Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chinese Naval Aviation

China's developing fleet is making it far more important for our Navy to develop the ability to work closely with our Air Force to defeat China's navy and air force.

Aviation Week writes about China's medium-term carrier plans:

A plausible near-term projection for China’s aircraft carrier ambitions was revealed in two 2009 articles in Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper, which featured rare access to Chinese military and shipbuilding sources. The sources noted that China would first build two non-nuclear medium-sized carriers similar to the 50,000-ton ex-Soviet/Ukrainian Project 1143.5 carrier Varyag being rebuilt in Dalian Harbor. These carriers would start initial construction in 2009. Beginning in 2020 or soon after, two 60,000-plus-ton nuclear-powered carriers would follow, based on plans for the Soviet-designed but never built Project 1143.7 Ulyanovsk class.

This would mean a likely fleet of five carriers by the 2020s, including Varyag, which entered a phase of accelerated reconstruction in 2009.

It is unclear if the Chinese will follow the Russian tendency to backstop the offensive power of the planes with carriers equipped with long-range surface-to-surface missiles.

The Chinese are also buildling escorts for their carriers.

These will be very nice show-the-flag ships for the Indian Ocean circuit, for combat missions in Southeast Asia against small neighbors in pursuit of Peking's territorial ambitions, and as speed bumps deployed in the way of American naval forces attempting to come to the rescue of Taiwan should China decide to resolve that core interest by invading Taiwan.

Our Navy definitely needs to beef up reliance on shore-based air power (either the Navy's or the Air Force's) to assist our fleet's efforts to push through China's developing anti-access line in order to carry out missions close to China. AirSea Battle may not be anything new, but our Navy had the luxury of going it alone regarding China because China for decades lacked the capability of projecting power much beyond the range of shore-based artillery. That is changing and now we need to put into practice old practices of sea- and land-based air power to defeat a potential enemy.