarines did not pose a serious threat to the American Carrier Operating Areas (CVOAs). Likewise, the British prioritized antisubmarine work and limited air defense capability in their Invincible-class light carriers which featured heavily in the Falkland Islands War. American Wasp– and America-class ships, loaded with F-35s, SH-60s, and MV-22s, can provide the same – an air defense, anti-surface, and anti-submarine screen. Operating in the vicinity of a Surface Action Group Operating Area (SAGOA), the large-decks could provide on-station defensive counter-air, visually identify unknown contacts, and augment the ASW aircraft from a SAG to increase the group’s submarine localization and anti-surface strike capacity.
American naval forces are only a fraction of the way to recognizing the capabilities the MV-22 provides. At present, the U.S. Navy has only tested MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft in a Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) capacity, the CMV-22. However, the aircraft retains substantial potential in anti-submarine warfare and airborne early warning, among other uses. U.S. Navy carrier task forces until the early 2000s incorporated the S-3 Viking aircraft, a high-subsonic anti-submarine jet. These aircraft retired in the early 2000s due to lack of fleet interest in anti-submarine warfare. In the heavily contested North Atlantic or Western Pacific, against foes with modern undersea forces, such a capability once again is required. The MV-22 would expand this capability. While slower, it provides potential marked improvements in range, low-altitude handling, on station time, and sensor payload. Such aircraft would provide a step-increase in surface-force ASW capability, potentially loaded with dipping sonars, sonobouys, and a large number of Mk 54 torpedoes. Further, mounting a high-performance radar on such an aircraft would allow some measure of airborne early warning to small surface units. Combined with point-to-point data links, these aircraft could provide over-the-horizon situational awareness while limiting surface force’s radar transmissions. This would complete the capability of the light-carrier air group described above and substantially increase the lethality of the small satellite surface groups orbiting the aviation ship. Additionally, due to their vertical takeoff and landing capability, the MV-22 could potentially lily pad off smaller ships, particularly the huge flight decks of Independence-class Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) increasing their time aloft forward. While heat management proved frustrating early in the aircraft’s tenure, this issue has been fixed with temporary heat shields which could be staged onboard. The MV-22 provides a cheap method to reconstitute integrated ASW capability and provide survivable, high-speed warning and reconnaissance.
U.S. Naval Aviation must train for saturation raids, publicly. Saturation attacks are a lost art, and likely aviation forces have much to learn. Such attacks will require heavy coordination between aircraft and squadrons, flexing intellectual muscles left dormant since at least the end of the Cold War. Is a saturation attack down one bearing better, with inbound missiles exceeding the target’s sensor capacity in a single direction, or better from multiple vectors or compass points, overloading close-in defenses? Such questions require at-sea testing. Additionally, such training is an important signal to U.S. maritime adversaries. The fact that U.S. naval aircraft are prepared to destroy high-end platforms, and have the capabilities to do so, emphasizes U.S. resolve in an era and in areas where such capability is in question.
Ultimately, the F-35 has a huge role to play in a reconfigured carrier air wing. Without it, the U.S. Navy will have no answer to the range of proliferating fifth generation fighters it would face in the Barents, Baltic, or China Seas. Joint Strike Fighter’s use is not bombing the Senkakus or trying to break into mainland China’s air defense network. Instead, only the F-35, to include or perhaps even feature the F-35B flown off LHDs and LHAs, can provide the protection of U.S. light forces and the carrier itself with an aircraft capable enough to survive in a modern air war. Forward distribution of the F-35 in support of U.S. light forces will provide a critical capability to those ships operating at the far reaches of U.S. sea control when they confront the J-20 and Su-35, armed with large numbers of long-range anti-ship missiles.
Finally, naval air must expand the capabilities of the legacy and Super Hornet variants of the FA-18 with software upgrades and improved radars and sensors, to help electronics warfare and battlespace awareness functions on the aging airframes to keep pace with F-35. The F-35’s stealth will not be decisive in future conflicts. The frequency agility of modern air defense sensors is just too good. Only the survivability and lethality of the weapons it carries will keep these airframes lethal into the future. Hornets must maintain their capability in the areas of fleet air defense and anti-surface warfare by a refresh of the aircraft’s sensors and systems. This is not to preclude F-35. Without the Joint Strike Fighter, the only fifth generation fighter available, American carrier air forces will be obsolescent by the end of the decade. However, the Hornets will also have to operate in the same environments, and need to be configured to do so.
American naval forces are not a tool for strategic strikes. Instead, they should be used operationally, to provide strategic affects. A great power war will require progressive sea control, as attrition dominates seagoing forces on both sides. At some point, one side or the other will alone maintain the capability to operate in the contested theater. Naval aviation should use its striking capability to advance this attrition-based operational concept as quickly as possible by massing its striking power quickly against targets. Only by eliminating enemy platforms and blinding adversary ISR assets will U.S. forces survive.
In order to do this effectively, U.S. naval air forces must support distributed forces. The can do so by coordinating with large-deck amphibious shipping to distribute their own lethality, providing defensive counter-air coverage and situational awareness to surface action groups operating on the front line of American naval power. This will free U.S. carrier aviation for anti-surface warfare and local air superiority.
The MV-22 is the great unrecognized platform with almost limitless potential for operational flexibility. With increased sensor loads and weapons, the tiltrotor can deliver long-endurance, low-altitude ASW and high-altitude situational awareness if properly configured. Such sea control capabilities would pay huge dividends in future naval combat.
At its base, this work is about naval aviation in an era of contested sea control. This era will require airborne forces to re-examine the assumptions of the past six decades of naval aviation, retooling the air wing for maritime strike. This will require radically different magazine selections on the carrier, likely some new weapons, including higher-capability anti-ship weapons, and a total retooling of air wing certification and training regimens. Aircraft carriers have a huge role in future wars, but the retooling of their aircraft and their operational concepts must begin now.
LT X is an officer in the United States Navy. Feedback should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org and will be forwarded to the author.
Featured Image: An aerial view of various aircraft lining the flight decks of the aircraft carrier USS INDEPENDENCE (CV-62), right, and USS MIDWAY (CV-41) moored beside each other in the background at Naval Station Pearl Harbor (Wikimedia Commons)
Source: CIMSEC “The Age of the Strike Carrier is Over”
Note: This is CIMSEC’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
March 18, 2017
Aircraft carriers have been the primary capital ship of naval combat since the 1940s, and remain the currency of modern naval power. But for nearly as long as carriers have existed, navies have developed plans to defeat them. The details of these plans have changed over time, but the principles remain the same. And some have argued that the balance of military technology is shifting irrevocably away from the carrier, driven primarily by Chinese and Russian innovation.
So let’s say you want to kill an aircraft carrier. How would you go about it?
On September 17, 1939, the German submarine U-29 torpedoed and sank HMS Courageous. Courageous was the first aircraft carrier lost to submarine attack, but would not be the last. Over the course of World War II, the United States, the UK and Japan lost numerous carriers to submarines, culminating in the destruction of the gigantic HIJMS Shinano in 1944.
Submarine-fired torpedoes remain a critical threat to modern carriers. Russian and Chinese submarines regularly practice attacks on U.S. carrier groups, as do those of allied navies. Modern torpedoes cause damage by exploding beneath a ship, an impact that can break the ship’s back with dramatic effects. Fortunately, no such torpedo has ever hit a ship the size of a U.S. supercarrier, although the U.S. Navy did conduct a variety of tests on the hulked USS America in 2005. Those tests, which may have involved underwater charges (of the sort that damaged USS Cole) did not result in America’s sinking; she was scuttled in the wake of the process. The short answer is that no one knows how many modern torpedoes a U.S. carrier could take before sinking, but we can estimate with little doubt that even a single torpedo would cause extensive damage, and severely impede operations.
In 1943, the Germans used a precision-guided bomb to destroy the Italian battleship Roma. Such bombs soon gave way to self-propelled cruise missiles, which could launch from aircraft, ships, submarines, or surface installations. During the Cold War, the Soviets developed a dizzying array of platforms for launching cruise missiles at carrier strike groups, ranging from small patrol boats to massive formations of strategic bombers.
Today, China, Russia and several other countries field a wide variety of cruise missiles capable of striking U.S. carrier battle groups. These missiles vary widely in range, speed and means of approach, but the most advanced can fly at high (often supersonic) speeds while offering a very low radar profile. As with torpedoes, the available evidence on the effectiveness of cruise missiles against a modern supercarrier is virtually nil. Much smaller ships have survived such hits, as have civilian tankers similar in size to CVN-78. Nevertheless, even a nonfatal cruise missile hit would probably result in severe damage to the flight deck, impeding or completely stopping flight operations.
The most important development in carrier-killing technology over the last decade has been the antiship ballistic missile (ASBM). The Chinese Df-21 has the potential to strike American carriers from heretofore unrealizable ranges, and threatens to penetrate existing defense systems. The missile can maneuver in its terminal phase, targeting a moving carrier on a high-velocity final approach. The kinetic energy alone of the weapon could inflict devastating damage on a flight deck, putting a carrier out of action if not sinking it entirely.
The development of the Df-21 has forced the U.S. Navy to significantly step up its ballistic-missile defense efforts. However, the ability of a U.S. task force to manage a large barrage of ASBMs is in great question; more than anything else, the development of the ASBM has forced the U.S. Navy to reconsider the role of the carrier in high-intensity warfare.
The new Ford class (CVN-78) carriers cost somewhere around $13 billion, a price that does not include the air wing. With a contingent of F-35Cs, F/A-18E/Fs and various support aircraft, the price of an individual carrier is simply staggering, and the numbers go higher when accounting for the escort group that a carrier requires. Although the per-unit cost will go down as more ships are acquired, the Fords take so long to build that each new ship will need to incorporate a host of new technologies, just as with the Nimitz class.
The tolerance for large defense expenditure in the United States has varied considerably over the past three decades. The Trump administration has combined a fondness for increased spending with a grand strategy of retrenchment, an odd pairing. If retrenchment takes hold, then generating enthusiasm for defense spending may become increasingly difficult. And at some point, the military utility of an aircraft carrier may become literally irrelevant, relative to the cost of building, maintaining and effectively deploying the ship and its air wing.
Excess of Caution
Maybe China and Russia don’t need to kill a carrier to drive the species to extinction. All of the factors above—the weapon systems that can kill carriers, and the costs associated with the ships themselves—come together to create caution about how to use the ships. In the event of a conflict, U.S. Navy admirals and the U.S. president may grow so concerned about the vulnerability of carriers that they don’t use them assertively and effectively. The extraordinary value of the carriers may become their greatest weakness; too valuable to lose, the carriers could remain effectively on the sidelines in case of high-intensity, peer-competitor conflict.
And if aircraft carriers can’t contribute in the most critical conflicts that face the United States, it will become impossible to justify to the resources necessary to their construction and protection. That, more than anything else, will lead to obsolescence, and the end of the aircraft carrier as the currency of national power.
Do these factors mean that the aircraft carrier has become obsolete as a platform? No. China and Russia have worked relentlessly on ways to kill aircraft carriers because they perceive those ships as critical security threats. Moreover, China and Russia have developed the array of systems they now deploy because aircraft carriers have good answers to many of these weapons. Finally, China has embarked on its own carrier program; the PLAN will soon operate the second-largest carrier force in the world.
Nevertheless, aircraft carriers face real dangers from advanced military technology. The greatest threat, though, probably comes from the procurement process; unless the United States can restrain cost growth in the carrier and its air wing, the ships will struggle to retain their place in the overall architecture of U.S. defense policy.
Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to TNI, is author of The Battleship Book. He serves as a Senior Lecturer at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky. His work includes military doctrine, national security, and maritime affairs. He blogs at Lawyers, Guns and Money and Information Dissemination and The Diplomat.
Source: National Interest “5 Ways Russia and China Could Sink America’s Aircraft Carriers”
Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
The class Type 002 is likely to be based on US models and not Russian ones unlike the first aircraft carrier, Liaoning.
By Nandini Krishnamoorthy February 22, 2017 09:54 GMT
As China is finishing the construction of its second aircraft carrier, it is reportedly building a third one that is likely to be based on US models. China is also planning to build five or six such aircraft carriers as it seeks to reinforce its claims in the disputed territories of the South China Sea, experts have said.
According to the Global Times, the newest aircraft carrier with the class name Type 002, which is being built in Shanghai, is likely to feature catapult technology that will allow jets with heavier load and endurance to be launched from it.
“In other words, 002 is entirely different from the Liaoning  and 001A [the second aircraft carrier], and it will look like a US aircraft carrier rather than a Russian one,” Li Jie, a naval military expert, said.
The third aircraft carrier is the latest in Beijing’s ambitious warship programme that includes building at least two such ships to counter the US Navy in the Asia-Pacific region. The Chinese navy is currently operating its first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, which was a refitted Soviet-era warship.
The second one that is on the verge of completion is also based on the same model but has more advanced features. The second one is said to be China’s first home-made vessel and is expected to officially join the navy in 2019.
Yin Zhuo, a senior researcher at the PLA Navy Equipment Research Centre, said China is building its third aircraft carrier “in order to protect China’s territories and overseas interests”.
“China needs two carrier strike groups in the West Pacific Ocean and two in the Indian Ocean. So we need at least five to six aircraft carriers,” the Communist Party mouthpiece cited him as saying.
The Chinese media have in the past reported about the possibility of a third aircraft carrier but it is the first time it has officially said it was being built.
The second aircraft carrier has already raised tensions as it is speculated to be based near the disputed South China Sea, which has been the source of friction between Beijing and the US and its regional allies. The carrier is being built at the port of Dalian but China is yet to officially announce a home for it.
The report about the Type 002 construction came two days after the US Navy deployed its aircraft carriers in the hotly contest waters in a challenge to Beijing’s claims.
The US on 19 February said an aircraft carrier strike group had begun what it calls “routine operations” in the mineral-rich international waterway. The group led by the Nimitz-class USS Carl Vinson kicked off its patrol with support from a fleet of warships, a move that raised further tensions between China and the US.
The development also comes within days of a warning from Beijing not to interfere with Chinese sovereignty in the region.
Source: International Business Times “China building third aircraft carrier to protect ‘overseas interests’”
Note: This is International Business Times’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.