China’s ‘symbolic’ carrier threat

China’s ‘symbolic’ carrier threat

The debut of the J-20 may have surprised the top echelons in DoD — although officials took pains to pretend it hadn’t — but the progress of China’s “first” “aircraft carrier,” the Varyag, is right in line with what the intel guys projected, says Pacific Command boss Adm. Robert Willard. The Varyag, an old Soviet-era ski-jump carrier that Chinese shipyard workers have spent many past months refurbishing, is mostly a “symbolic” expression of China’s growing military power, Willard said, although it will get a lot more literal when it sails with an air wing aboard.

Almost any naval type — even the biggest advocates of carrier aviation — can quote you Adm. Hyman Rickover’s legendary response to Sen. Robert Taft’s question about how long his beloved nuclear carriers would last in a World War III scenario against the Soviets: “About two days,” Rickover said. In today’s missile era, carriers would probably never fight each other in a Midway or Marianas–style sea battle, although China’s carrier ambitions have created the impression in some quarters that Beijing wants to challenge American blue-water supremacy. That may well be true, but that’s why China is growing its submarine force — and the inverse also applies.

No, the carrier, as Willard said, is a symbol: How many times have you seen an action movie with an establishing shot of an American aircraft carrier? Cut to a dark combat information center with big computer screens on the walls and stern, buzz-cut sailors frowning into their consoles. A handsome American admiral sets down his coffee cup (with its Navy Wings of Gold logo) and says: “All right, terrorists, you asked for it: Advise Saber Two-Six he’s cleared hot to engage.” In the context of American military might, this generic scene is both powerful and unremarkable. No wonder Chinese military commanders want something that creates such an impression.

Here’s something else about naval aviation: It’s really complicated. And it’s really, really, really expensive. When the Pentagon announced last month the Navy would be helping with the Japanese earthquake disaster response, and specifically that it would be offering its ships as refueling lily pads for Japanese helicopters, reporters were puzzled. Can Japanese helicopters… y’know… go … on American ships, they asked? As DoDBuzz readers know, of course they can — sailors on American ships know how to land, chock, chain, refuel and service all kinds of international helicopters. (It doesn’t hurt that Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force also flies many American-style Seahawk helos.) But that expertise about cross-decking is born from years and years of hard-won experience. As are your standard cats and traps, and maintenance, and all the other daily aspects of life that today’s U.S. Navy makes look easy.

Bottom line: The U.S. and the other members of the fixed-wing naval aviation club are good at it — or not — because of how much time and money they’ve spent doing it. The question for China will be whether it wants to spend that kind of time and money on a “symbol,” or whether its carriers are going to be real-life warships. Whichever course China takes, it’s worth paying attention.

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I wonder whether the old Varyag is more valuable to the USN than the Chinese? The former badly needs a “threat” from a “near peer” to maintain the current carrier & air wing status quo.

The Chinese carriers will be part of an expeditionary force protecting Chinese interests around the world.

The constant claims that naval aviation is hard are way overblown, it’s a old technology and the Chinese learn at least twice as fast as Americans.

no surprise Oblat as an obama booster is also a mao/communist supporter…

I voted for the current guy, after the mess from the last guy, we’re still bailing water. i support moremax defence spending as possible, love my troops and my country proudly. if we think the last guy had our military’s best interests at heart, your kidd’n yourself. Give this guy a few more years and we’ll see. hopefully the holes from the last guy will at least be plugged.I don’t thinkhope he can as bad but we’ll see. jmho

Good Morning Folks,

Shock, Admiral Willard is making sense. It appears somebody took him out to the wood shed for an education in reality. What ever sir, welcome to the world of the sane Admiral Willard.

I know this will cost you a post retirement job with The Heritage Foundation or one of the other peculiar institutions that give old Admirals and Generals six and seven figure retirement incomes.

The butternuts of course will still see boogymen under the Chinese bed.

Byron Skinner

Carriers are a big target for a modern adversary. Let them build as many as they want I’d rather have more Virginia class subs.

I wonder if there is an underwater PREDATOR?

Good Evening Folks,

To Old Warrant. Yes there is they are called UUV’s. Most of their development is still secret, think U-214 technology, occasionally one will escape in the Chesapeake and the Norfolk Pilot will have post a notice, please if found return to USN, don’t open.

The current block of Virginia’s in production and later will have two larger vertical “torpedo tubes” for what ever comes out of the UUV program.

Byron Skinner

If I am not mistaken the Varyag was given over to Chinese ‘breakers” for scrap by Russia. Russia had no intentions or belief the PLA-navy would literally “Shanghi” that old VTOL-STOL aircraft carrier. I know Russia was unhappy when this old carrier was photographed with the PLA-navy crest on her bow years ago. As we all can witness. China extends an Olive Branch with a large saber visible in the rear. Do not be fooled by any friendly posturing of the PRC, her intent is to totally domineer Asia; and she will achieve this through her naval might if allowed.

LOL. A good idea you sly dog. What, who, what torpedo? Not us! LOL

China will need to control SIngapore and the Malacca straits to make that happen, 30% of the world’s seaborne oil traverses that waterway.

Hello Guest. Thanks you are definitely correct! Already China lays claim to areas of the Spratly Islands (oil rich) and sent a symbolic cruse through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean. China is expanding her presence as a blue water capable navy. If you were her backdoor neighbor you’d definitely take notice. Do not think if the PLA-Navy is not continually challenged by the USA and Australia; China will not have a naval force presence in the Singapore and Malacca Straights. We need to pay attention to all of her actions both civilian and military. China is flexing her muscle and if we ignore a rising Asian threat like we did with Imperial Japan of WW II, we could have a true “mess” on our hands. Let history guide us. I agree with you.

I’m an Australian, every time I hear about this Chinese Carrier I get a little nerves about the region’s future, especially since it’s just a “Training Carrier” to get them up to speed until the home-grown Carriers come on line, china already has allies in Myanmar with direct access to the Indian Ocean, I can easily see a Chinese Carrier Battle Group being stationed there to harass shipping in the Strait of Malacca, their continuing aggression towards the countries around the South China Sea doesn’t exactly fill me with hope for a peaceful future either.

(It said my post is too long, so I have to split it in two, read on for the 2nd half of the post)

I know it will NEVER happen with the idiots we have in the political system at the moment (both sides are incompetent), but I think we NEED to get back into the Carrier game, a couple (2) of small CATOBAR Carriers would enhance our force projection and Anti-sub capabilities greatly, coupled with the proposed 12 attack sub fleet that is supposed to be built as replacements for our existing 6 subs and the new Air-Warfare Destroyers under construction at the moment, we could be a serious thorn in china’s side for future dominance of the region.

Backed up by the US Navy’s CBGs and attack subs, AND India’s future Carriers and subs, china would have little room to move in the area.

Thank you for your reply. Your insight and opinion weighs much as this is literally in your backyard. There is a reason your Navy is strong. You hit all the points as why the Chinese expansion requires serious attention. To our Australian allies at sea; God bless you all.

I think some people worry to much, there is a way to “be aware without the worry”, worrying just put age on you and give you gray hairs. Of course we need to keep an eye on China, that should go without saying, if we know that already why worry about it? Worrying about something too much will consume you to the point of not keeping your eye on other areas of interest.

To make a forced landing on hostil a shore, tactical aircraft in a floating air strip for rearming and refueling. That is the value of an aircraft carrier. China must have learn this lesson too. It may take them a long time to operate one at sea, but they will. They should fear US subs will sink their AC, and they would like to sink US ACs with subs or missles. This will be an arms race soon.

The Chinese Carrier is not a threat to US forces nor is it designed to be. It is really designed for power projection against the other countries that sit on China’s SLOC. So if your a south east nation.… congrats and welcome to the new world of Chinese airpower on you coast. As the British found out in the 80s.… you need airpower to do an even a minor invasion of occupied land.

I would not say that China has a “symbolic” carrier. And I can bet top dollar she will invest time and money into building a “super” carrier fleet on par with ours. Given that China is a growing economy with world wide power projections it is safe to say that cuts to current USN naval aviation assets are a huge and very grave mistake.

Sorry way off base. UUV not like predator at all except unmanned.

Byron…it is not just the naval threat that lies beneath her olive branch…her ground forces and air forces remain a threat as well. What would be a real twist tothe Chinese carrier story is if that carrier was converted to be a troop/aircraft/landing carrier, similar to our LHD and LHA type ships.

Obama wants to cut 400 billion from defense by 2023. I wonder what programs will be cut, and if it actually will hurt American defense.…contrary to popular belief it won’t.

Chopping Block, shopping list: JSF, F-22, Next Gen Bomber. These three platforms alone would pay off the National Debit in Savings. This is not hard. Stop building idoit Mullins (Who should be fired) Stealth Ships). This will pay off the National Debt and give us a surplus. Sell your stock in LM and BA… LOL.…

The Chinese learn 3x as fast as Americans? I don’t know about that. They probably 3x as fast at stealing other nations technology. Americans are innovators. The Chinese are imitators. Google J-20 if you don’t beleive me. A complete rip off of American F-22.

Pay off the debt and give us a surplus? Seriously? I see simple math isn’t one of your strong points.

Funny how they’re now “talking point” vs being a “great American”, “support our troops” and “our president” 3 years ago weren’t talking points? This guy hasn’t done jack yet but put out fires from the guy you now want to forget about like the plague. I don’t like reduced defense spending any more than the next guy. Max power per Dollar is my preference. So how can we all get a handle on this deficit that everybody’s suddenly worried about? That funny, they didn’t seem to be worried about 2yrs 6 months ago? While we where saving our shores from bands of roving Iraq Fedayeen? right! Reduced spending in all quarters using smart choices & decision making along with creative thinking will get us out of this mess eventually. can this guy do it? It remains 2 be seen. It may be after this guys long gone. But are u really happy with where the previous 8 years left us at or with? Come on man!!!! I’m work’n and pay’n with my 40+ hours to do my part with the mess I can do, I’m not quitting or leaving or giving up on our country regardless!!

Last I heard about this carrier, the Chinese were zealously and vehemently claiming that the Varyag was bought and to be converted into an entertainment casino, and nothing more. This they made sure to announce all over the international media. Now we suddenly hear it will be turned into operational air carrier with live weapons?! Typically the Chinese, using the old switch and bait trick! The professionals ofcourse never bought the cover story, or did they?

To PacificSential as an Aussie I too share many of your concerns unfortunately when Australia decomissioned its last Aircrafter Carrier the Melbourne it was sold to the Chinese ship breakers who kept if for many years as a study. The new Hobart Class for the RAN are fantasitic however their small missile load, inablity to reload at sea and busy life escorting the new Canberra Class LHDs etc means that we need more as 3 is not enough. 4 or 5 would be much better however its is more than time to get SEA1000 the Collins replacement underway with alternative propulsion, UUV, Cruise missle type capablity etc

I totally agree, we need at least 4 if not 6 AWDs & the subs need to be started now or they won’t be ready when the old boats are retired.

I still think we need carriers though, the manning problems can be overcome with better pay, relaxed education requirements (just teach them what they need to know) & recruitment in UK/EU/USA as those countries are down grading their force numbers.

there is no doubts in my mind that China is a threat to it’s smaller and weaker Asian neighbors such as Vietnam, Philippine, Laos, Cambodia. Even stronger neighbors like Japan, India, Russia have been invaded by China. It is time to face this threat, destroy China before it is too late.


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