China's Navy Is All Grown Up

Picture reportedly showing China's aircraft

By chance a commercial satellite company has confirmed the obvious: China’s navy is preparing for war. That isn’t hyperbole. A Navy aircraft carrier is strictly an offensive weapon for war. The US’ own doctrine is that aircraft carriers are the weapon for choice when the need arises for a national response. According to the US Navy, “In over 80% of the times when the World was faced with international violence, the United States has responded with one or more carrier task forces.” Or as President Bill Clinton once put it upon a visit to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, “When word of crisis breaks out in Washington, it’s no accident the first question that comes to everyone’s lips is; where is the nearest carrier?”

An obvious statement considering the US navy prides itself on the fact that is land and launch fighter jets every 25 seconds.

A aircraft carrier offers a ton of opportunities. First, it can stay safely in international waters away from a targeted countries defenses and literally unleash kinetic hell. In essence, it is its own sovereign territory and represents power abroad to reinforce national diplomacy. With a carrier there is no need navigate the political hurdles of stationing forces and planes in a third party country. The US, far more than another country, has literally laid claim to 70 percent of the world for roughly 70 years, with the Battle of Midway being the starting point.

With 10 Nimitz-Class carriers in service and more in production, the US has enjoyed complete dominance in this area.

Having said all of that, the point here is that this isn’t a typical news item. This is the beginning of an excertive doctrine laid out by China’s leaders. It’s been years in the making and their long coveted goal of regional hegemony is reaching fruition. (See my Washington Times piece, “Risky rumblings from China.”

This year has seen a 13 percent increase over 2010 spending. That makes China second in the world in terms of military expenditure, which is officially estimated at $90 billion. Unofficial accounts from inside the Department of Defense put the numbers higher, somewhere around $150 billion. China sees an opening in the international system and has judged it in its favor to pursue power at the expense of its neighbors. That China has thus far not achieved regional hegemony should not allow us to mistake its intentions.

I’ve written on this subject many times.

Now we have proof to answer those critics who accuse this concern as being alarmism.

Now another challenger is stepping up — the People’s Republic of China. DigitalGlobe Inc.m a commercial satellite company in Longmont, Colo., shot a photo the other day of China’s first aircraft carrier on its second sea trial in the Yellow Sea. Undoubtedly U.S. military reconnaissance satellites have picked up this ship before, but just seeing the photo reminds us of what’s to come.

This particular carrier originally was an unfinished Soviet carrier that China obtained in 1998 and refurbished. Although many experts believe the ship is years away from being able to launch and recover aircraft in wartime conditions, I’ll wager this ship will be combat-ready much sooner than that.

In addition, China reportedly has its first indigenously designed aircraft carrier under construction, which could enter service by 2015. This new Chinese aircraft carrier reportedly has twin hulls, which would enable its navy to service submarines covertly between the carrier’s hulls. This vessel might be one-third the cost of a U.S. carrier, and take half the time to build that it takes to put a U.S. carrier to sea.

In the U.S. we worry increasingly about defense budgets, and wonder if the Pentagon over the long term will have the money necessary to build and maintain a carrier force to match what the Navy has today.

One thing’s for certain: the Chinese navy is serious about building aircraft carriers to challenge U.S. sea dominance, and China has the money, the technical know-how, and the will to make it happen.

I think we’re seeing the beginning of a new global struggle for maritime dominance (Military & Aerospace)

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