National Interest Article’s Sensational Title Based on Rumors


National Interest’s article “Sunk: How China’s Man-Made Islands Are Falling Apart and Sinking Into the Ocean” on March 12, 2020 describes China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea by the phrase “Shoddy construction plus climate change equals unstable islands.”

Its an article “first appeared in 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest”, according to National Interest.

Now in the year of 2020, none of the islands has collapsed or sunk What is the article’s sensational title based on?

The article says, “Rumors suggest the new islands’ concrete is crumbling and their foundations turning to sponge in a hostile climate. And that is before considering what a direct hit from a super-typhoon might do”.

The rumors are not about fact but only suggest. Can such speculating rumors be the basis of the title that China’s artificial islands “are falling apart and sinking into the ocean”?

Perhaps, such false title may not upset National Interest as its readers like such sensational but false title.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on National Interest’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/sunk-how-chinas-man-made-islands-are-falling-apart-and-sinking-ocean-132047.


The US Losing Philippines Its Only Ally in South China Sea


CNN says in its report “Philippines formally ends Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with US” yesterday, “The Philippines has finally sent the United States a notice to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement, marking the start of the 180-day period from when the two-decade military pact will be effectively scrapped. Malacañang on Tuesday confirmed that the document has been signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Tedoro ‘Teddy Boy’ Locsin, Jr. and sent to the US government.”

That worries Philippine Senate Minority leader Franklin Drilon as according to him, scrapping VFA will make ineffective the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the two countries (EDCA), which allows the US military to use and control five bases in the Philippines. He says, “If the VFA and EDCA are no longer effective, then the MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries), as mentioned by Sec. Locsin, would be inutile and would serve no purpose,”

However, the MDT has already proved by facts as serving no purpose as proved by US inaction during the Scarborough standoff between the Philippines and China. The US did not defend Philippines’ claimed rights to Scarborough Shoal. As a result, the shoal has entirely been taken over by China and Philippine fishermen who fished on the shoal and in the area around the shoal, were forbidden to fish there.

The US told the Philippines to file an arbitration at The Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague and helped it to get a favorable ruling. The US sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to force China to accept the ruling but China challenged it with war. The US failed to fight a war to defend the rights the Philippines claims. Since the US has failed to defend the Philippines, the MDT has already been inutile and been proved serving no purpose.

Media are used to blame China’s influence for the Philippines distancing from its long-term ally the US. The truth is facts have made the Philippines see that its alliance with the US serves no purpose.

It is only possible for the US to defend the Philippines when China attack the Philippines but China simply will not do so. It has no intention to take back the islands and reefs it claims but are occupied by the Philippines. On the contrary, it wants win-win cooperation to exploit the natural resources in disputed areas.

Before Scarborough standoff, China and the Philippines both fished there but the Philippines tried to forbade Chinese fishing but had its own fishing banned by China there. The US did nothing to help the Philippines.

When he Philippines accepted China’s win-win suggestion, China allowed the Philippines to fish there.

The same with the exploitation of energy resources in disputed areas. China does not allow the Philippines to exploit the resources alone but is willing to conduct win-win cooperation with the Philippines in exploiting the resources.

If the Philippines is not willing, China can wait as it is rich and has no urgent need to exploit the resources. The Philippines, however, is poor and wants urgently to exploit the resources. As a result, it is trying hard now to find an acceptable way to cooperate with China to exploit the resources there.

The above proves that the US has in effect lost its only ally the Philippines in the South China Sea.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on CNN’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/2/11/Philippines-ends-VFA-United-States.html.


US Helpless as China Has Turned South China Sea into Its Lake


South China Morning Post’s article “Has the US already lost the battle for the South China Sea?” yesterday asked the stupid question whether the US has already lost the battle for the South China Sea.

It’s stupid as there has not been and will not be any battle there as by deployment of J-20s to control the air and construction of artificial islands the US is simply unable to fight a battle in the South China Sea.

Subdue the enemy without fighting is the best of best

                                                              –Sun Tze

The SCMP article says that some military experts and analysts believe China’s artificial islands may be destroyed by missiles but so are US military bases in Asia and the Guam.

If there were such a missile battle, it would be a battle in East Asia instead of a small battle in the South China Sea. In such a war, the US cannot be sure of the support from its allies Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines but China can be very sure of the support from its de facto ally Russia.

In fact, the US has lost dominance of not only the South China Sea but East Asia.

Comment on SCMP’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3046619/has-us-already-lost-battle-south-china-sea?utm_medium=email&utm_source=mailchimp&utm_campaign=enlz-scmp_international&utm_content=20200118&MCUID=480db96a00&MCCampaignID=ffe3a1a725&MCAccountID=3775521f5f542047246d9c827&tc=4


The English-speaking commander of China’s newest aircraft carrier the Shandong


Lai Yijun has a major in missiles and a reputation for stepping up when it counts

English is an important requirement as the PLA Navy strives to be considered an international force

Liu Zhen in Beijing

Published: 7:45am, 19 Dec, 2019

Updated: 10:52pm, 19 Dec, 2019

Lai Yijun is the captain of the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong. Photo: Handout

The captain of China’s newly commissioned aircraft carrier first made his international mark more than a decade ago.

Lai Yijun stepped in to take command of the guided-missile frigate Lianyungang during a multilateral live-fire naval exercise in Pakistan in 2007 when the vessel’s top officer fell sick.

It was the first exercise of its kind for the People’s Liberation Army Navy and involved warships from nine countries, including the United States, Britain, France and Italy.

Under Lai’s command, the Chinese frigate was one of the best performers in a competition to hit a surface target.

He was later promoted to commander of a frigate division in the East Sea Fleet.

Now Lai, who graduated from the PLA’s Dalian Naval Academy with a major in missiles, is at the helm of the Shandong, the first aircraft carrier built in China.

Trained at the PLA University of Foreign Languages and named the country’s commander of the year in 2010, Lai is in his forties, is fluent in English and was once considered to be a candidate for a Chinese embassy as military attaché, according to the Global Times.

English is an important requirement as the PLA Navy strives to be considered an international force.

Zhang Zheng, the former captain of the Liaoning, a converted Soviet-era carrier, was also in his forties when he took charge of the vessel in 2012 and had honed his language skills studying at Britain’s Joint Services Command and Staff College.

Alongside Lai is Pang Jianhong, the political commissar of the more than 4,000 troops on board.

Political commissar is a unique position within the PLA and goes back to the founding of the communist red army in 1927.

At all levels of the PLA, the commissar is a dual leader of the unit along with its military commander, and is in charge of Communist Party development and political ideology work in the military as well as building morale.

Pang is a seasoned political worker with experience as commissar of the guided-missile destroyer Xian and political director of a support ship flotilla.

According to the Global Times report, he was picked for the Shandong because of his ability to work with captains on previous assignments and expertise in talent development.

The Shandong was commissioned by President Xi Jinping in Sanya, a port in the southern island province of Hainan, on Tuesday.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: English-speaking captain of latest aircraft carrier reflects global ambitions

Source: SCMP “The English-speaking commander of China’s newest aircraft carrier the Shandong”

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


Chinese navy trains top guns to command expanding aircraft carrier fleet


Best pilots from carrier-borne squadrons sent to naval academy for warship training to meet ‘urgent need’ for commanders

They had to pass more than 10 assessments – from political thought to psychological testing – before they could join the programme

Minnie Chan

Published: 11:00pm, 11 Dec, 2019

Updated: 1:01am, 12 Dec, 2019

China’s second aircraft carrier, the Type 001A, is expected to be operational by the end of this year. Photo: Sina

The Chinese navy is training fighter pilots experienced in carrier-borne operations to command and manage its warships as it seeks to expand its global naval power.

Its best pilots from carrier-borne squadrons – including some qualified to fly fighter jets during both daytime and at night – were sent to a naval academy for warship combat and command training late last month, PLA Daily reported on Monday.

It did not say how many pilots had been selected, but all of them were required to pass more than 10 assessments – ranging from political thought to psychological testing – before they could join the training programme, the official People’s Liberation Army newspaper said.

Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said the programme would focus on command and control skills for air and sea operations, and some of the pilots would ultimately be selected to command China’s new aircraft carrier strike groups.

As part of its ambition to build a powerful blue-water navy that can operate globally, China plans to have four aircraft carriers in service by 2035. Its second aircraft carrier – the first built in China, known as the Type 001A – is undergoing sea trials and is expected to be operational by the end of this year.

Work on the more modern Type 002 carrier started two years ago and a naval source told the South China Morning Post that construction of a second Type 002 vessel could begin as early as 2021.

But they will need suitable carrier pilots to take command.

It’s quite an urgent need for the Chinese navy to have carrier group commanders – like its Western counterparts do – who are capable of commanding different warships and aircraft in modern joint-operation combat situations,” Li said.

Aircraft carrier strike groups are supposed to sail on the high seas and into unfamiliar territory, so aside from having a background as naval aviators, all commanding officers should have a broad set of skills and knowledge – from foreign languages and international maritime law to air and sea operations – to help them make good decisions,” he said.

Other navies, such as the United States Navy, require more experience for the role – commanding officers of US aircraft carriers must be former naval aviators as well as former captains of different types of warships.

For example, Captain Pat “Fin” Hannifin, commanding officer of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, has over 2,800 flight hours in 33 different aircraft under his belt. He was also executive officer on another aircraft carrier and commander of an amphibious transport dock.

Rear Admiral Li Xiaoyan, the first captain of China’s only active aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was a pilot with no experience on carrier-borne aircraft, though he did have experience on a destroyer and frigates. He was replaced by Zhang Zheng just days after the Liaoning formally joined the PLA Navy in 2012, and later by Liu Zhe – neither of whom had naval aviator backgrounds.

Li Xiaoyan was one of the first group of 10 pilots selected for a training programme designed specifically for China’s future aircraft carriers back in 1987. But the whole aircraft carrier plan was suspended in 1998 by premier Zhu Rongji for political and economic reasons, according to China’s Carrier, a book published by China Development Press.

Naval expert Li Jie said the Chinese navy now had to catch up in terms of training pilots, and especially commanding officers, for its aircraft carriers.

China resumed the aircraft carrier plan and in 2004 started refitting the hull of the Varyag. But after that first group of pilots was trained in 1987, there was no formal training in air and sea operations because there was no aircraft carrier training platform until 2012,” Li said, referring to the unfinished Admiral Kuznetsov-class vessel China bought from Ukraine in 1998, which became the Liaoning.

He said the latest training programme for commanding officers was a continuation of the one that began more than 30 years ago.

Source: SCMP “Chinese navy trains top guns to command expanding aircraft carrier fleet”

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


China’s Mini Aircraft Carriers Mean Business


And that Beijing won’t always follow America’s plans for military dominance.

by Michael Peck October 27, 2019

Key point: Military capabilities are about more than size.

Is China’s newest aircraft carrier half-full or half-empty?

That depends on how you look at the vessel’s aircraft capacity.

The ship, prosaically named the Type 001A for now, is China’s second carrier and the first built in China. The first carrier, the Liaoning, is a refurbished ex-Soviet vessel.

The Liaoning could carry twenty-four J-15 fighters. The Type 001A can carry thirty-six J-15s plus various support aircraft and helicopters, according to Chinese media.

Although the second carrier known as the Type 001A is similar to the Liaoning, it has an optimized flight deck, reduced weapon areas and a smaller superstructure with added deck areas,” a Chinese naval expert told China’s state-owned Global Times. “It also has an enlarged hanger, but reduced space for missile storage compared to the Liaoning.”

Interestingly, Global Times suggested that twenty-four J-15s on the Liaoning “could be a limit factor as a regional combat might require about 40 aircraft in order to seize air supremacy. The 36 fighter jets on the Type 001A would greatly expand its combat capability.”

But Global Times also noted that the United States “operates much larger aircraft carriers, including the Nimitz-class which can carry about 60 aircraft, while the country’s latest Ford-class can carry about 75.”

Where China’s inexperience with building and operating aircraft carriers is seen by critics as a drawback, Hu Wenming, chairman of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation and head of China’s aircraft carrier program, suggested that Chinese shipbuilders are both mature—and youthful—at the same time.

China now has a mature development and construction team, and the average age of team members is only 36,” he said. “Whatever type of aircraft carrier our country wants to develop in the future, we can make it on our own,”

It took only 26 months to build and launch the Type 001A, which is China’s first domestically developed aircraft carrier, almost half of the time for a foreign aircraft carrier of similar type to finish construction,” Chinese state-owned broadcaster CCTV added.

The Type 001A was launched in 2017, and has so far undergone six sea trials. Apparently, not all has gone smoothly, as the most recent tests suggested problems with the ship.

So how does the Type 001A rate as an aircraft carrier? The 65,000-ton vessel is dwarfed by a 100,000-ton U.S. Nimitz- or Ford-class carrier, which can carry almost double the aircraft of their Chinese counterparts. But the U.S. carriers are conventional World War II-style carriers that are essentially floating runways, with long flight decks in which aircraft are launched by catapult, and then return to make an abrupt arrested-wire landing.

The Type 001A is a Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL), or “ski-jump” carrier, with a sharply inclined bow for abbreviated takeoffs by aircraft that will then land vertically like a helicopter. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth-class uses the same approach: with the British flattops displacing about 65,000 tons and carrying about thirty-six F-35B STOVL aircraft, they’re equivalent to the Chinese carriers. Both classes are smaller and less capable than the American giants.

The problem with comparisons is that different nations need different aircraft carriers. The United States, accustomed to projecting power and prestige around the globe, relies on huge carriers that can sail to remote locations and launch a relatively large number of aircraft—a sixty-plane U.S. Navy carrier air wing is equivalent to about three or four U.S. Air Force squadrons.

China’s carrier fleet is still a work in progress. But the Type 001A will probably operate in the South China Sea or other waters not far from the Chinese mainland or island bases, where it would enjoy support from land-based aircraft or missiles. In that case, a Chinese carrier wouldn’t need to carry as many planes as an American vessel.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook. This article first appeared earlier this year.

Source: Nationa Interest “China’s Mini Aircraft Carriers Mean Business”

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 Aircraft Carriers Are Getting Stealth Fighters


And they have choices.

by Sebastien Roblin

China is steaming ahead with plans to build four large, flat-deck carriers equipped with catapults, having already launched two lower-capacity carriers with curved ski-ramp decks.

Meanwhile, the PLA Naval Air Force is already looking ahead to outfit those carriers with the gold-standard of twenty-first century military aviation: stealth fighters.

China has two designs it could have adapted for the job—and recent reports suggest it may have chosen the heavier, harder-hitting option.

The J-15 Flying Sharks currently in service are an adaptation of Russia’s Su-33 Flanker jet. On paper, the Flying Shark has marginally superior specifications compared to the FA-18E/F Super Hornets flown by the U.S. Navy.

But in practice, the J-15 still suffers from numerous flaws, particularly related to its engines. Four of the roughly fifty J-15s built have already been lost in accidents. Furthermore, the J-15 can only carry a very light payload when taking off from the curved deck of China’s first two carriers.

Though the catapults and larger flight decks on China’s next four carriers should address this problem, the PLA Navy is apparently interested in a step change to operating a stealth fighter.

Stealth technology is by no means a perfect defense, but it allows for drastically greater survivability when facing enemy fighters and air defense systems which could launch missile attacks from dozens of miles away.

For China, those threats could come in the form of U.S. or Japanese fighters armed with long-range air-to-air missiles and warships armed with the powerful, multi-layered Aegis air-defense systems.

But which jet?

China has two stealth jet options it could adapt for carrier operations: the heavier, twin-engine Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon stealth fighter already in service with the PLA Air Force—or the smaller, single-engine FC-31 Gyrehawk privately developed by the Shenyang Aviation Industrial Corporation.

The latter bears a strong resemblance to a slimmed-down American F-35 jet—perhaps related to the fact that F-35 design schematics were stolen from BAe computers in 2007.

The Chinese military has displayed the J-20 to the public in recent events, but it has yet to order any of the lower-end Gyrehawks—which are officially for export. The FC-31 would likely be re-designated the J-31 if it ever enters Chinese service.

Single-engine fighters are cheaper to build and operate, but typically carry less fuel and weaponry and often have lower maximum speeds. Relying on just one engine also means they are more likely to be lost in the event of an engine failure.

But space and weight are big issues when it comes to taking off and landing a huge fighter on a carrier deck. The J-31 reportedly weighs 17 tons empty and 31 tons at maximum takeoff weight, whereas a J-20 clocks in at 21 empty and maxes out at nearly 41 tons. Furthermore, the Gyrehawk is more compact at 17 meters long compared to the Mighty Drago’s 22-meters.

To be fair, however, the now-serving J-15s are already larger than both at 24 meters, so length may not be an insurmountable obstacle.

Of Fighter Jets and Economic Recessions

By mid-2019, analysts and media were increasingly convinced the slighter J-31 was more likely to find its niche as China’s carrier-based stealth jet .

But on August 27, an article in the South China Morning Post flipped the consensus on its head: according to journalist Minnie Chen, defense insiders had indicated China’s Central Military Commissions were secretly tilting towards the twin-engine J-20 over the J-31.

As the U.S. Navy has until recently relied on large twin-engine fighters (the F-4 Phantom, F-14 Tomcat, and FA-18 Hornet and Super Hornet), a larger carrier-based fighter is hardly beyond the pale. Despite the costs and disadvantages imposed by its size, the J-20’s likely higher maximum speed and capacious internal weapon bays suggest it might make a better interceptor and long-range strike plane.

The J-20’s claimed combat radius of 1,100 miles on internal fuel is more than double the unrefueled range of the American Super Hornet and beats the F-35C by nearly 66 percent. That means a Chinese carrier could theoretically launch J-20s to strike U.S. carriers or bases while remaining out of range of retaliatory strikes.

But according to Chen, the overriding factor favoring the J-20 is that it’s already in service and had matured from years of testing and operations, while only two FC-31 prototypes have been built.

The PLA Navy was not confident that the funding for such an expensive process could be assured in the event of an economic recession, and that it made more sense to stick with the proven J-20. As China has assigned different designations to its Flanker-family of jets (see the J-11, J-15 and land-based J-16), it possible a carrier-based J-20 will receive a new model and name, rather than being a sub-variant of an existing design.

While Chinese defense analyst Song Zhongping is quoted as suggesting the FC-31 might still show up as a little-brother complementing the J-20 on Chinese carriers, even Beijing will probably pass on funding two stealth fighters to perform broadly similar jobs.

What Would a “Mighty Sea Dragon” Look Like?

We can reasonably forecast that a “navalized” J-20 would likely include folding wings for easier stowage inside the carrier; a tail hook to snag arrestor cables while making a landing approach; heavier, ruggedized landing gear designed to latch onto catapults and absorb the harsh shock of a carrier landing; and some form of automatic carrier-landing systems.

These modifications will add weight and decrease speed and range. Chinese engineers may try to compensate by trimming other systems, using more lightweight composite materials and/or enlarging the fuel tanks.

However, Chen’s reporting indicates that Chengdu is working on a shortened J-20 airframe to ensure compatibility with the catapult system on the forthcoming Type 003 carrier.

Another modification Chinese engineers might consider, found in the F-35C carrier fighter, is enlarged wings that generate more lift, allowing for slower speeds when attempting a tricky carrier landing. But airframe modifications could be complicated by the need to preserve the base plane’s stealthy geometry.

In early January, there were also graphics shown on Chinese media revealing Chengdu was investigating developing a two-seat J-20 variant optimized for the strike and/or electronic warfare role—and possibly capable of carrier operations. Back seaters greatly ease the load on pilots when handling guided air-to-ground weapons or jamming systems.

Again, however, stretching out a stealth jet for an additional crew member without increasing its radar cross-section could prove difficult—which explains why no one has developed a two-seater stealth fighter so far.

Both Chinese jets suffer from jet engine troubles. While China is struggling to finish development of an indigenous WS-15 turbofan engine for the J-20, it is making do with a Russian AL-31F turbofan with can produce only 77 percent of the thrust. Meanwhile, the FC-31 relies on the Russian RD-93 engine, while it awaits completion of a WS-15 turbofan also intended for use on JF-17 Thunder export fighter.

According to Chen’s sources, it will be at least a decade before China’s naval stealth fighters are operational, so the J-15 will doubtlessly take the lead on operations from China’s forthcoming flat-deck carriers. However, the question remains whether the PLAN will seek an all-stealth carrier air wing, or retain mixed wings including stealth jets and non-stealthy J-15s—similar to the U.S. Navy’s plans to mix Super Hornets and F-35C fighters.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

Source: National Interest “China’s New Aircraft Carriers Are Getting Stealth Fighters”

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.