(Nation World News) — China recently made a major statement about its naval ambitions with the launch of its third and most advanced aircraft carrier.
By far China’s largest, most modern and most powerful aircraft carrier, the Fujian is the jewel in the 80,000-ton crown of a military expansion that has seen Beijing grow its navy to become the largest navy in the world.
Experts say its new combat systems – such as the Electromagnetic Catapult-Assisted Launch System – show that China is rapidly closing in on the United States, and will give it the ability to launch more planes, faster and more firepower. With ammo.
This should be enough to give pause to any potential rival, especially given China’s increasing aggression in its territorial disputes with Japan in the East China Sea, a host of Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea, and Taiwan. His repeated persecution of the Autonomous Region of the U.S., where he has deliberately refused to rule out an invasion.
Still, while Fujian’s launch amid much fanfare was clearly a message to Beijing’s rivals, analysts have warned against swallowing too much hype so far.
First, Fujian likely won’t be operational for the next three to four years, said Carl Schuster, a former U.S. Navy captain and former director of operations at U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center. And even when operational, its size would make it an obvious target: any enemy would be well aware that the sinking of such an iconic ship would be as much a moral blow as it would be a military disaster for China.
Then there is the simple fact that, as impressive as they may sound, aircraft carriers are not necessarily the best fit for what experts see as the most plausible conflict scenarios in the near future, including skirmishes in the East and South China seas. Are included. Taiwan.
Inevitably, experts say, the Fujian may be China’s largest ship, but it probably isn’t the biggest issue on the minds of US Navy commanders right now.
Here China has four types of ships that arguably pose a far greater threat to US naval dominance.
type 055 destroyer
These 13,000-ton stealth guided-missile destroyers, launched in 2017, are considered by many to be the world’s most powerful surface combat aircraft.
Large enough to be considered a cruiser by NATO standards, the Type 055 is equipped with 112 vertical launch tubes that can be used to fire everything from anti-ship missiles to long-range land-attack missiles.
“This particular ship has a sophisticated design, stealth features, radar and a huge inventory of missiles. It’s bigger and more powerful than most American, Japanese and South Korean destroyers,” Rand Corp. Principal Analyst Timothy Heath told Nation World News in 2018 when Beijing launched two warships in a single day, adding to China’s impressive shipbuilding Evidence of abilities.
A US Congressional Research Service report in March said that at least 10 Type 055s have been launched or are under construction.
Beijing’s deployment of the second of five active Type 055s to Lhasa, in the Sea of Japan, was defended by China’s official Global Times tabloid last week for exercises amid rising tensions over Taiwan.
“The ship has reached full operational capability and has demonstrated its ability to deter potential foreign military intervention in the Taiwan Strait at a time when the United States and Japan have repeatedly provoked China over the Taiwan issue,” Global reported. Times.
The power of the Type 055 was emphasized in images that emerged on social media in April. It featured a launch of what Navy analyst HI Sutton called the YJ-21 hypersonic anti-ship ballistic missile, a weapon often referred to as a “carrier killer”.
The Global Times underestimated the images and called the missiles part of the country’s defensive strategy.
“If the United States doesn’t make military provocations against China, including the Taiwan issue, it doesn’t need to worry about missiles,” he said.
Type 039 Submarine
These Yuan-class submarines are nearly silent diesel-electric ships whose capabilities could be cumbersome to US military planners.
Beijing has built 17 of the Type 39A/B submarines, with plans to increase the total to 25 over the next three years, according to the US Defense Department’s 2021 report to Congress on China’s military might.
“The SS Type 039s provide ‘defense in depth’ in the waters near China,” Schuster said, and “appear to develop some capability to advance US forces.”
The subs are equipped with air-independent propulsion (AIP), meaning they do not need to surface as often to obtain the air needed for diesel combustion, which can then power their batteries.
“When operating on batteries, AIP-equipped submarines are virtually silent, with only the noise flowing around the shaft bearings, propeller, and hull,” US Navy officers Michael Walker and Austin Cruz report in 2018 for the US Marines. is written in. Proceedings journal of the Institute.
According to a Defense Department report, China is pushing to launch more super-quiet submarines, which are equipped with anti-ship cruise missiles.
A powerful method of attack used by the Type 039 is by firing “wake-homing” torpedoes through the stern, or rear, of the target vessel. The torpedo follows the wake of the target ship before detonating near its propulsion and steering systems.
Since surface ships detect submarines and torpedoes using sound waves, wake torpedoes are particularly difficult to defend.
Progress in Chinese submarines has come just as the US Navy grapples with its anti-submarine capabilities.
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday told Congress last month that the service was looking to scrap nine of its coastal combat ships, some of the new ships from the US fleet, because their anti-submarine systems were “technically not working.” ,
Merchant ferries might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of deadly naval capabilities, but therein lies their power.
To invade Taiwan, China would probably need to transport an invasion force of hundreds of thousands of men; Some analysts have suggested that more than a million would be needed.
Various analysts – and US government reports – have concluded that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) naval fleet is unprepared for the task.
But China has a vast fleet of civilian boats that can be quickly converted for military use and, according to some, may have been designed for that possibility as well.
“China’s largest ferry shipbuilder publicly stated in 2015 that its largest-ever roll-on/roll-off ferries were built for dual military and civilian purposes, and that one of China’s largest ferry operators had received the corresponding kind of dual civil-military development. Philosophy,” Thomas Shugart, a former US Navy submarine commander who is now a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, wrote in a 2021 essay for War on the Rocks. was written in
He said civilian ferry companies operating in the Yellow and South China Seas have already been organized into subsidiaries of the PLA.
The crunch of numbers, Shugart said, was amazing. He estimated that the use of civilian ships would give China an additional displacement of 1.1 million tonnes. This figure is more than three times the displacement tonnage of all China’s amphibious assault ships combined. And if China were to turn to Hong Kong’s roll-on/roll-off carriers, it could achieve an additional 370,000 tons of shipping, according to Shugart.
Is this enough to force Taiwan?
It’s hard to know. But Shugart said he did answer a question.
“How many transports (ships) does the Chinese military have? Most likely, more than you think.”
Shuttles are only supposedly civilian ships not on military planners’ radar.
Experts also accused China of creating a maritime militia made up of more than 100 vessels allegedly engaged in commercial fishing to enforce its wishes in disputed seas.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the militia – which Beijing also denies – is made up of at least 122 ships and probably as many as 174.
But the actual number could be even higher. Many experts suspected the involvement of the militia when more than 200 Chinese fishing boats flooded the waters around Pentecost Reef in the South China Sea in early 2002. The reef is claimed by both China and the Philippines, which have described the boats’ presence as “obvious”. provocative action”.
“The People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia does not fish,” Schuster told Nation World News last year. “They have automatic weapons on board and reinforced rudders, which makes them very dangerous at close range. Plus, their top speed is about 18–22 knots, which makes them faster than 90% of the world’s fishing boats ” ,
According to a November report from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the militia has two main parts: professional militia boats and actual fishing boats employed by the Chinese military under a subsidy scheme. abbreviated in English).
According to the CSIS report, professionals lead activities such as harassing foreign drill ships or intercepting foreign fishing vessels, and subsidized fishermen exert pressure in numbers.
And with the largest fishing fleet in the world, China has plenty of reserves to attract.
on that aircraft carrier again
Still, none of this is to say that the Fujian launch isn’t a momentous one.
Schuster said that in the United States, the aircraft carrier would eventually become the centerpiece of the PLA Navy and a symbol of what the modern Chinese military is capable of.
“The Fujian launch should be viewed as what it represents, rather than its limited immediate impact,” Schuster said.
“China has now launched three aircraft carriers and brought two to full operational status, a period in which the US Navy has struggled to bring a new unit to full operational status,” he said.
Schuster was referring to the USS Gerald Ford, a super career Which has been plagued by problems since its commissioning in 2017 (already three years behind schedule).
super career It has not yet made its first operational deployment, although it is expected this fall.
Meanwhile, China is moving forward.
“They are building their navy at a faster rate than the United States and all its allies,” Schuster said.
“Incomplete, but a good foundation.”