A quick update on the regional boom in 'flat-tops'; that is true aircraft carriers for fast-jet operations and also amphibious ships with large flight decks designed to carry helicopters and maybe drones and jump jets.
There's been something of a boom in this type of vessel in the region, though I would hesitate to say it signifies an arms race. To some extent, these large, imposing vessels just signify the growing wealth and stature of these countries, but in some cases they also reveal anxieties and fears about their neighbours.
Japan: launched its biggest naval vessel since World War II on 7 August (see above). The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force calls the Izumo a destroyer, but it is built with a large flight deck and able to accommodate 14 helicopters and hundreds of troops, suggesting it could be suited to operations around Japan's disputed islands. Two ships of this class will eventually be built.
China: Last week grainy images emerged from a Chinese shipyard of what could be components either for China's first home-built aircraft carrier or a large amphibious ship. China has already converted an ex-Soviet vessel into an aircraft carrier, and has flown fast jets from it.
India: Next week India is expected to launch its first home-built aircraft carrier. The ship is not due to enter service until 2018, and even that may be optimistic, given how regularly Indian defence programs balloon in cost and timing. To wit, India's other carrier, the ex-Soviet Vikramaditya, is years late and massively over budget, but should arrive in India early next year after fitting out and testing in Russia. India's current carrier, originally built for the British Royal Navy in 1944 (!), will soldier on until 2018.
Australia: two 27,000 tonne amphibious assault ships are due to enter service in 2014 and 2015 respectively. These ships are enormous by Australian standards and will be demanding on the entire ADF.