5 Ways Russia and China Could Sink America’s Aircraft Carriers


USS George Washington transits the Pacific Ocean. Flickr/U.S. Navy

Robert Farley

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?

Torpedo

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.

Cruise Missile

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.

Ballistic Missile

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.

Cost Overrun

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.


China’s New High Tech Naval Mine May Sink US Aircraft Carrier


China’s New High Tech Naval Mines able to attack US aircraft carriers

China’s New High Tech Naval Mines able to attack US aircraft carriers

China has made high-tech naval mines with sound, electromagnetic and rocket technology. Some of the mines can lie deep in the bottom of the sea, shoot up by its rocket, track its target and hit it when its sensor finds warship coming. They constitute great threat to US aircraft carriers.

Source: mt.sohu.com “China makes known its new-type deep-sea killer: No return for US aircraft carrier” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

Related post
China Developing Crab Torpedoes, Super Hornet Program to Destroy US Aircraft Carriers dated March 4, 2014


Jane’s: China’s Type 022 Missile Boats Scare US military with Their Strength


Type 022 Fast Attack Missile Craft launches a missile

Type 022 Fast Attack Missile Craft launches a missile

Recently, China’s official media has disclosed that Chinese Navy’s new stealth fast missile boat excelled in a drill and proved their formidable power in long-range attack.

Britain’s Jane’s Defence weekly believes China’s Type 022 (also called Houbei class) stealth fast missile boat is perhaps the first stealth fast missile boat in the world that adopts wave-piercing technology. Its three great advantages of high speed, quietness and undetectability make it so powerful that under certain circumstances, it may scare away a US aircraft carrier.

Its shape with lots of sharp angles greatly reduced the reflection of radar wave.

Its water jet propulsion avoids the noise caused by the air bubble in propeller propulsion to make it very quiet.

In my post “China’s Type 022 Missile Fast Boat Cannot Be Detected by Tens of Radars” on October 28, 2013, I said a reporter of Chinese Navy’s website navy.81.cn was on board of a Type 022 missile fast boat to watch the drill of a flotilla of Type 022 fast boats. According to him, the boats’ stealth function is so superb that tens of radars cannot detect them while their coating is so wonderful that one cannot see them until they have come quite close.

Jane’s weekly said in its report that the boats’ eight YJ83 new-type medium-range (150 km) anti-ship missiles can attack multi-targets beyond visual range. A flotilla of more than two dozen such boats can conduct saturate attack by simultaneous fan-shaped launch of all the boats’ missiles.

That is quite formidable as the boats can approach enemy fleet to a very short distance without being detected due to its radar and optical invisibility and quietness. They may leave the battle field after firing their missiles as due to the boat’s advanced data link, they can leave the missiles to the care of Chinese AEW&C aircraft or warships.

Each boat has a 30mm six-barrel high-speed gun for short-range air and missile defense.

The boat’s multi-purpose radar can search and lock on targets both in the air and at sea, guide anti- ship and aircraft missiles. It has also optical-electronic and infrared tracking devices and laser distance measuring device. In addition, it can provide navigation guidance and short-range early warning for other boats that are maintaining radar silence.

In my post “China’s Houbei class fast-speed missile boats” on June 1, 2012, I quoted an article for the United States Naval Institute by John Patch, a retired U.S. Navy officer, as saying, “This craft is a purebred ship killer, perhaps even a carrier killer”.

Source: qianzhan.com “Jane’s: PLA Type 022 stealth missile boat with outstanding strength that scares even US military” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

Related posts:

  • Dense Firing Drill of China’s 022 Fast Boats Regarded as Aircraft Carrier Killer dated April 6, 2014
  • China’s Type 022 Missile Fast Boat Cannot Be Detected by Tens of Radars dated October 27, 2013
  • A Pretty Girl Is China’s Houbei Class Missile Boat Designer dated November 12, 2012
  • Close Views of Water Jet Propeller of Type 022 Missile Boat dated October 10, 2013
  • China’s Houbei class fast-speed missile boats dated June 1, 2012

China’s Type 022 Missile Fast Boat Cannot Be Detected by Tens of Radars


Fleet of Type 022 missile fast boats not detectable by tens of radars

Fleet of Type 022 missile fast boats not detectable by tens of radars

According to a reporter of navy.81.cn who was on board of a Type 022 missile fast boat to watch the drill of a fleet of the fast boats, the boats’ stealth function is so superb that tens of radars cannot detect them while their coating is so wonderful that one cannot see them until they have come quite close.

In the drill, they successfully overcome electromagnetic disturbance and hit their targets

Source: huanqiu.com “China’s Type 022 missile fast boat has so good stealth function that tens of radars cannot detect them” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

Related posts:

  • China’s Houbei class fast-speed missile boats dated June 1, 2012
  • A Pretty Girl Is China’s Houbei Class Missile Boat Designer dated November 12, 2012
  • Close Views of Water Jet Propeller of Type 022 Missile Boat dated October 10, 2013

Close Views of Water Jet Propeller of Type 022 Missile Boat


Web user’s photo of the water jet propelling device of Type 022 missile boat. Credit: Binbinyouli (bbs) of fyjs.cn

Web user’s photo of the water jet propelling device of Type 022 missile boat. Credit: Binbinyouli (bbs) of fyjs.cn

Type 022 missile boat (Houbei Class missile boat) is a new generation of PLA navy’s missile fast boat first built by Shanghai Jiangnan Shipyard in April 2004. It got the name due to the number 2208 of its first boat. Type 022 fast boat is the first missile fast boat in the world that adopts high-speed wave-piercing design. According to foreign media, more than 80 such boats have so far been launched and commissioned.

There has been report in foreign media that Type 022 missile boat is obviously superior in its speed due to its wave-piercing design and water jet propelling device. In a naval battle, it goes close to its target at 45 knots and leaves at the speed of 50-55 knots after it has reached the target area and carried out the attack. It is said that water jet propelling device has also been used in Chinese navy’s newest three hull prototype.

The report provides 6 photos of the water jet propeller, the other five can be seen at http://mil.huanqiu.com/photo_china/2013-10/2711799.html.

Source: huanqiu.com “Close Views of Water Jet Propeller of Type 022 Missile Boat” (translated from Chinese by Chan Kai Yee)

Related post

  • China’s Houbei class fast-speed missile boats dated June 1, 2012
  • A Pretty Girl Is China’s Houbei Class Missile Boat Designer dated December 22, 2012

China: DF-21C Aircraft Carrier Killer Missiles Showed Their Strength in Gobi Desert


Launching operaters running to their positions promptly

Launching operators running to their positions

PLA Pictorial: Draw bow for shooting on a horse in vast desert, a great general once said. In midsummer a certain unit of the Second Artillery Corps went fully out will all its equipment to the Gobi Desert.

The unit relied on its missile command information system to merge into one the training of its command platform, missile weapons and insurance equipment and technology.

They carried out a comprehensive computer simulation with integration of mobile battle elements, combination of battle units and merger of battle systems.

Quick maneuver in complicated landscape

Quick maneuver in complicated landscape

At the site of drill, the mobile command cabin laid silently under cover of modern stealth technology at the desert. Through various monitors, the commander haf full views of the situation of the entire battlefield while combat and communications staff stayed put in their combat positions.

There are waves of sounds from their keyboards.

Single element actual feeding operation

Single operator controls

In the past, the missiles stayed stationary in deep mountains with difficulty of maneuver. Launching depended on weather while maneuvers depended on topography.

Over the past few years, along with the commissioning of an amount of information technological equipment, the unit has traveled many times to all places to the south and north of the Yangtze including deep mountains and forest and vast desert. The integration between people and new-type missiles has been continuously enhanced and nearly one hundred training achievements have been obtained.

Training to integrate various telecommunications elements

Training to integrate various telecommunications elements

This drilling was carried out focusing closely on the themes of the systems conducting battle in the very cold weather of Gobi Desert, integrated training of combination of new equipment under complicated electromagnetic environment and fighting while defending itself under heavy enemy fire.

Throughout the training of operation in real war, there was the atmosphere of real war.

The officers and soldiers had to create new movements, overcome dangers and resolve difficulties under various complicated circumstances.

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “Second Artillery Corps’ DF-21C missile troops showed their strength in desert” (translated from Chinese by Chan Kai Yee)


A Pretty Girl Is China’s Houbei Class Missile Boat Designer


She may be 40 now, but still looks young in photos. However, nearly 2 decades ago in 1994, she was assigned chief designer of China’s well-known Houbei Class fast attack missile boat. At that time, she was the youngest chief designer ever in China.

There are now three flotillas of more than 80 such boats in Chinese navy. According to a retired US navy officer, the boat is a purebred ship killer, perhaps even a carrier killer.

When she was appointed, fast boats seemed outdated. Perhaps, that was the reason to entrust a young girl the design of a new type of it, though she had already made prominent achievements in fundamental research.

Through 8 years of hard work, she finally succeeded in developing that very advanced fast stealth boat able to operate at high sea. She won a PLA scientific and technology progress award for that in 2002.

When she was asked in a recent interview why she was always happy in the company of lonely data and silent drawings, she said, “A career will give you enjoyment and happiness if you really love it and do it with thorough dedication.”

Perhaps because of her dedication, over the past 5 years, she has been in charge of 50 research projects and completed over 50 research reports and 18 research treatises.

Source: mil.huanqiu.com