BEIJING, Jan. 21 (ChinaMil) -- The website of Japanese magazine The Diplomat published an article titled "China's Aircraft Carrier Ambitions" on January 18 that introduced in great detail the latest status on China's aircraft carrier development and predicted its future development trend.
China is developing carrier battle group (CBG)
The article stressed that "while the invariable temptation is to focus on the aircraft carrier itself, it is important to note that such a valuable platform cannot operate independently on its own, but as part of an entire carrier battle group (CBG) comprising the escorting warships, organic aviation forces and afloat logistics support".
The article held that "Beijing has adopted a concerted strategy in developing a CBG, paying close attention to how established carrier navies operate such forces. As such, while developing the carrier, efforts are long afoot to develop a slew of other capabilities that can help constitute a full-fledged CBG. Notably, the Chinese are churning out new major surface combatants, such as the Type-052C/D Luyang II/III guided missile destroyers and Type-054A Jiangkai II frigates, which are optimized for fleet air defense and ASW respectively".
The article also pointed out that "even more ominously, but often overlooked, is China’s ambitious program to build more capable ocean-going fleet replenishment vessels. In the past recent years, new units of the Type-903 (plus the improved 903A variant) replenishment vessels have entered service. An even more capable successor, touted the Type-901 which is said to displace some 40-45,000 tons (just slightly smaller than the new carrier itself), is at an advanced stage of construction".
According to Yin Zhuo, director of Chinese Navy Information Technology Advisory Committee, no country in the world depends on a single aircraft carrier for combat. To make the aircraft carrier capable of real combat, China has to develop a taskforce or battle group like other aircraft carrier owners do, such as the United States, Britain and France.
Yin continued that China's carrier battle group needs regional air-defense destroyers like 052C and 052D, certain anti-ship capability to strike targets on the sea, strong anti-submarine capability, and is usually equipped with one or two strike nuclear submarines as well as replenishment ships, which is the basic condition for developing a carrier battle group.
Comments by foreign media indicate that China, like other aircraft carrier-owning countries in the world, is developing carrier battle group.
Catapult-assisted take-off (CATO) aircraft carrier with strong strike capability may be developed in the future.
Carrier battle group refers to the basic combat unit with aircraft carrier as the core. Take the U.S. Navy for example, which has the largest number of and richest experience in aircraft carrier in the world, the concept of carrier battle group can date back to the 1920s.
The basic combat unit of the American aircraft was officially renamed Carrier Battle Group in 2004, which is the main form in which the U.S. has projected troops around the world.
At present, the U.S. Navy has 10 serving aircraft carriers, but there are only nine carrier battle groups as one is under overhaul and cannot be used.
A carrier battle group usually includes seven to nine vessels, with the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier being the core. Each aircraft carrier is equipped with a carrier airwing covering various types of warplanes including ship-borne fighter jet, Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft and transport plane.
A carrier battle group also carries one or two guided missile cruisers that undertake long-distance strike missions with the Tomahawk cruise missile, and two or three Aegis guided-missile destroyers that are responsible for the air defense and anti-submarine mission of the whole group.
Logistics replenishment has always been the foundation for long-distance operations of troops of various countries. America's carrier battle group always has a comprehensive replenishment ship to provide ammunition, fuel and other materials.
Two strike nuclear submarines usually move alongside the aircraft carrier and are mainly responsible for tracking and attacking enemy submarines and eliminating the threat from them.
It's worth noting that both surface cruisers and destroyers and underwater submarines are capable of launching cruise missiles. It's safe to say that America's carrier battle group is an independent combat force capable of both attack and defense.
The article on The Diplomat website held that China "the U.S. Navy carrier strike group (CSG) is plausibly one that the Chinese aspire towards, but in the distant future, as such, the PLAN’s approach to CBG operations may be aligned more closely with that of the Soviet/Russian Navy.
The article stated in the end that "more than just a symbol of national greatness, the Chinese carrier program is an indispensable part of the overall PLAN drive towards a blue-water force befitting China’s stature and Beijing’s desire to play a more active global security role, "
According to Yin Zhuo, the formation of carrier battle group varies and carries different missions based on different combat capability and goal. The carrier battle group should not only protect itself, but also eliminate the enemies.
The U.S. has a super aircraft carrier above 100,000 tons, which cannot be matched by any other country in the world today. The ship-borne aircraft on Russia's and Britain's carrier cannot carry too much fuel and ammunition due to their ski-jump takeoff, so their main task is to obtain air supremacy and ensure the air security for the carrier taskforce.
Compared with America's omnipotent strike aircraft carrier, carrier battle groups whose ship-borne aircraft adopt the ski-jump takeoff have a relatively weaker combat capability. At present, the aircraft carrier of the PLA Navy also adopts ski-jump takeoff and focuses on air defense, but we won't stop at that.
Instead, we will develop aircraft carrier with larger tonnage in the future with ship-borne aircraft adopting CATO. China's aircraft carrier will gradually develop to be an omnipotent battle group with strong sea, land and air strike capability.
The author is Huang Zijuan, reporter from the People's Daily Online. The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and don't represent views of the China Military Online website.