China’s Aircraft Carrier: A Long Way to Go


Aircraft Carrier
As far as overblown fears of the Chinese military are concerned, the impending launch of China’s first aircraft carrier is just another sign of the Beijing’s growing strength and assertiveness. In the past few years the task of modernizing the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been thrown into full gear with the development of more capable destroyers, bases, and defenses. But China’s navy is still far from posing the type of threat than China hawks might believe-and its first aircraft carrier is no different.
As David Axe argues in an excellent piece in Wired’s Danger Room, China’s first carrier faces serious limitations at the tactical level. These include the fact that:

  1. China’s first aircraft carrier, the Shi Lang, will enter the Pacific at a time when some 22 carriers are already operating in the region–none of which belong to a close ally of China.
  2. China’s destroyers and submarines which make up a carrier battle group are inferior–both in quality and quantity–to their American counterparts.
  3. The Shi Lang’s ability to interact with those submarines is constrained by its communications technology.
  4. While the Shi Lang may have a wing of fighter jets and submarine-hunting helicopters, “the PLAN has doesn’t have radar-jamming jets, carrier-based airlifters or fixed-wing radar planes.”
  5. The carrier’s turbines, reportedly purchased from Ukraine, have plagued the Shi Lang’s sister ship (the Russian Kuznetsov) with unreliable performance.

Even one of China’s Rear Admiral’s, Yin Zhuo, recently wrote that “this one vessel can conduct anti-ship warfare and provide regional deterrence and control; it carries aircraft and anti-submarine helicopters. It is therefore a platform with a lot of stuff, but nothing is really good.”
The United States and other countries should not underestimate China, nor should we judge its intentions based on the development of one weapons platform. Attempts to analyze China’s growing military should be based on a realistic perspective (as Mr. Axe offers), without the alarmist, fear-mongering that is all too common in our media and public discourse.
— Jordan D’Amato


4 comments on “China’s Aircraft Carrier: A Long Way to Go

  1. Beijing1 says:

    Why am i not surprise? China has been the dominant power in the world for 85% of her 6,000 years history. This fact was reiterated by Dr. Kissinger in his recent CNN interview. US has been dominant for a mere 50 years and fast fading. Welcome to the Chinese Century, we live in interesting time!


  2. Don Bacon says:

    The Russians may not rust their technology but the Pentagon does.
    2010 news report:
    The Pentagon plans to buy ten Russian military helicopters for Afghanistan’s fledgling air force at a cost of $180 million (


  3. DonS says:

    My take is such buying into China “the enemy” perpetuates cold war thinking — and why does
    America have to be seen as “the enemy” and “the policeman”, and china as “the threat”; or vice versa? buying into that may get one into polite company in DC, but the simple response is that it validates one as part of the “endless war” juggernaut.


  4. Don Bacon says:

    So the implication is that a modern aircraft carrier (the U.S. has eleven of them) at a huge cost (the newest Ford Class costing from $8-$11 billion each) would somehow be useful, when the current U.S. carrier fleets are not only ineffective for wasteful invasions and occupations, which don’t interest China anyhow, and for anti-piracy, but also they are now vulnerable against targeted multiple-warhead ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, modern mines and quiet diesel submarines?
    China’s only teasing.


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