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Will This New Chinese Weapon Be Able to Sink Aircraft Carriers?

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Aakash Molpariya
Aakash started in Nov 2018 as a writer at Revyuh.com. Since joining, as writer, he is mainly responsible for Software, Science, programming, system administration and the Technology ecosystem, but due to his versatility he is used for everything possible. He writes about topics ranging from AI to hardware to games, stands in front of and behind the camera, creates creative product images and much more. He is a trained IT systems engineer and has studied computer science. By the way, he is enthusiastic about his own small projects in game development, hardware-handicraft, digital art, gaming and music. Email: aakash (at) revyuh (dot) com

Aircraft carriers are vulnerable because of their sheer size. But several navies in the western Pacific want to procure such ships. A new type of aircraft makes it possible.

They are desert ships of the unusual kind that a commercial satellite discovered in the Taklamakan Desert in northwest China. Instead of camels, the pictures show replicas of warships – American aircraft carriers and destroyers, to be precise. Some are full-size, others half-scale, movable on rails.

In the remote area in the Xinjiang region, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army is testing ballistic missiles. Experts believe that the replicated ships would be ideal targets for missile testing. China has been working on long-range ballistic missiles for a long time now. Long-range bombers are used to test other systems.

The American military is speaking with the concern of “carrier killers”, which make the use of large aircraft carriers risky far off the Chinese coast. The most powerful such weapon, the DF-26 multipurpose missile, has a range of over 3,500 kilometers. From mainland China, it can cover a large part of the western Pacific, the entire South China Sea and large parts of the Indian Ocean. The DF-26 reaches the main base of the US Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka in Japan with ease.

China has already tested ballistic anti-ship weapons in the South China Sea. The fact that tests are also carried out deep in the interior of the country may seem surprising at first glance, but it does make sense: the military is free to block the airspace there at any time. In addition, it does not have to fear that other powers might recover and analyze parts of the tested missiles. This would be possible in international waters.

Are aircraft carriers still up to date?

If aircraft carriers can be targeted with such potent weapons, one has to consider if these massive vessels are still up to date. Even in the immensity of the oceans, the contemporary American carriers, which are roughly 330 meters long and weigh 100,000 tons, are a huge target. Among strategy specialists, the topic is frequently broached.

There is no need to ask this issue for countries in the Far East because their naval forces are currently developing and deploying new aircraft carriers.

That applies first of all to China itself. With the “Liaoning” and the “Shandong”, the Navy of the People’s Liberation Army has two aircraft carriers in service that are based on a Soviet design. The third aircraft carrier, known as the “Type 003”, is being built in a huge dry dock in Shanghai.

In terms of China’s naval weapons program, little information is available. According to the satellite photographs, the construction of the aircraft carrier is well underway. In the next several months, experts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies believe that it will be sailing. The next Chinese carrier is expected to enter service in 2024, according to the US Department of Defense.

China is making a big leap in carrier technology

The “Type 003” is not just another ship in the Chinese arsenal, but a major technical leap forward. The satellite images show that the carrier is equipped with three aircraft catapults. With this, China is entering an exclusive club: At present, apart from the USA, only France operates a catapult carrier.

With the help of catapults, the “Type 003” can take off heavier aircraft than the previous carriers. This in turn means that the fighter jets can be refueled with more fuel and heavier armament. The radius of action of the carrier and his squadron increases, the effectiveness increases. Surveillance aircraft and those for anti-submarine defense can also be stationed on such a carrier.

The “Type 003” is said to have electromagnetic catapults instead of conventional steam catapults. Only the USS Gerald R. Ford, the very latest aircraft carrier in the United States, has been equipped with this modern technology. In contrast to American carriers, however, the “Type 003” does not have a nuclear drive. China will probably catch up with the next porter. Many experts assume that this is already being planned.

Possible leverage against smaller neighbors

In contrast to the Navy of the People’s Liberation Army, the US Navy has decades of experience in the operation of aircraft carriers, their squadrons and escort groups – in times of peace and war. This disadvantage for China has to be put into perspective because the Chinese and American porters will not compete against each other in a duel.

Rather, Beijing can use the porters to put pressure on smaller neighbors, for example in the South China Sea. The “Type 003” will make a big impression. It is estimated that it will have as many fighter jets on board as the entire Philippine Air Force has. The Chinese leadership has made a note of the fact that “an aircraft carrier is 100,000 tons of diplomacy,” as former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once put it.

In 1996, the United States launched an aircraft carrier group into the Taiwan Strait, demonstrating that simply sending up a carrier group at the correct time can have the intended effect. The Chinese military forces, which were far weaker at the time than they are now, had no choice but to stand by and observe this display of force.

For the first time in its history, Japan now has an aircraft carrier

Japan is also following China’s rearmament with particular concern. Tokyo has already reacted: since the beginning of October the country has had its first aircraft carrier since the end of the Second World War. That this did not attract more attention is because Japan did not build a new ship.

So far, the Navy of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces has always referred to the “Izumo” and its sister ship “JS Kaga” as helicopter destroyers. The famous Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution forces Japan to be pacifist – or at least politicians to tick a few hooks rhetorically.

Many experts assumed the “Izumo,” with its 250-meter-long flat deck, was a disguised aircraft carrier when it entered service in 2015. The Japanese government declared three years ago that the two carriers will be upgraded to carry combat planes. The reason for this is that Japan is more under Chinese pressure.

F-35B enable smaller and cheaper aircraft carriers

As part of a major maneuver with the USA and other western countries, an American fighter jet landed on the JS Izumo for the first time in October and took off again shortly afterwards. The aircraft was an F-35B. Refueled and armed, these stealth jets take less than 200 meters to take off. They can land vertically. This makes them ideal for use on carriers without a catapult. Japan has ordered 42 units of the type F-35B, these will be delivered from 2024.

With its short take-off and vertical landing capabilities, the formidable F-35B allows US allies to operate smaller and less expensive carriers. The “Gerald R. Ford” cost 13 billion dollars to build, with another 5 billion spent on developing new technology for this type of ship. The “Queen Elizabeth,” the British Navy’s newest aircraft carrier to rely on the F-35B, cost only $ 4 billion.

The fact that the F-35B makes aircraft carriers more economical piques interest. South Korea, for example, aims to build a carrier by the end of the decade, with roughly twenty fighters stationed aboard it.

The F-35 was developed with Australia as a partner. However, it has only ordered Type A aircraft so far, which are built for the Air Force and cannot be employed on aircraft carriers. The Royal Australian Navy, on the other hand, has long had two ships from which the F-35B may operate. The city-state of Singapore is also considering purchasing a carrier with an F-35B.

The grandeur that such massive ships offer is a driving force behind the desire for aircraft carriers in many countries. China’s rearmament is assisting the individual military leaderships in persuading their governments to purchase. The fact that China is developing the capability to sink large ships over great distances, on the other hand, does not appear to be a deterrent.

Image Credit: Getty

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