A Chinese Navy with 10 Aircraft Carriers? It Could Happen


It could be the reality by 2049

by Richard D. Fisher Jr.

Key Point: Limiting China now may prevent this.

In his reaction to the December 6 Chinese Global Times article quoting experts saying China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) may require five or six aircraft carriers, David Axe wrote an article asking, “Could Beijing really pull it off?” The short answer is that Beijing is just getting started.

For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) one of the most important missions for state media like the Global Times is to ensure that the Chinese people never doubt the increasing power of CCP’s dictatorship and that all others come to accept the inevitability of China’s “benevolent” global leadership. The Global Times and many other outlets daily promote scores of articles touting elements of Chinese power ranging from specific new weapons to China’s grand strategies. From now on, a major goal of China’s state media and its strategic information operations will be acclimating the world to a globally-projected People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

One key characteristic of such articles is that they usually do not convey new information, but can track with what is already reported or mentioned in publicly available information. For example, on December 31, 2008, Kenji Minemura of the Asahi Shimbun, reporting from Beijing and citing “military and shipbuilding sources,” wrote that China would build two “domestically produced” aircraft carriers in addition to the Varyag/Liaoning, purchased from Ukraine. Then on February 13, 2009, he reported China would build two nuclear-powered carriers “in 2020 or later.” So a decade ago Chinese “military and shipbuilding sources” mooted the goal of five carriers, but why should this be viewed as China’s final goal?

Signs abound that China is building or seeking the infrastructure necessary for global maritime projection. China has assembled design teams for non-nuclear (CV) and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVN) and has shipyards in Dalian and Shanghai now producing aircraft carriers. Multiple indications from Chinese sources indicate that after building two 65,000 ton CVs, the Shanghai yard will then start making larger CVNs for generations to come. Dalian could continue to build flattop carriers, or transition to landing helicopter dock (LHD) amphibious assault ships, but these might also follow the production of up to eight Type 071 landing platform dock amphibious assault ships. By 2049, the 100th anniversary of the CCP, the PLA could have over ten CVs and CVNs. In addition, Chinese sources indicate that the PLA Marines will be expanded to a force of 100,000, suggesting an eventual “Gator” navy of thirty to forty large amphibious projection ships.

The bases to support such a fleet is also discernible. In April 2013, the PLA revealed a newly-built naval base for its first aircraft carrier Liaoning in Qingdao, and before that, a new naval base in Yalong Bay on Hainan Island had been completed. Both today could likely accommodate four aircraft carriers. Should the PLA ever succeed in conquering democratic Taiwan, it is conceivable that Taiwan’s naval bases and ports, some newly built, could eventually accommodate at least six to eight nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. From Hainan and Taiwan bases, PLAN nuclear-powered carrier battle groups, including nuclear powered supply ships, could sortie very quickly to isolate Northeast Asia, isolate U.S. Navy forces in Guam and Hawaii, or project power to assert China’s interests in the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean, Africa, and in the Atlantic Ocean.

A global network of military access arrangements and bases is perhaps the second most important secondary product of China’s three to ten trillion-dollar Belt and Road initiative (BRI) and Maritime Silk Road infrastructure building initiatives; additional to the “purchase” of global governing political elites. PLA military network building has long complemented China’s economic and political power projection. Beijing’s economic and political muscle includes the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the pan-African China Africa Defense and Security Forum, and the clear intention to build a similar “forum” covering Latin America and the Caribbean. With the first real PLA foreign base or “logistical facility” in Djibouti, we can monitor Chinese interest in establishing similar military access in Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Maldives, Seychelles, Vanuatu, Fiji, Sao Tome and Principe, Nigeria, Zambia, and Venezuela. If the PLAN goes unchecked, it is reasonable to expect that around 2049, it could be supporting a presence in the Mediterranean, Atlantic Ocean, and the Arctic.

It is important to consider that this is just the tip-of-the-spear of the maritime dimension of China’s global projection of the PLA. There will also be hundreds of C-17 size 60-ton capacity Xian Aircraft Corporation Y-20 transports. Moreover, the help of Ukraine, Xian may also be producing one hundred ton capacity transports similar to the Antonov An-124. The PLA Airborne Corps is now introducing a second generation of light airborne armor and artillery, additional to new medium-weight wheeled armor units in the PLA Ground Forces, already available for airborne projection. There is also the PLA’s space power projection, with the PLA now racing the United States to the Moon where it will build dual-use bases for civil and military use to support military control of the Earth-Moon System.

Before one blanches at the many years of near trillion-dollar a year defense budgets necessary just to ramp up to the level needed to deter a globally-projected PLA, it is useful to consider the alternatives. By the time China has two carriers, a North Korean nuclear crisis could divert U.S. attention to the point of tempting China to initiate its long-planned invasion of Taiwan. In addition to the potential U.S. lives lost in this war, the twenty-one million people of Taiwan could suffer the humanitarian catastrophe of Xinjiang-like concentration camps to eradicate their democratic culture. This could then set a pattern for the coming century, as the United States and the democracies face repeated harsh choices of either opposing or accepting China’s all around aggression from the seas and space, to its imposition of new digital dictatorships.

But this not need not come to pass. The United States and the democracies can avoid spending decades relearning lessons from the last Cold War. It is possible now to start developing policies toward China based on the premise that the CCP constitutes an existential threat to the democracies. Limiting China’s broad access to economic and technical innovation centers in the democracies can be helped with a new global organization similar to the Committee on Export Controls (COCOM). For its part in the near-term, America can beat China to the Moon, and be the first to occupy strategic areas on its poles. Also, smart investments in defense systems with long-term impact can be made, such as considering a new class of 65,000 ton Landing helicopter dock ships armed with scores of vertical launchers for intermediate and medium-range ballistic missiles. Instead of retiring the U.S. Air Force’s B-1 bombers, repurpose them as supersonic maritime control strike platforms, maybe even giving them to the U.S. Navy.

Finally, after withdrawing from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, Washington should not limit itself to only investing heavily in its own short, medium, and intermediate-range missiles. America also should change longstanding policies limiting the missile arsenals of its allies, and then work with them to build new long-range deterrent capabilities. For them, missiles are a far less costly military investment, and they have a greater prospect for deterring the Chinese should America have to move its forces to counter Chinese aggression. Furthermore, only when the United States and its allies are so armed might China change its decades-long refusal to join arms control agreements which actually limit its missile forces.

Source: National Interest “A Chinese Navy with 10 Aircraft Carriers? It Could Happen”

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 Railgun Will Be Ready by 2025: US Intelligence


National Interest says in its article “RIP, U.S. Navy? Could China’s Naval ‘Railgun’ Be Ready by 2025?” that China’s railgun will be ready by 2025 according to US intelligence. However, the article points out that the railgun will not be used on a warship as it needs too much electricity. That is why the articles says, “Late last year, Task and Purpose suggested that the Navy (US Navy) was cutting back on funding for naval railgun research, in favor of other technologies such as lasers and hypervelocity projectiles that can be fired from conventional cannon.”

Why does China keep on its efforts in developing railgun then? The article says, “But it seems just as likely that China wants railguns because America wants railguns. As we know from the Cold War, keeping up with the Joneses—or the Wangs—can leave both parties with expensive gear they never really needed.”

The article regards China’s efforts as something out of Cold War mentality. It forgets what it says about the superiority of a railgun as a “true warfighter game-changer.”

Railgun is a formidable weapon that China has to develop whether the US makes or give up its efforts in developing it.

How can the US be so sure  that China cannot develop a naval power supply system to supply enough energy for a railgun by 2025?

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on National Interest’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/rip-us-navy-could-chinas-naval-railgun-be-ready-2025-89706


Exclusive: Satellite images reveal China’s aircraft carrier ‘factory,’ analysts say


Greg Torode, Michael Martina

October 17, 2019 / 2:17 PM / Updated 11 hours ago

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – High-resolution satellite images show that the construction of China’s first full-sized aircraft carrier is progressing steadily alongside expansive infrastructure work that analysts say suggests the ship will be the first of several large vessels produced at the site.

FILE PHOTO: A combination image of satellite photos shows Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, China on October 3, 2018, April 17, 2019 and September 18, 2019. Mandatory credit CSIS/ChinaPower/Maxar Technologies and Airbus 2019/Handout via REUTERS

The images of the Jiangnan shipyard outside Shanghai were taken last month and provided to Reuters by the non-partisan Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), building on satellite photos it obtained in April and September last year.

Noting a series of pre-fabricated sections, bulkheads and other components stacked nearby, CSIS analysts say the hull should be finished within 12 months, after which it is likely to be moved to a newly created harbor and wharf before being fitted out.

The vast harbor on the Yangtze River estuary, including a wharf nearly 1 kilometer long and large buildings for manufacturing ship components, is nearly complete. Much of the harbor area appeared to be abandoned farmland just a year ago, according to earlier images CSIS analyzed.

It dwarfs an existing harbor nearby, where destroyers and other warships are docked.

We can see slow but steady progress on the hull, but I think the really surprising thing these images show is the extensive infrastructure buildup that has gone on simultaneously,” said CSIS analyst Matthew Funaiole.

It is hard to imagine all this is being done for just one ship,” he added. “This looks more like a specialized space for carriers and or other larger vessels.”

Singapore-based military analyst Collin Koh said the modern, purpose-built facility on a sparsely populated island in the Yangtze may provide better security than the congested shipyards of Dalian in northern China. It could also help deepen co-operation between commercial and military shipbuilders.

The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies noted this year that China’s military shipyards were focusing increasingly on larger surface warships, “adding to the sense that Chinese naval-capability development may be entering a new phase.”

China’s navy has recently launched four large Type 055 cruisers and its first large helicopter carrier, known as the Type 075.

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China’s military has not formally announced the plans for the third carrier, designated Type 002, but official state media have said it is being built.

The Pentagon said it in its annual survey of China’s military modernization, published in May, that work on the third carrier had begun.

China’s Ministry of Defence did not respond to questions from Reuters.

Funaiole said the latest images appeared to confirm the earlier photos, which suggested the latest carrier would be somewhat smaller the 100,000-tonne “supercarriers” operated by the U.S. but larger than France’s 42,500-tonne Charles de Gaulle.

The images are due to be released by the CSIS China Power Project later Thursday

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Asian and Western militaries are tracking developments closely. They say this carrier would represent a vital step in China’s ambitions to create a far-ranging navy that can project power around the world to serve Beijing’s expanding global interests.

A series of recent Reuters Special Reports showed how that effort is challenging decades of U.S. strategic superiority in East Asia.

(Click this link to read the series: here (https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/china-army-xi/))

It is expected to be China’s first carrier with a flat deck and catapult launch system, allowing the use of a wider range of aircraft and more heavily armed fighter jets.

China’s first two carriers, which it has dubbed Type 001-class, are relatively small, accommodating only up to 25 aircraft that are launched from ramps built onto their decks. U.S. carriers routinely deploy with nearly four times the number of aircraft.

Foreign military attaches and security analysts say the Type 001 ships are expected to essentially serve as training platforms for what they believe will be fleet of up to six operational carriers by 2030.

They say the construction and deployment of aircraft carriers is considered exceptionally difficult to master. Protecting such a large and vital surface target with escort ships, submarines and aircraft is a core part of the problem.

The PLA navy is not saying much in detail about its plans now, but we can see from their building works that their ambitions are vast,” said one Asian military attache, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. “And they will get there.”

Koh, a research fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the new Jiangnan facilities looked permanent and reflected China’s long-held ambitions to bulk up its fleet with more carriers and other large vessels.

We are talking about infrastructure being built quickly and on a large scale. It could well be the start of a ‘factory,’ if you like, for carriers and other very large vessels,” he said.

Reporting By Greg Torode and Michael Martina. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Source: Reuters “Exclusive: Satellite images reveal China’s aircraft carrier ‘factory,’ analysts say”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Can the U.S. Navy Beat China’s New Type 055 Destroyer In a Fight?


A killer class of warships.

by Kyle Mizokami September 29, 2019

Key point: Although a response is not needed yet, America must figure out its priorities before China builds too many advanced ships.

Does the United States have an answer to China’s new Type 055 destroyers? Does it need one?

On July 3 Dalian shipyard launched two of the big new ships, with some reports suggesting that the class may extend to twenty-four vessels. The ships are large and have more VLS cells than Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers, although the latter still exceed the former in sensor integration and other capabilities.

Still, with the Navy’s cruiser force aging, does the U.S. Navy need to think seriously about its own large cruiser?

Description:

The Type 055 destroyers are large ships, probably displacing around thirteen thousand tons and carrying 112 vertical launch system (VLS) cells, in addition to a 130-millimeter gun and a wide array of sensors and defensive weapons. They are the world’s largest surface combatants apart from the Zumwalt class destroyers, which really are specialized land attack vessels. The overall production run remains uncertain, with a low estimate of six and a high estimate of twenty-four; much likely depends on how effectively the ship performs in PLAN service.

U.S. Response:

The United States has been slow to develop a replacement to the Ticonderoga class cruisers, which are somewhat smaller than the Type 055. The DDG-1000 class will end after three ships, and in any case the Zumwalts do not perform missions similar to the Type 055. The Obama administration cancelled the CG(X) program after cost projections became excessive. In response to the failure of the DDG(X) and CG(X) programs, the Navy decided to restart the Arleigh Burke program, which had the added benefit of improving ballistic missile defense capabilities. But apart from the Arleigh Burke Flight III ships, the U.S. Navy has no specific large combatants in its long-term plans. At the moment, the FFG(X) program is dominating the U.S. Navy’s procurement attention, as the shortcomings of the Littoral Combat Ship have demonstrated a need to fill the gap between the LCS and the Arleigh Burkes.

But the Ticonderogas will soon reach the end of their useful service lives, as will the oldest of the DDG-51 class of ships. Some have floated the idea of a cruiser based on the hull of the LPD-17, which would allow high energy production, a degree of modularity, and the inclusion of a wide variety of different systems. However, the LPD-17s are large and slow, likely incapable of keeping up with carrier battle groups. Another idea (floated by Tyler Rogoway, among others) is to modify the existing Zumwalt design for cruiser-esque purposes. But as of yet the Navy has made no firm determination about the future of its large surface combatant program.

The Need?

But then there is little obvious need for a direct analogue to specific Chinese ship classes. The existing cruisers and destroyers of the U.S. Navy perform roles essentially similar to that of the Type 055s, even if the latter carry more VLS cells. And the era in which individual ships fight each other independently is long in the past; indeed, even during the dreadnought era individual ship-to-ship comparison rarely played out in actual combat.

In a fight between the United States and China, the U.S. Navy would use a wide variety of air, surface, and subsurface systems to track and destroy the largest units of the PLAN. While the additional VLS systems and sensors of the Type 055 will undoubtedly increase Chinese capabilities, they won’t be directed towards any specific U.S. ship type (other perhaps than aircraft carriers). Similarly, the U.S. Navy will find it far more convenient to sink the Type 055s with submarines and air-launched cruise missiles than it will with any specific ship type. And so the question is less “can the United States match the Type 055” than “what hull or set of hulls will make it easiest to match the capabilities that the Type 055 can offer?” There are a variety of technological developments (VLS, power generation, sensor capability, and future avenues in railguns and lasers) that suggest that size may once again be rewarded in naval architecture; the Type 055s offer China’s initial answer for how to take advantage of these developments, just as the Zumwalts represented an exploration of those capabilities on the U.S. side. Unfortunately, the former seem more likely to see long-term success than the latter.

Wrap

So the short answer to the question “does the United States need to respond to the Type 055” is “no, not in the medium term.” The longer answer is that the U.S. Navy needs to figure out its procurement and shipbuilding policies soon in order to credibly approach design of the next big surface combatant. As the Ticonderogas continue to age, they will leave a gap that a new large warship needs to fill, even if it is never likely to meet the Type 055 in direct combat. China has decided to take advantage of the efficiencies inherent in a large hull-type, not because of any specific competition with the United States, but rather because of the evolution of key technologies. The U.S. Navy can also take advantage of these evolutionary developments, even if it doesn’t specifically think of matching the Type 055, but it needs to sort out its long-term shipbuilding plans.

Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to the National Interest, 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. (This first appeared in mid-2018.)

Source: National Interest “Can the U.S. Navy Beat China’s New Type 055 Destroyer In a Fight?”

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 Launches 1st Type 075 LHD for PLAN


China’s first amphibious assault ship, a Landing Helicopter Dock known as Type 075, was launched in Shanghai today.

Xavier Vavasseur 25 Sep 2019

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN or Chinese Navy), the customer of the vessel, said in a statement that after a brief ceremony starting at 9:20 am at a CSSC’s Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard, waters began to be pumped into a dry dock in which the ship’s hull was built.

Participants at the ceremony – officials from the central and Shanghai governments, officers from the Central Military Commission’s Equipment Development Department and the PLA Navy, executives of the State-owned conglomerate China State Shipbuilding Corp as well as the vessel’s designers and construction workers – applauded as they watched the launch process, the statement said, without providing more details about the event.

China Launched its 1st Type 075 LHD this morning.

According to the PLAN, the new class of ship was domestically developed and constructed. It will have a strong capability to carry out amphibious combat and other tasks.

The Chinese navy added that in the next phase, engineers will start outfitting and fine-tuning the vessel’s equipment and then conduct mooring tests and sea trials.

Type 075 compared to similar vessels

The Chinese Navy officially started in 2011 development work on the Type 075, a helicopter carrier project displacing more than 30,000 tonnes. Its aim is likely to increase the “vertical” amphibious assault capability with the very mountainous East Coast of Taiwan in mind.

As for its specifications, rumors speak of “36,000 tons of displacement”, “capacity of 28 helicopters”, “diesel engine with the 9,000 kW 16PC2-6B” and “four CIWS including two HQ-10 and two H/PJ-11”.

While the Type 075 appears to slightly smaller than the U.S. Navy’s LHA, it is larger compared to French or Spanish/Australian LHD equivalents. It is actually pretty close in size to Italy’s future Trieste LHD.

The first Type 075 was constructed in record time (this has become the norm nowadays, for Chinese shipbuilding: extremely fast construction pace that no one can match). A second vessel of the class is already under construction while a larger version is rumored to be planned.

A second Type 075 vessel is already under construction (on the right)

When fully operational, the new Type 075 LHD will bolster the PLAN’s amphibious capabilities, which today rely on the Type 071 LPD design.

Source: Naval News “China Launches 1st Type 075 LHD for PLAN”

Note: This is Naval News’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Hull of China’s 075 Landing Helicopter Dock Nearing Completion


China’s first Type 075 amphibious helicopter assault ship (Picture source: Chinese Internet)

China’s first Type 075 amphibious helicopter assault ship suggests the vessel may be completed in the next few months (Picture Source: Mike Yeo)

Navy Recognition says in its report “China’s First Helicopter Carrier Type 075 Nearing Completion” on August 27 that the hull of China’s first Type 075 landing helicopter dock is nealy completed and is expected to be launched early next year according to a photo on the internet.

The ship has an estimated displacement of 30,000 to 40,000 tons able to hold up to 28 helicopters and land 6 simultaneously on its deck according to the report.

The report says that three of such ships are in order. Those ships will greatly strengthen China’s amphibious force.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Navy Recongnition’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php/news/defence-news/2019/august/7431-china-s-first-helicopter-carrier-type-075-nearing-completion.html.


New Chinese Surveillance Ships to Detect Submarines


The type 927 (number 782) closely resembles U.S. ocean surveillance ships (Picture source: Chinese internet)

Navyreconginition.com says in its report “Three types of 927 surveillance ships entered China navy in 2018 and 2019” yesterday that according to photos circulated on Chinese internet over the past week, a new Chinese ocean surveillance ship has been completed and commissioned in southern China.

It says other two such surveillance ships are being built in Chinese shipyard. They are allo of SWATH designs extemely quiet especially when outfitted with electric motors. They are“especially useful for hydrographic surveying and research utilizing sonar and other sensitive acoustic equipment, and for locating submarines.”

They resemble U.S. Navy Ocean Surveillance Ships and may be equipped with advanced sonar arrays to detect and track submarines at great ranges. “Some can augment their passive listening arrays with low-frequency active arrays that send sound waves into the water to bounce off submerged submarine hulls to reveal their location,” says the report.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on navyrecognition.com’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://navyrecognition.com/index.php/focus-analysis/naval-technology/7426-three-types-of-927-surveillance-ship-entered-china-navy-in-2018-and-2019.html.