China’s aircraft carrier contradiction

by Chris Zappone

Something to think about: If China is simultaneously moving ahead with new aircraft carriers AND anti-aircraft carrier missiles, there is an inherent contradiction. Let’s say for the sake of argument that the DF-21D carrier killer missiles make US aircraft carriers useless in the Pacific. Wouldn’t it follow that the US pursue similar technology to degrade the capability of future Chinese aircraft carriers? So, why would the PLA Navy pursue both? My first thought is lack of strategic foresight and fiefdoms within the PLA and PLA Navy. I.e. the guys working on the carrier killers, which would mark an evolution in sea warfare, can’t stop the guys who want more PLA Navy air craft carriers pursuing more aircraft carriers.
From the US side, it might be hard to imagine a world without aircraft carriers but that may be the way technology is headed. A few years ago, it would have been hard to imagine pilotless drones. These days it barely makes sense to have billion dollar jet fighters controlled by humans making dicey landings on air craft carriers. I suppose the challenge in the US would be to get military planners to embrace this new world where carrier-killer missiles, and drone technology severely change the rules of engagement.

Bloomberg notes the drive for the US to examine a similar technology, if only to test its capabilities.

Key line:

Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational testing, warned in his January 2012 annual report that the Navy lacked a target needed to check its defenses against the DF-21D. The Navy had an “immediate need” for a test missile able to replicate the DF-21D’s trajectory, Gilmore said.