Naval Air: Chinese Aircraft Carrier For Drones


June 30, 2024: China is building a small aircraft carrier that will carry and use droves (UAVS) instead of manned aircraft. China never revealed it was building carriers but open source satellite photos have revealed three small carriers under construction in a shipyard way up the Yangtze River from the major shipyards in Shanghai. These carriers can operate unmanned aircraft but not manned ones. The carriers will apparently carry dozens of UAVs, most of them armed for one-way attacks. A smaller number of UAVs are used for reconnaissance or aerial surveillance to protect the carrier.

While China is already using land based drones to patrol coastal waters, these carriers would enable drones to be used for reconnaissance or attacks far out at sea. The drone carriers can also be used in training exercises with the first modern Chinese aircraft carrier, Fujian. This 80,000 ton carrier is similar to the eleven American aircraft carriers. Fujian is a bit smaller and carries fewer aircraft but is very capable. Currently Fujian is spending a lot of time at sea to begin the long process of training the crew to meet the performance standards that Americans have achieved during 70 years of carrier operations in war and peace.

The Chinese drone carriers are an attempt to develop something unique in carrier warfare that the Americans don’t have. The drone carriers will conduct exercises against the Fujian, which will play the role of an American carrier. This is to gain an understanding of how much of a threat the drone carriers would be to American carriers. This leaves out the American SSN (nuclear powered attack submarine) factor. These subs can stay submerged for months at a time and have sensors that can detect and track many types of surface ships, including Chinese warships and particularly the Fujian and the drone carriers. American SSNs are designed to hunt down and torpedo enemy surface ships and submarines.

Ship-operated drones can be a threat to American SSNs. That depends on many factors. But it is quite irrelevant that they are no threat to torpedoes fired by submarines.




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