Naval Air: China And The Indian Ocean Carrier Fleet


January 7, 2010:    There's a major feud going on in the Chinese Navy. On one side, you have admirals who want to put most construction effort into nuclear submarines (both SSN attack boats, and SSBNs carrying ballistic missiles) and new surface ships. This is  for a strategic fleet. The SSNs and surface ships would be for keeping hostile fleets away from China, while the SSBNs can put the fear of China into the United States, as there are currently no Chinese ballistic missiles that can hit all of the United States.

The other group of admirals, who appear to be getting their way, want to build aircraft carriers. These would be used to control distant waters, like the long sea routes that bring China raw materials (especially oil) and allow exports to reach world markets. The most critical route passes through the Indian Ocean, on the way to the Persian Gulf and Africa. China and India have not always been on the best of terms, and a fleet of carriers is seen as the only way of confronting India with something short of nuclear weapons. In the long term, this carrier fleet could eventually challenge that of the United States.

The United States prefers the Chinese carrier strategy, as it takes a long time to build carriers and train the ship and air crews to a useful level of competency. By building carriers, China will spend less money on building more and better submarines. That suits the United States just fine.

China isn't looking for a war with anyone, especially the United States. What keeps the Chinese people happy right now is a thriving economy. That requires good relations with the United States, but not a whole lot from India. But since so much of Chinas seaborne trade goes through India's back yard, something much be done to ensure the security of that route.



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