Chinese Carrier Aviation Makes it to 1945

An AP story at reports that the Chinese Navy has successfully landed one of their J-15 (the carrierized version of the Su-33) aboard the Liaoning aircraft carrier.

We here at DT figure there are two ways of looking at this development:  You can say that this proves the threat in the Pacific Rim is real and the defense budget needs to be adjusted accordingly, which means a shift from a ground war focus back to the good ol’ days of wars at sea.

OR you could say that all the Chinese have done is land a jet on a carrier, something the Brits first did on December 3, 1945.  Now launch and recover 35 well-armed aircraft per cycle around the clock for three or four days.  And then add another carrier or two in the AOR and try to make the airwings play nice together.

Remember — although the economics are different — the navies of the former Soviet Union all attempted to embrace convential carrier operations in the late ’90s.  The net-net of their efforts was a fundamental understanding that flying off of the boat is harder than it looks — and it looks hard.  As a result they sold one of their carriers to another country — China.

64 Comments on "Chinese Carrier Aviation Makes it to 1945"

  1. "Now launch and recover 35 well-armed aircraft per cycle around the clock for three or four days. And then add another carrier or two in the AOR and try to make the airwings play nice together."

    DT,… what are you saying… DT… STAHP….


    Everytime you say something like it ain't ever gonna happen, it happens.

    Anyways, there are really only two kinds of ships. Subs and targets.

  2. The second way of looking at this seems like famous last words.

  3. I don’t think a ‘Sea Vampire’ is in quite the league of a J-15, and I’m sure HMS “Ocean” is hardly comparable to “Liaoning”. The Japanese ‘Zero’ was regarded, pre-1941, as ‘all bamboo & ricepaper’, but proved for some while to be remarkably effective.

  4. Clearly, we need to increase our defense budget until it is larger than China's.

    Oh, wait …

  5. Dear DT,

    You forgot to post the picture of a J-15 flying off the carrier.

  6. I give them credit for what this was, its was a single land and takeoff on a refurbished ship in very calm seas with the ship apperantly under its own power. That said, remember the lessons the Japenese learned about building carriers? Like the time they built the Shinano, the worlds largest carrier (of its time) only to have it sunk 10 days after launch by a single US submarine…… This carrier is a training/learning platform, no more, no less. There is no need to worry about anything until they can show they can project military power from a complete carrier strike force. You have to learn how to do that, and this is how they will learn. They will show that after they build their own carriers, put them in full operation and train for a few years. It takes time to learn carrier ops, they have made fast progress but they still have a long ways to go.

    So yes, this is a major milestone for the Chinese but something to loss sleep over, it is not.

  7. ServingGreenTea | November 26, 2012 at 1:53 pm |

    Sometimes I wonder if we're talking to ourselves . . . . I would be surprised if the Chinese consider this carrier as something that they can use to project power against the U.S.

    My desktop jockey analysis says that the more interesting – and perhaps more relevant – question is how this affects their territorial claims in the SE Pacific.

    How would a Chinese CAG fare against JPN subs in the (shallow?) waters around Sengaku Islands? How are ASW capabilities of the Chinese? Seems that the Chinese ASW capabilities is the key determining factor as to whether we have another retreating ARA Veinticinco de Mayo in a PRC-JPN conflict a la Falklands.

    As for the Vietnamese or the Fillipinos, they probably don't have much in the way of a undersea navy, if any, and the carrier probably could be use to have useful loiter time over the islands.

    Just food for thought.

  8. It wouldn't surprise me if China was getting help from ex western carrier pilots and carrier deck personnel. China does very little without either stealing it or paying someone for their expertise.

  9. Joe_Sovereign | November 26, 2012 at 3:17 pm |

    We should offer to build them a top of the line carrier and stock it with planes for 16 Trillion dollars. Then pay off our National debt.

  10. I'd say all they've done is land a plane on a carrier a-la 1945. Next year we'll be looking at the Chinese doing naval air as in 1955, then a year later 1965, and so forth. In other words, in seven years they'll be operating on par with the US.

  11. I thought that although the US has ‘operational’ 9 carriers since the Enterprise has been scrapped that at least two are always in long refit/refueling periods while others work up for deployment or are in rest periods after coming off deployment. So the reality is that generally there are five or six carriers available to be deployed across the the five fleets.

    Those fleets have specific areas of responsibility and taskings so are not all available to go off piling into the Pacific? Thus phrases like ‘we’ve got 11 carriers’ doesn’t seem to match the reality of what’s actually available for operations in the Pacific or have I missed something? Granted China only have one carrier (which is one more than the UK and more aircraft sat on it, we only own two carrier aircraft full stop and they are stuck in the US with no carrier to put them on) but I thought China’s doctrine is fleet protection cover/CAP type stuff securing home waters and not power projection.

  12. J15SU33Whocares | November 26, 2012 at 3:53 pm |

    I personally believe that all carriers, American or Chinese, will be missile fodder in any serious war involving major powers.

    That aside, all those Flanker derivatives look great; much better looking than the F35 and the Super Hornet. So I'm rooting for them.

  13. A aingle Chineses carrier may not seem very intimidating or worrisome to the USN and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but if it was circling off of the coast of Taiwan, Japan, or South Korea, it might make some of those folks a bit nervous.

  14. On the positive side – the entire Chinese carrier cost the equivalent of one BAE Hybrid-Electric fighting vehicle.

  15. I believe it's more of a region seas power show than an International show of power. They are more interested in showing India, Japan, S Korea etc that they're getting into the game and they'll redraw their maps and include as many uninhabited islands as they want. In a few years they'll start to include Vietnam, and a larger chunk of India without any notice.

    It's already starting to happen but Internationally they're not in the same ballpark and won't be for a couple decades. But that's my uninformed guess.

  16. While i in some ways agree with the post all over this page. There is one thing you are ALL missing. We as Americans to often see things as we, AMERICANS. Afte all havn't we all been told that everyone is basicly the same as us?! SO everyone thinks just like us, like how how the MB in eqypt now has its own "Temporary" King…just the same right?

    We arent the same. A quick thing to think about. The PLA is atm growing and modernizing at a frightening rate. And while there ships, planes, subs, and other weapons arent the equal of ours they have a hell of alot more of them. And if you that doesnt matter ask the germans how easy it was to deal with the far inferior Sherman M4.

    Quantity has a quality all its own. And this is still true.

    The last thing to think about….20 years ago the chinese were 40 years behind us…now they are only 10. As we have a ever increasing poor class which gets more and more entitlements they have a middle class larger…..THAN THE ENTIRE US POPULATION.

    I think china is more at risk in the next couple of decades for a collapse from within this doesn't mean i assume it will happen. You cant assume with the fate of a entire nation on the line. So plan for the possible and even the improbable.

    Also remember this. The chinese above all things admire hard work over anything else even natural talent. They will work their asses off taking chances that would have any US military buried under legal BS and political pressure.

    So they WILL become competent in Carrier usage and the things they need, Failure is after all still seen as bad there. And if the current figures hold up they could have as many carriers if nor more than us by the middle of the next decade. They will also have the surface fleets to guard it.

    The fools always yammer their superiority to the world sitting arrogantly in their thrones until pulled down….will we follow the same fate as britain? No their is no US to counterbalance the chinese USSR.

  17. Leo Gerald Johnson | November 26, 2012 at 5:23 pm |

    Let's face it the J-15 is a Copied Aircraft.It is copied after the Soviet Su-33 and The Su 33 is copied after the f-14 Tom Cat without the varible swing wing.

  18. This is a start and the Chinese think long term, 100 yrs or more. It may be target practice for a space base real time ship targeting system. How can they track ships at sea and how to guide missiles to them.

  19. This is a result of US lax on military defense , more importantly offensive military technology. Chinese military improvements will keep us in check and hopefully wake us up.

  20. "OR you could say that all the Chinese have done is land a jet on a carrier, something the Brits first did on December 3, 1945".

    Sorry, the Brits were the first to fly an airplane off of a ship that was underway. Commander Charles Samson flew off HMS Hibernia on 4 May 1912 in a Short Improved S.27 biplane.

  21. Media has not made it clear what China's intention is with this carrier at all.

    Correct me if wrong but carrier groups are the big fish of the sea and when look at China's coast line ..Koreas to the north, Taiwan to the East, Japan just behind these and the southern soup of sea disputes.

    I believe this is a test to learn from, being that they used an older carrier design. I feel China will design a better carrier before they even think about using it to assist a war.

    Online, the Chinese constantly dispute Japan openly in games and some forums.
    Their government seems to continually censor them from certain sites but with that, a large amount that use proxies to access anyways, also exploit money from the west, hackers or worse.

    Even some of their own citizens wonder if their government prepares to war us.

    3.8 million people in America are of Chinese descent and coincidently or not, China is trying to put schools in my state for Chinese only. For their countrymen from anywhere to learn. Their way.

    Otherwise I feel, in a force level, this carrier, even fully loaded is no threat to our naval dominance. Especially when combined with allies.

    I think we a safe until we admit we cannot pay the debts we owe them $$$ so shhhh… opps

  22. Is any one else looking forward to the Chinese version of Top Gun? All kidding aside we keep talking about the military implications of this carrier to the rest of the world but could this mean much more to the Chinese politburo propagandists? Chinese culture is very much about face value so having a shiny new (ish) Potemkin carrier to toss into ideal photogenic situations waving the Chinese flag might be of more value to them than an effective carrier air wing. Average Joe blow (and his Chinese equivalent for that matter) on the street has no clue of what that carrier is capable of despite what many articles like this one keep reiterating. Maybe a good Top Gun type propaganda play gets them everything they want. Carrier experience, notoriety from the rest of the world, and another national achievement to put on their refrigerator door.

  23. We usually don't see this much discussion unless we discussing the merits of the LCS :-P

    But anyway, the first rule of war: is to never underestimate your enemy (disclaimer-China is not our enemy now, but we aren't exactly allies either)

    The second rule of war is-he who learns quickest wins (The Chinese are quick learners and great at copying and/or stealing, and we are very poor at protecting our stuff)

    The third rule of war is: if someone "says" they are your enemy and they are making preparations to fight you then more than more than likely are are "Your" enemy (but you are just in denial)

    The forth rule of war is: he who has the biggest treasury chest can have more soldiers and weapons (right now China has the bigger chest and ours is shrinking)

    The fifth rule of war is: the deep thinkers win (here we currently have the advantage)

    The sixth rule of war is: he who fight for honor fights harder (The Chinese, from their point of view, are defending their "turf" i.e. South China Sea, islands, etc.)

    The seventh and final rule of war is: it is always better to attack than to defend (The Chinese offense is currently much better than their defense, we are somewhat balanced toward defense)

  24. Nobody has mentioned that this is the first of three carriers that the Chinese plan for. Non are rehabs, they are all brand new. Yes, they will have problems with this first one, but so did we with the Langley, and the Saratoga. Remember the first rule of war, never under estimate your enemy.

  25. …while the Chinese have come a long way…trying to keep up with the American carrier task force…yea they have a long way to go….

  26. Haven’t you heard? No need to worry, we can still scrap our entire Naval fleet with the exception of a few carriers and subs and still maintain our naval dominance. I mean there are after all fewer horses and buggies today than we had in the past. No need for MSC, or battle groups for that matter. We can get by with a handful of subs and carriers. So what if Red China has Nukes and now it appears they are making strides in a carrier program? The sun will still come up tomorrow, the sky is still blue, and everything is still hunky dory… So what if there is a clear and present threat looming in the pacific! S0 what if North Korea has a lunatic in charge! Life is fine! The U.S. Dollar is doing fine. We do not owe China any money, and THEY LANDED A MIG ON AN AIR CRAFT CARRIER!!! Nah, we have no reason to worry…

  27. Forrest Kocher | November 27, 2012 at 1:28 pm |

    Let me know when they have chiefs with 20 years of carrier experience.

  28. I remember when defense tech post a picture of tire skidmark on China aircraft carrier, some people in this forum say it’s fake n PS thing! Wake up Dude!

  29. I remember when defense tech post a picture of tire skidmark on China aircraft carrier, some people in this forum say it’s fake n PS thing! Wake up!

  30. They may have just landed their first jet aircraft on a carrier. Next they will try to get it to submerg, then we will really be in "trouble"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  31. I wonder how many failures and loss of life it took to achieve this monumental feat. We all know that the US and British have lost many an aviator and flight deck personnel in carrier flight operations.

  32. It would make sense to sell small carriers to the Aussies, and the Japanese. Japan has the institutional memory and ability to man, equip and pay for several battle groups but the Aussies could learn quickly. Providing Japan and Australia with nuclear attack subs would also add deterrence. We could build this stuff as joint projects. Doing this would lessen the burden on the US and our stretched out resources and it would also strengthen our alliances with our allies…while scaring the shit out the Chinese. Imagine Japanese Navy forces standing shoulder to shoulder with America! Wow!

  33. Well here is how they roll… it looks like two birds
    flying off the ski jump …then trapping…

  34. Tommy Thompson | November 27, 2012 at 9:38 pm |

    Never underestimate the power of the Chinese, they will never run out of people and many of them are smart and can think, especially if are forced to work their butts off for the government. The old Chinese proverb goes something like this. Power comes out of the barrel of a gun……There is no doubt they want or maybe already are a world power. Remember, even great nations self-destruct and how about the USA? Do you think that we can afford to maintain our military power? Well, it looks like the administration and his allies will slash our budget to a point where we are a toothless tiger. It has happened before. What do you think?

  35. Amicus Curiae | November 28, 2012 at 8:54 am |

    I wanted a similar headline "Back to the Future, the USN returns to 1945" for the USS America.

  36. China's Navy is the biggest joke in naval history. Ward Carroll is right, and that's assuming this carrier landing actually even happened, and wasn't another photoshop job like that 'stealth plane'.

  37. The big threat will be chinas ability to mass produce these things once they have it sorted out.They have enormous manufacturing capacity like the US did in ww2… but if we are lucky they will agree to make some for us too.

  38. China is very capable of producing world class military assets. The key to remember is that both US and China are economically connected at the hip. Our best reaction to this is to work on defensive weapons such as Iron Dome and Missile Defense. I also believe China has realized that carriers can diversify their abilities in their region. It only makes sense. Our biggest threats are Countries that are economically and politically unstable like Egypt, North Korea, and Iran.

  39. Is anyone looking at history? When the Chinese see a need, they also find or invent a solution. There is absolutely no reason to think this carrier can't be deployed with a full fighter wing on board.

  40. All I can think of is how quickly they built the great wall of China.

  41. what are you guys worried about, china is not going to drop a bomb on its own checking account that the USA fills each month! it's all saber rattling as far as getting involved with the USA. china may do some damage to the PI, taiwan and japan but nothing serious enough to cause a deficit in their own checking account w/ the USA. like the man said "it's a different story when you make the carrier battle ready with trained personnel and birds ready for a mission".

  42. I will say don't sell them short. Lets wait and see what they do with what they have befoe we fold out hand and say we are still the top dog. it might not work out that way. i hope we stay the top dog. i guess time will tell

  43. reducing our military capabilities Now (to fix the budget, permit more social spending) will only Encourage more like this from the chinese. if you were paying attention, the exact same thing (for the same reasons) happened under J Carter and the cold war Escalated. it took a Reagan to get our military to where it could surpass the USSR threat. History Repeats, this should be no surprise

  44. and the very sad thing about the Chinese threat is Panetta has warned the military that we will increase our involvement in the pacific, yet he has done NOTHING to stop the decrease in our capabilities. like a typical Liberal, he believes one can just ORDER the military to get it done, at the same time defunding their support and ignoring morale issues

  45. Author-

    I viewed this test and was struck by how professional it all looked. Yep. I'm impressed. And appropriately apprehensive.

    BTW, I've been worked in carrier Naval Aviation for the past 37 years flying, leading, testing and engineering.

    You tell me you're not impressed? You think we're that good like we were in the late 80's early 90's? IMO, we're not. Our blue water capability sucks. Wrong platforms and more of same on the way. Can't may hay without gas and an airwing of 65 can't do what an airwing of 95 used to do….

  46. We have nothing to worry about. Even if they could, the Chinese would never attack us. They would never risk damaging their investment.

  47. Well first of all Ward Carroll, "wars" are fought and won on the ground, not at sea, battles are fought and won at sea. Second, The us has a Military, the Navy is a component of that Military, just like the Army, Air Force and the Marines,(some would say Coast Guard). To suggest the US can win the Next War with a Navy alone is irresponsible and ludicrous.

  48. Nobody seems to get it. The dumbass Japs had carriers that were in everway inferio to ours from the placement of AA, to fire proofed hangar bays, and CO2 flooded avgas lines. Can anyone say Dec7th 1941? Look at what that cost us and we had real men then. This country is going to be at war with the Chinese in the next decades of this century; they are racist imperialists and if the wizards of P/C smart in the Pentagon don't see that instead of worrying about their consultancy fees post retirement, then we're going to lose our asses. Ya' fight like ya' train and Petraeus is symptomatic of the corruption at the huighest levels, the national command authority.

  49. Call me when they are making night carrier landings something the USA is the only country currently doing.

  50. John In Jacksonville | November 29, 2012 at 5:08 pm |

    I object to the tone of the headline of this story. What purpose does it serve to taunt and belittle a rival – did you learn nothing from adolescence? Chinese soldiers have killed American soldiers before in war; I recommend respect even (or especially) when you're sure you're stronger than the other guy.

  51. Give me all the Harriers the Brits can't afford, and 24 refurbished A4 Skyhawks with the latest glass cockpit and AIM-9 capability, and call me when you have a conventional war problem you want to solve.

  52. Americans have long been a paranoid bunch! just because people around the world are trying to copy our way doesn't mean that they are going to attack us. There has been 155,000 request to purchase and own guns since the president won re-election. the question as to why this is happening? people say, he's going to take the right to own guns away. Why is it that this man (president)would attempt to change or re-write the constitution when he has so many other worldly important things to attend too? Paranoia? no! Keeping the watch? Yes!

    It is good that we keep an eye on everyone around the world. we saw that the soviets tried so many things that they saw us do, such as "refueling a task force at 15 knots in choppy seas", bring food, ammo and mail aboard with a high-line. They would shadow us and take pictures of our operations for days on end but, yet today, they still bring fuel to a location, drop a platform and walk over to the receiving vessel. So, just because you see copy cats around the world it doesn't mean squat.
    the watch was and has been set since December the 8th 1941.

    An old sailor's way!

  53. I am sure that the Chinese have some very good naval aviators in their midst. How do you find out how good they are? Let them land on the boat while underway, at night, in a storm. And let them do it day after day.

    I am not an aviator. But I have had the very good fortune to launch and recover several times in not very nice conditons. I thanked God after each event for giving me a driver who wore XXL underwear to carry those massive gonads. Can't beat Naval Aviators.

  54. ” the navies of the former Soviet Union all attempted to embrace convential carrier operations in the late ‘90s. The net-net of their efforts was a fundamental understanding that flying off of the boat is harder than it looks — and it looks hard. As a result they sold one of their carriers to another country — China.”
    Being self-condescending is one thing but afaik Ukraine never attempted to use this ship, which was basically a floating scrap of metal when China purchased it, I wonder what the **** you’re referring to.

  55. I say… its all about operational experience. The chinese have no experience in carrier operations *or* at projecting power. These are not technological challenges, but *experiential* ones.

    Now admittedly, "hot" wars, like WW2 are the crucibles where military establishments play catch up – which the US did in a very big way in WW2. However, even considering that, the Chinese military is *still* a generation behind us, and will remain so, for the foreseable future, and most important, their military planners know it.

    If it ever comes to it (which I think profoundly unlikely) the Chinese will not project power using carriers; they will rely on some other venue, the nature of which I'm not certain of at this point.

    Chinese carriers are not their to intimidate the US. They are there to intimidate regional minor powers. Frankly, for the Chinese, I think they are a major waste of time.

    The only place I see them acting usefully is in some as yet unimaginable UN action, probably aimed at a nation not in their immediate vicinity, and not on their own. They may be able to make a useful contribution, but toe-to-toe, outside of their their own border, they'd be hard-put to deal with active resistance by even a 2nd rate military.

  56. I would never underestimate a country as large and as populated as China… especially since the most powerful country in the world owes it lots and lots of money and depends on it for manufacturing. China has been very patient and watches ( and i feel learns) from everything. If they are smart their learning and patience can pay off . They are in the race now and once that giant gets a taste of power.. who knows. How to keep them in check? I cant tell you that, but I have to been there many times.. since 91 and have seen the development.. We have our waves of good and bad economics here but China has not stopped building… ever. They are still in the mode we were in 70 years ago when you saved every penny and they will starve their kids to get more. We lost that hunger long ago. Its something to think about. Rome fell thousands of years ago for the same reason… they got fat and bored.

  57. Meh. Nothing a few Mark 48's can't handle.

  58. DO NOT! count out China.

  59. Sell them the Big E with retired or near retired a/c for the $16B then opps, it sinks. For all the Big E sailors out there I'm kidding of course.

  60. Monica Lewinsky | May 12, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  61. I don't agree with your seventh rule. If Lee had listened to Longstreet at Gettysburg and moved south to make the union army attack as they had always done, instead of attacking the union line with Pickett's Charge, the United States would likely have lost 11-13 states. If on the other hand the fleet at Pearl Harbor had got wind of the approach of the Japanese attack on December 7th 1941 and put to sea, it is likely they would have all been sunk and not recoverable. It is dependent on the situation.

  62. The problem with you Yanks is you have always "UNDERESTIMATED" your opponents. Just checkout your past "WAR" history.

  63. Some of you are on the right track. China isn't scaring us, they are scaring every small country in the South China Sea. They want the vast oil and natural gas reserves in the South China Seas to build their current and future economic growth. They have very little fossil fuels to drive their economy.
    All they need is something that floats and some airplanes to project their air power over these small contries. Everyone know that our current President will not come to anyones aid. China is using the current opening in our week president to grab as much area and clout as they can, when they can. We need a President who China fears.
    MAYBE the first step is to remove the money that is driving this beast by using Tariffs that are designed to protect our workers from Chinas cheap labor force. BEWARE, China will use its military to defend their future vision of being the next world power.

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