Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Short But Glorious Life

Could China's carrier take on America's fleet? Of course not, but that isn't the right question.

Could the PLAN Liaoning take on even one of our big carriers?

Of course not. I won't even bother quoting the piece. The Chinese ship is inferior in capabilities to generate sorties, send the planes long distances, and have enough planes to defend their ship or attack ours with much chance of success. Our ship and plane crews are better individually and in the choreographed precision of carrier operations. It will take a long time for China to match that expertise. I doubt it will take decades, but it will take time to master those skills.

And this question is apart from whether carriers are even the major factor in sea control anymore.

But in the near future, Liaoning could serve one major purpose should the Chinese decide to invade and capture Taiwan. The ship could be dangled in from of the American fleet somewhere east of Taiwan, serving as a tempting shiny object for our admirals who haven't had the chance to sink an enemy carrier since the waning days of World War II:

I would like to contest the idea that China's aircraft carriers have no role in a Taiwan scenario.

It is true that with land-based aircraft and missiles, that China doesn't need a carrier to project air power to Taiwan.

But remember that attacking Taiwan is only half of China's focus on naval development. China also needs to deter or slow down American (and Japanese) intervention. That means that China needs to deal with our carrier task forces.

Land-based missiles and aircraft, minefields, and submarines should all be sent east of Taiwan to make us think twice about pushing close to Taiwan to throw our weight into the fight. That will cause us to approach a little more carefully once we do decide to intervene.

The Chinese aircraft carrier would have a role in slowing down our intervention, too. China's first carrier was for studying and training. China's true carriers will be Chinese designed vessels. Those China probably wouldn't risk. But the old Varyag? If I was in charge of the PLAN (People's Liberation Army Navy), I'd dangle that carrier and some escorts northeast of Taiwan. As I noted, its presence would give us pause. And force us to approach more cautiously.

The final contribution of that first Chinese carrier to delaying our intervention could be to tempt us into taking the time to set up and execute the perfect naval strike mission. Sure, having sovereign pieces of US territory that serve as power projection assets is useful. And the Navy trumpets that mission in budget battles. But the Navy--deep down--wants to exercise sea control and take down another navy that tries to wrest it from us. It would be the best SINKEX, ever.

The Chinese just won't care if they lose that first carrier task force if the end result is that China has control of Taiwan.

Remember, China doesn't have to defeat our Navy (and Air Force). China just needs to hold us off long enough to defeat Taiwan. That's a big difference. And the Chinese don't have such a huge attachment to their carriers as we do for ours. We may feel good to sink a carrier with carrier air strikes after so many decades have passed since the glory days of 1942-1945 in the Pacific.

But China will give us that good feeling if it buys them the time they need to conquer Taiwan. And they'll still have their home-built carriers to build a blue water navy that will be supported by air bases on Taiwan province of the People's Republic of China.

Forgive the lengthy quote. But that's it. China doesn't have to defeat America to capture Taiwan. China just has to delay American intervention long enough to capture Taiwan.

And dangling a carrier in from of our Navy's eyes, ripe to be sunk, could be a fatal distraction that gives China the win.