Postcard from Chinese Navy

It's been interesting watching the build-up of the Chinese navy in recent years.

They are clearly intending to compete with the US Navy, initially in the South China Sea, and probably the Pacific in years to come. In 1998, China bought a partially completed aircraft carrier from Russia, and after refurbishment it entered service with the PLAN in 2012 as the Liaoning. Based on the experience, China has committed to building at least 2 more.

The first of these, the Type 001A should enter service in 2019, and is expected to have more advanced technology compared against Liaoning, which is now used as a training vessel. Following the Type 001A will be at least 2 more classes, each an advance on the previous one.

Of course a carrier on it's own isn't much use, it needs aircraft, and those are coming too. The Type 001A will have J-15 aircaft as well as a complement of helicopters, 30-40 in total. Chinese media have suggested that the J-15 can't actually take off from the Type 001A with a full weapons and fuel load, which is a surprising admission considering the source. Future vessels will likely host more advanced aircraft such as the J-20 or J-31, and may even use an electromagnetic catapult to launch them, something the US has abandoned and is no longer developing.

Although the presence of Chinese aircraft carriers is a tremendous boost for a country looking for recognition as a major power, none of the ships or current designs are capable of seriously challenging modern ships like the USS Enterprise.

And it's not just about aircraft carriers. As well as capital ships, China is building smaller ships at a furious rate. They expect to have 23 new guided missile destroyers by 2020, have taken delivery of 25 frigates in the last 13 years and 33 corvettes in the last 8 years.

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