Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chinese Aircraft Carrier Sails

The Beer:  The Winter Ale is bottled and I won't brew before New Year's (maybe)

The Bicycle:  I believe I'll just take my tools along with the bikes.  I won't get them done here.

The VRWC:  There is much hand-wringing in the press and the World Wide Interweb over the sailing of the Varyag, China's first aircraft carrier.  This is a very good paper by Ronald O'Rourke for the Congressional Research Service.

According to O'Rourke, the Chinese plan to use this modernization as an "access denial force", preventing US intervention in a China-Taiwan confrontation.  The Chinese have a wide array of anti-ship missile capabilities fired from both surface and submarine assets, but they also lack the ability to carry out coordinated operations far from Chinese waters.

The Chinese have also believed they have a right to a 200-mile-territorial-waters boundary which O'Rourke indicates they would plan to enforce using this seaborne capability.  Further, the Chinese believe they need this capability to be taken seriously as a "world power" and to displace US influence in the Western Pacific.

What is troubling is the reports of development of an Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse weapon for use against a US carrier force.  I suggest use of such a weapon would quickly result in nuclear escalation.  It is possible this weapon is something of a deterrent, rather than something actually to be used, similar to the US/Soviet nuclear weapons stockpiles of the Cold War.  Actual use was anathema to both sides, but the threat was adequate to keep the peace.

Air capability appears to be limited and outdated, but capable of carrying anti-ship missiles as well.  No match for US aircraft head-to-head, but adequate for access denial.  Stealth-type aircraft appear to be in development.  A US drone in the hands of Iran will definitely help that cause.  It will also help the development of UAV's.

Chinese submarine capability varies as well from former Soviet Kilo-Class to Chinese built Shang-class boats.  They have both diesel-electric and nuclear propulsion, the diesel-electric being the more quiet of the two.  This also includes nuclear ICBM submarines (SSBN).  Currently, the Chinese are having developmental difficulties with their SLBM (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile) program.  Read that as they can't hit the broad side of a barn.  But if perfected, their range can hit targets up to the west coast of the US.

Chinese aircraft carriers look good, but lack the ability for coordinated air operations.  It is not something a navy develops overnight.  It is unlikely they will be effective on the open ocean for decades, but if the goal really is access denial, they will suffice.  Opposition to US forces in the near term would have results similar to the Russian-Japanese conflict at Tsushima Strait.

Bottom line:  The Chinese do not currently have the capability to project real power in the open ocean, but within the next generation, they will.  Consequently, US naval power must be continually modernized if it is to be the force that ensures open sea lanes.

2 comments:

Dad29 said...

Nice summary of the PRC thing. Thanks!

EBL said...

I am not for stampeding every time someone yells snake, but we better not underestimate the Chinese.

Just sayin.