What's happening at the
Thursday 24 Aug 2017 | 09:30 | SYDNEY
Thursday 24 Aug 2017 | 09:30 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: More on the limits of Chinese naval power


13 January 2014 11:33

Alexander Luck writes:

Richard Broinowski may want to check a few of his facts. The J-15 inflight refueling system is meant to provide more fuel to other aircraft, not to the plane carrying it, unlike an ordinary drop-tank. It will therefore enable these aircraft to take off with heavier ordnance or extend their combat air patrols (the original motivation behind the fielding of the Russian pendant), thus alleviating to some extent default weaknesses of their current carrier design.

Furthermore, there are no American carriers at Sasebo. The sole carrier permanently forward-deployed to Japan is the George Washington (CVN-73), stationed at Yokosuka, which may well be a factor in any short notice-confrontation around these waters. The much-touted pivot to the Pacific theatre will not result in any relevant change in this regard, as the US Navy fleet, including the number of carriers, is shrinking overall, while existing hulls are being worked hard to maintain a global presence.

Sam Roggeveen's original post does not mention that on the same image (see above) there are at least four types of indigenously developed and produced Chinese warships visible, including missile destroyers, frigates and an LPD. The reliance on foreign technology with the Chinese military is overall diminishing quite notably, regardless of their continuing challenges and dependency with sub-systems, which by now mostly concern aviation- and marine engines.

Over the past decade Chinese naval shipyards managed to put to water over a dozen increasingly sophisticated DDG, twenty FFG, three LPD and nearly a hundred missile boats. Within the last two years alone they also produced more than a dozen missile corvettes. Their J-10 fighter jet has seen a production run of several hundred units. Other notable examples exist, eg submarines or attack helicopters.

Interestingly, it took China roughly ten years to refurbish and significantly rebuild their former Russian carrier and put her to sea, all the while starting from scratch in terms of knowledge and production facilities, whereas Russia itself struggled to achieve a similar feat with their own ex-Baku (aka Vikramaditya) for India.

The point of all this is simply that China has so far demonstrated a capability of domestic industrial expertise which is ticking a great many boxes in individual military capabilities within a rather short timeframe and culminating in very sizable production runs. Just the notion of that PR-image would have been ludicrous only ten years ago. A comparison with India, another purported superpower of the future, and its industrial efforts in these areas is particularly telling.

You may also be interested in...