U.S. vs. China: What Aircraft Carriers Reveal About the Military Tech Race | WSJ
The U.S. has by far the largest aircraft-carrier fleet in the world, but China is catching up on technology and design with its new vessel–the Fujian. WSJ compares the two superpowers’ best military ships to understand their strategic goals.
Here’s china’s Fujian aircraft carrier the third in Beijing’s arsenal
being unveiled this summer and this is the Gerald R Ford carrier,
the newest of 11 in the U.
these vessels represent the race for both countries to create the most advanced maritime force
and reveal how china’s technology is catching up to the U.
One Commission numbers will be our only advantage over their carrier force.
So here’s how the U.
And china’s carriers match up and what that means for each country’s military goals.
we need to understand why these strategic vessels were developed.
Aircraft carriers are essentially mobile air bases.
They help countries deployed jets far from their own shore’s for combat and observation tasks.
That’s a concept that predates even the first powered aircraft In the
The first iteration in the us was just a floating platform that launched hot air balloons.
the Navy began launching motor operated planes from ships seen here in these images.
a decade later,
Washington developed its first aircraft carrier,
the USS Langley,
which is followed by many others,
thousands of men to learn the secrets of carrier operations.
China is a newcomer.
It began building its first carrier around 70 years after the US that ship was
refurbished using an old Soviet craft and was commissioned in 2012.
Its second carrier was domestically made and was placed in active service in 2019.
China started developing the vessels because of shifting military priorities.
That’s according to defense analysts Before the year 2000,
if you were to examine Chinese strategic thought and naval doctrines,
their main preoccupation was the defense of near waters.
China did not have blue water ambitions.
Rizwan Rahman is a military analyst at Jane’s a defense and intelligence company.
He has over a decade of experience studying the Asia pacific region.
As china developed,
it became very important for china to secure sea lines of
Unlike the U.
Which designs its carriers to be deployed all over the globe,
China built its first two carriers to stay within the first island chain.
Defense analysts say it’s this area of the pacific ocean relatively close to
But the food john could signal a shift in china’s strategy and military analysts predict it could be
used beyond the second island chain,
which is located further out in the pacific ocean and stretches to Guam where the U.
Has a major military base.
That’s because this vessel has greater capabilities than its predecessors.
You need air power over the open ocean when you’re doing local deployments.
Carl Schuster is a retired US Navy captain who served on warships and submarines during his
26 year career.
He now specializes in naval research on China and Southeast Asia.
Few *** on the other hand,
you’re looking at an aircraft carrier that can provide its own airspace battle management
capability uh in its own potentially electronic warfare air
defense suppression capability.
So just how powerful is China’s new vessel to answer that question,
let’s start with its size and its weight at over 900 ft.
The Chinese vessel measures at around 98 ft shorter than the Ford.
It weighs around 80,000 tons,
making it lighter than the forward at 100,000 tons.
There’s also a difference in crew size.
Military analysts say the Fujian will likely need a crew of around 4000.
On the other hand,
the forward has 5500 crew members.
The larger the hull,
the volume inside grows geometrically with the size of the ship and that allows
it to carry more aviation fuel,
more ordinance but to determine how advanced a carrier is.
There are a few other things that make a big difference,
laying of a runway of the ship is perhaps in material as much as the kind of
aircraft that can be operated,
the kind of sensors that are on what the aircraft carrier and the knowledge of the crew that is
manning that particular carrier group,
but possibly the most important is the launch system.
The faster that process works,
the quicker the carrier can launch strikes and china appears to be making significant progress on
In the past,
us and chinese carriers have used different systems to launch planes.
Fujian’s predecessors use short tilted flight decks,
also known as ski jumps.
But that system has some disadvantages,
including a weight limit on the aircraft.
It can launch older U.
Aircraft carriers use steam catapults.
In that process,
cylinders are filled with high pressure steam from the ship’s reactors.
That creates a force to launch the pistons at high speed.
But steam has its challenges.
It can reduce the life of the airframe and take up more space on ships.
The us moved away from that 60 year old system on the Ford,
instead installing a breakthrough technology called an electromagnetic aircraft launch
system or emails a few years later than the US,
The same advanced launcher appears to be installed on the Fujian.
According to military analysts who’ve reviewed footage and images of the vessel.
The email system accelerates aircraft using a catapult that operates using magnets and
The advantage of that process is it smoothly pushes along the plane,
putting less stress on their airframes uses an
electromagnetic pulse to move the catapult down
the launch ramp.
Ford has four of those.
the fusion has three,
which means the ford will have a power advantage.
It’ll be able to launch more planes in the less time as china appears to be moving to the
same launching system as the US Schuster says,
its sensors are also similar.
The Fijian we believe based on the design of the island and what we’ve seen so
she is going to have electronically scanned radars not radically different from the ford
and approaching US in that capability if they haven’t caught up.
But while they share some similarities,
the vessels are set to have some key differences how their power could put Fujian at a
disadvantage over the ford.
Defense analysts believe China’s carrier is likely to have a diesel or gas turbine
the ford carrier is nuclear powered and that means it can travel for some 20 years without needing
but a conventionally powered carrier may need to top up every 4 to 6 days.
That’s an issue for china,
which has uncertain access to friendly ports across Asia where it can restock.
Whereas the U.
Which still requires access to locations where it can refuel its surface combatants has longer
running military partnerships with allies in the region.
The Wall Street Journal as China’s State Council for comment on the Fujian’s capabilities but received no
Seeing how these two vessels will truly compare,
could still take years.
The food Jan has c and boring tests to complete before it can begin military service.
According to the Chinese navy.
When it does begin to operate,
defense experts note that its name could be a key indicator of where it may be deployed.
Naming naval warships is a political statement if you will or a
Fujian is a region in the southeast of China.
That’s the closest province to Taiwan China sees a self ruling island as part of its own
territory and has vowed to take control of it if necessary by force.
which is named after a president,
like some other U.
may also end up deploying to the south China sea in the future,
according to military analysts,
that means America’s and china’s most advanced vessels could find themselves on the front lines of their
country’s push for military influence.
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