China building new carriers while USN fears further shrinkageAugust 6, 2013
Pictures have surfacedof what is likely China’s first indigenous aircraft carrier (a Russian-made carrier was refurbished and launched late last year). Chinese officials have spoken of plans to build at least two – and possibly several more – carriers in coming years. Seapower projection will be essential to China’s goal of Western Pacific domination.
Of course, it will be years before this carrier takes to sea, and still more years before China develops the tactics, skills and advanced weaponry to seriously challenge the US in the Indo-Pacific. The US should dominate for the foreseeable future. Unless we allow our own navy to decay while China builds hers up. And that may be precisely what is happening. The Navy has endured a maintenance deficit on its fleet during the 12 years of continuous operations since 911, and now the national fiscal crisis is threatening to extend that deficit even further. Due to sequestration, maintenance will continue to be delayed and the Navy may have to begin retiring ships early. While the official plan is for a fleet of over 300 ships by the end of the decade, new estimates are that the Navy may instead shrink closer to 250 ships. Fortunately, the Navy has farsighted thinkers with creative plans that can deal with this situation, and there also an array of cheaper, technologically advanced force multipliers that should become available by the end of the decade as well. The USN should remain the supreme maritime power not only in the Indo-Pacific but also globally, so long as we maintain the necessary discipline and leadership.