What the new Chinese carrier strike group could look like


The Chinese People’s Liberation Army continues its ambitious plan to build a modern and capable “blue water navy” that will dominate China’s neighbors, highlight Beijing’s rising power, and even threaten the US Navy one day.

China has an aircraft carrier in operation, another undergoing sea trials, and a third under development, which puts the Chinese navy on track to start sending special aircraft carrier teams as needed. that she is gaining experience with transport operations.

Type 001 Liaoning

The Chinese Liaoning Type 001, a refitted Soviet “heavy aircraft carrier cruiser”, is the sister ship of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. This ship was officially commissioned into the PLAN in 2012, and it was declared combat-ready in 2016, although its primary purpose is to serve as a training platform.

“For what Liaoning is, I think it does its job pretty well,” Matthew Funaiole, China Power Project fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider.

Liaoning CV-16 aircraft carrier in Hong Kong waters.

The Chinese “bought it, they reverse engineered it, they used it to design their second aircraft carrier, and now they are using it as a training ship to sort out carrier operations, figure out how. integrate it into the fleet and determine what type of support ships they need to put with the carrier for their mission, ”he added, suggesting that training with Liaoning could potentially inform the group’s future decisions. work of carriers, among other important choices.

Type 001A and Type 002

The Type 001A, a locally produced version of the Liaoning undergoing sea trials, has some improvements over its predecessor, but it’s the Type 002, the third carrier in development, that could be a “huge step forward.” For the Chinese PLAN, according to Funaiole.

It is with these next two carriers that the world may begin to see China moving forward with the next stage of transport operations, especially the creation of a special team for joint operations.

Imagine future Chinese aircraft carrier battle groups

Liaoning has set sail with a number of different escorts over the years, but deploying effective task forces will take a little longer, experts say.

“It will probably take five years to create really meaningful carrier working groups, and a lot of that depends on their actual experience with fighter jets,” Tony Cordesman, CSIS president Arleigh A. Burke, told BI. .

Chinese carriers lack the capacity to compete with the US Navy, although they have an advantage in waters near China, as Chinese ballistic missiles “can almost reach the limits of its claims and potentially hit an object. the size of a carrier. with a conventional warhead, ”he explained, adding that observers should not“ make the assumption that to make carriers useful, they must achieve a level of competition that could face a truly sophisticated American threat ” .

The main task of Chinese carriers is the prestige mission, experts note, suggesting that the Chinese aim to send a message to their neighbors.

“The prestige mission is probably the most important. They will come out to show the flag, ”Bryan Clark, a naval expert and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told Business Insider.

Areas where Chinese carriers could matter most

There are several areas of potential interest, two of which are the contested waterways around China and the Indian Ocean.

In local waterways, such as the East and South China Seas, Chinese carriers advance Chinese interests by simply serving as a display of military might. “When it comes to projecting power against smaller states, it’s often a matter of action or demonstrative influence,” Cordesman explained.

Countries in the region may soon find themselves “faced with a China that can currently project transport forces and air power into areas where they have never been able to actually project air power before.” With this ability, which can be obtained relatively quickly, China can make “a real difference in terms of regional power and influence.”

But China could also expand its reach beyond its immediate neighborhood. Clark expects China to deploy special transport forces to the Indian Ocean one day given Beijing’s growing interest in the region.

“In the South and East China Sea, they have a lot of land systems, planes and ships that they can deploy under the cover of their air defenses and surface missiles,” he noted, “They need the navy. to go and help protect Chinese interests in the Indian Ocean and along the coastlines.

China could, for example, consider projecting military might in the Strait of Malacca and along East Africa, from Djibouti to Mozambique and Madagascar, where China has notable trade interests. China has already, through legitimate and dubious means, developed a series of ports in Sri Lanka, Djibouti and Pakistan to support such operations.

Type and number of vessels in a special team of carriers

“I imagine a Chinese CTF could be a Type 055, a Type 054, then maybe three or four Luyangs because they want to be sure they have a great air defense capability and because they want him. make it look great. threat, ”Clark explained, referring to the new Chinese cruiser, as well as the country’s capable frigates and destroyers.

“This includes, in some ways, the classic blend that we would use,” Cordesman told BI.

A typical US Navy aircraft carrier attack group consists of the aircraft carrier and five ships – a cruiser and four destroyers. But China could deploy even more.

“It is likely that they will want to have more surface fighters than we could even put with a ship,” said Clark, stressing the need for increased air defense capability due to the limited number of cells. vertical launch system (VLS). Chinese surface ships, which can be loaded with missiles to intercept incoming threats and hit ships.

A Chinese transport task force would also need support ships, such as munitions tankers, for some deployments.

What the new Chinese carrier strike group might look like

Frigate type 054A 575 Yueyang.

Jiangkai I / II Type 054 / A Frigates

The 4,000-ton Type 054A warships, Chinese stealth frigates designed for fleet defense, are armed with HQ-16 medium-range air defense missiles and a 32-cell VLS in the forward section which is capable of firing anti-ship missiles, air defense missiles and anti-submarine torpedoes, according to The Diplomat.

The first Type 054A entered service in the PLAN in 2005, but China has made some modifications to the ship in recent years. For example, some of the newer ships in this class feature variable depth sonar and towed array sonar, as well as an improved close-range weapon system.

China is reportedly developing a 5,000-ton variant, the Jiangkai III Type 054B-class frigate.

052C / D Luyang II / III type destroyers

These ships, in particular the new Type 052D, are said to be similar to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers.

Commonly referred to as “Chinese Aegis,” Type 052D destroyers feature a 64-cell VLS, each cell capable of carrying up to four missiles, including the deadly YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile and surface HQ. -9- air missile. An American destroyer, in comparison, can carry 90 or more missiles in its VLS.

Towards the end of September 2018, a Chinese Luyang-class destroyer challenged an American destroyer, the USS Decatur, to a showdown in the South China Sea during a routine freedom of navigation operation. The Chinese ship would have almost collided with the American warship.

Renhai Type 055 Class Cruisers

While China designates these ships as destroyers, the United States classifies them as cruisers, due to their large size and role as multi-mission surface fighters. This ship is expected to serve a similar purpose to that of the American Ticonderoga-class cruisers.

The ship, which began sea trials in August 2018, is armed with 112 vertical launch cells capable of firing HHQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles and an attack cruise. terrestrial CJ-10. missiles.

The main gun is a 130mm H / PJ-38 cannon, but there are reports that this ship could possibly be fitted with a railgun.

Corvettes Jingdao type 056

Chinese corvettes, like the new PLAN frigates, feature enhanced anti-submarine warfare capabilities that could be of benefit to the Carrier Task Force, although it is not clear whether China would actually incorporate these ships into a future group of carriers, especially as the type 054 frigates can offer the same capabilities.

“What frigates and corvettes have are variable depth sonar, active sonar running at a lower frequency and on a cable that can be lowered into the water below the [sonic] lie down to find submarines, ”Clark explained. “I think the Chinese would deploy a Jiangkai frigate or [Type 056] Corvette Jingdao with the task force mainly for [anti-submarine warfare]. “

These ships would play a lesser role in air defense, focusing instead on defending the task force against threats lurking beneath the sea surface.

What the new Chinese carrier strike group might look like

Chinese Navy Oil Cruet Hongzehu (AOR 881), an older ship. China has since developed rapid combat support ships for ammunition and refueling.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales)

Additional naval and support vessels

In waters near China, the need for support vessels is limited. China can rely on its fleet of commercial vessels, as well as various outposts and ports, but at greater distances the task force will need support vessels.

“I anticipate that the transporter task force will include an oil tanker to support them, and that this tanker would be what would disembark at these various bases along the Indian Ocean to receive supplies and fuel and bring it to the tanker group. work of carriers ”. Clark told Business Insider.

“Normally when the Chinese deploy, for example when they deploy destroyers and frigates for counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, they typically have two combat ships and one support ship deployed. They always have an oil tanker accompanying these ships.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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