Thursday, June 09, 2011

China Fitting Out Its First Aircraft Carrier

China is engaging in an ambitious expansion of its naval capabilities, and that includes the purchase and conversion of a former Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag. The ship, an Admiral Kuznetsov class multirole aircraft carrier, features a jump bow, enabling SVTOL aircraft, but doesn't feature catapults enabling heavier armed aircraft to be embarked. The ship is smaller than the American carriers, but it doesn't make the carrier any less dangerous as it could carry any number of Chinese anti-shipping missiles.

The main threat posed by the Chinese carrier is to Taiwan, which mainland China sees as a renegade province. The US policy recognizes both countries as independent of each other and the US has a close military relationship with Taiwan.

A Chinese carrier would require a readjustment to the US naval tactics and strategies, as the US would expect the Chinese to use the carrier to not only project its force forward, but could use it should the situation deteriorate between China and Taiwan.

Still, while the ship appears complete from outward appearances, it would be some time before the carrier is fully operational and capable of offensive operations since the Chinese Navy is building its carrier doctrine from scratch, including a corps of officers that would man the ship and its aircraft. Still, one would expect the Chinese to learn from known American, British, and Russian carrier tactics to speed the learning curve.

This carrier is likely to be used as a template for future Chinese carrier construction; the Chinese government has copied Russian aircraft and tank designs in building its own versions of advanced tanks and aircraft while putting its own spin on various components.

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