Friday, March 11, 2016

Where Will China's Carriers Sail?

China is thinking about where to put their carriers. I'd dangle them in front of our Navy.

This is interesting:

Analysts with insight into the planning of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) state that the series of aircraft carriers the service intends to build will be used in different, but potentially provocative, operational roles. Rather than being used for power projection missions in the manner of US Navy carrier battle groups, the carriers will instead be inserted into regions where Beijing feels compelled to buttress its territorial and economic interests.

Most obviously these include the disputed territorial waters of the East and South China Seas. In these scenarios the carriers would be used as floating aerodromes and used to fill in gaps between China's artificially constructed islands to create a contiguous air defence network.

If I was the grand commissar of the Chinese military, in wartime I'd want to keep America's carriers away from China, as we can do in peacetime:

The USS John C. Stennis, the carrier, arrived in the South China Sea on Tuesday, Navy officials said. It is accompanied by the cruiser USS Mobile Bay and the destroyers USS Stockdale and USS Chung-Hoon, said Navy Cmdr. Clay Doss, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet. The ships arrived in the Western Pacific on Feb. 4 on a deployment from the West Coast of the United States.

To win a war to buttress their territorial interests, China does not need to defeat our military. The Chinese just need to delay our military's intervention while they achieve their territorial objective.

So if China wants to pick up territory in the East China Sea, the South China Sea, or the big prize at the top of China's growing list of core interests--Taiwan--the Chinese just have to delay our military response long enough to achieve their military goals.

So if I was thinking of what to do with my shiny new carriers, I'd put them east of my objective to slow down an American charge west to stop the real Chinese military mission of conquest.

As I wrote concerning a Taiwan scenario long ago:

Major fleet elements of the PLAN, including their carrier battle group(s), will deploy to the north and east of Taiwan to complicate any American or Japanese decision to send forces to help Taiwan. ...

I think they will refrain from striking first but will put forces in positions that will be threatening to us if left alone. The time it will take for the US to decide to engage Chinese PLAN forces will be valuable. The Chinese will sacrifice their fleet to take Taiwan, if necessary. They think long-term, remember? So what if they need another twenty years to rebuild what we sink?

China has not given up on their goal of taking Taiwan, despite their smiling charm offensive in recent years:

China will never allow the tragedy of Taiwan being "split" off from the rest of the country to happen again, state media on Sunday quoted President Xi Jinping as saying, offering a strong warning to the island against any moves towards independence.

And the presence of Chinese carriers sailing east of Taiwan could be an irresistible lure for our Navy, whose modern legacy is built on the carrier clashes of the Pacific in World War II. We could easily take our eye off the ball of preventing China from conquering Taiwan while we took the time to relive the glory days of 1942-1945 and smash China's carriers.

Certainly, we could not ignore Chinese carriers barring our path to Taiwan (or wherever). But we should remember that winning the naval battle isn't the same as winning the war if China holds the ground and we have to mobilize our forces to retake what was lost.

Or would we just accept the loss of land rather than risk a longer war with a nuclear power?

That's what I'd do with the carriers if I was supreme commander of China's military.