by DAVID AXE
On a trip to India this month, U.S. Pacific Command boss Admiral Robert Willard said he believes the Chinese navy will have its first aircraft carrier by 2015. China has been slowly refurbishing the former Soviet carrier Varyag since 1998.
Needless to say, some American hawks are alarmed. They shouldn’t be.
“I may tell you that aircraft carrier operations are very expensive and complex and require a great deal of training and dedication,” Willard warned. The Chinese surely realize this — hence their extremely cautious approach to building a carrier fleet.
What that means, in practical terms, is that the operational Varyag will probably spend very little time at sea. Consider that Russia’s sole carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, Varyag‘s sister, has sailed on extended cruises just a few times in her 18 years of service. Her old, complex powerplant is a “source of trouble,” RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik said. On Kuznetsov‘s latest cruise, a sailor died in a fire. In February, the vessel spilled 1,000 tons of fuel into the sea during a refueling operation. The Russian carrier often sails with a large tugboat alongside, “just in case,” Galrahn noted.
Kuznetsov‘s checkered past bodes ill for the Chinese carrier’s future. Besides, even the best Chinese ships spend little time at sea, owing to a lack of planning and logistical infrastructure. For the Chinese, the rebuilt Varyag is a baby step towards an eventual, useful carrier capability. But in no way is a Chinese carrier an imminent threat to U.S. interests.
On a lighter note, the weird-as-Hell China Military Report blog has published art, shown above, depicting a Chinese carrier sailing in formation with U.S. warships.
(Art: China Military Report)
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