China to Hit 400 Ships, Build Massive 85,000-Ton Carrier

 In China, Air, P5

VIDEO ABOVE: Northrop Grumman Electronic Warfare Saves Ships: Takes Out Enemy Missiles

By Kris Osborn — Warrior Maven

(Washington D.C.) China is plan­ning a mas­sive 85,000 ton, 40-plus air­craft-strong high-tech car­ri­er engi­neered with an elec­tro­mag­net­ic cat­a­pult and a much greater attack range than its first car­ri­ers. Such a move is part of an aggres­sive, multi-year Naval modernization ini­tia­tive to help the coun­try emerge as a leading global power.

Citing that the Chinese Navy, now having 360 ships, has already well sur­passed the U.S. Navy’s 297 ships in terms of sheer size, a recent Congressional report maps out China’s ambi­tious air­craft car­ri­er mod­ern­iza­tion plan. Having already launched its second car­ri­er, the Shangdong, the Chinese have embarked upon the con­struc­tion of a newer, far-more capa­ble third air­craft car­ri­er, accord­ing to a May, 2020 Congressional Research Service Report, “China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities.” 

The People’s Liberation Army — Navy, the report says, will likely have 400 ships and at three-to-four air­craft car­ri­ers by 2025. Following the con­struc­tion of its first indige­nous­ly-built car­ri­er, the second car­ri­er in the fleet over­all, mod­eled after its ski-jump-con­fig­ured Ukrainian-built Liaoning, the PLAN has embarked upon a larger, flat­ter, more modern car­ri­er plat­form with smooth, longer-range elec­tro­mag­net­ic cat­a­pults sim­i­lar to the U.S. Ford-class. An elec­tro­mag­net­ic cat­a­pult gen­er­ates a fluid, smooth launch which is dif­fer­ent than a steam-pow­ered “shot­gun” type take off. Also, an elec­tro­mag­net­ic cat­a­pult extends an attack enve­lope well beyond what China’s exist­ing ski jump launch makes pos­si­ble.

The third car­ri­er, iden­ti­fied as a Type 002 car­ri­er, is report­ed to have a dis­place­ment of 80,000 tons and be able to oper­ate a car­ri­er air wing of more than 40 fixed-wing fight­ers. While con­ven­tion­al­ly pow­ered, as opposed to the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-pow­ered car­ri­ers, the Type 002 will great­ly expand China’s air attack range and power-pro­jec­tion capa­bil­i­ty on a truly global scale. The Congressional report points out that such an approach appears clear­ly geared toward strength­en­ing an expeditionary posture for inter­na­tion­al oper­a­tions, explain­ing that land-launched fixed wing air­craft can easily reach Taiwan and other pos­si­ble Southeast Asian tar­gets from main­land China. This kind of for­ward pres­ence will clear­ly enable China to exert power and influ­ence on a global stage and exact an impact in areas it has been tar­get­ing for polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic expan­sion, such as Africa.

Interestingly, China has been plan­ning a follow-on, nuclear-pow­ered Type 003 car­ri­er which, should it come to fruition, could rival the U.S. car­ri­er 100,000-ton dis­place­ment size and power pro­jec­tion capa­bil­i­ty. The CRS report says Chinese media reports indi­cate that the Type 003 may be on hold for the moment.

China is expect­ed to arm its cur­rent and future car­ri­ers with its J-15 Flying Shark fight­er and will, accord­ing to most esti­ma­tions, add a car­ri­er-launched vari­ant of its 5th-Gen J-31 stealth fight­er.

Interestingly, the CRS report explains that fast-expand­ing Chinese Naval power may be a key reason why the U.S.Navy is now work­ing on engi­neer­ing greater num­bers of unmanned vessels to con­duct dis­persed, or dis-aggre­gat­ed mis­sions less vul­ner­a­ble to a mas­sive frontal Naval attack from China. The Navy calls it a Distributed Maritime Operations con­cept intend­ed to lever­age long-range sen­sors and weapons, multi-domain net­work­ing, for­ward oper­at­ing sur­veil­lance, and pre­ci­sion weapon­ry where­in small, mobile, multi-mis­sion unmanned sys­tems dis­em­bark from large “motherships” oper­at­ing in a com­mand and con­trol capac­i­ty. This not only allows larger manned ves­sels to remain at safer stand­off dis­tances but fur­ther enables armed attack, amphibi­ous oper­a­tions, and long-strike air sup­port. Such a tac­ti­cal approach, it seems, might easily be intend­ed as a way to pro­vide some strate­gic answers to the mas­sive, grow­ing inter­na­tion­al threat pre­sent­ed by the Chinese Navy.

Kris Osborn is the new Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn pre­vi­ous­ly served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army — Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air mil­i­tary spe­cial­ist at nation­al TV net­works. He has appeared as a guest mil­i­tary expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. This arti­cle is being repub­lished due to reader inter­est.

Image: U.S. Navy Flickr. 

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