Tue, Apr 10, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Chinese navy eyes major expansion

By J. Michael Cole  /  Staff reporter

China is not satisfied with a single refurbished aircraft carrier and has plans to build two conventional and one nuclear-powered aircraft carriers by 2020, as well as 200 more vessels, a Russian military analysts’ Web site says.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy will also continue developing its submarine and missile forces, with the principal objective of breaking out of the first island chain, the Russian Military Review said.

In the view of Chinese strategists, the first island chain, an invisible line that extends from the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan and the Philippines into the South China Sea, has kept China bottled in and prevents it from assuming its role as a major regional power.

Another stated aim for the PLA Navy is preventing a formal declaration of independence by Taiwan as well as preventing or delaying a US Navy deployment in the region.

Although China has also set its eyes on the Indian Ocean, Beijing maintains that naval deployments in that region will be principally to address piracy.

If the numbers cited in the report are true, the PLA Navy’s fleet of modern vessels, which currently numbers about 200, would double in size by 2020.

China’s first aircraft carrier, the former Varyag, which is still being outfitted, is expected to enter service on Aug. 1 to coincide with the anniversary of the establishment of the PLA.

The number of aircraft carriers Beijing intends to build is the subject of debate, with some analysts putting the number of nuclear-powered carriers at two rather than one.

Amid its naval modernization, the PLA will continue to focus on developing Shenyang J-15 carrier-based fighter aircraft, as well as Z-8 transport helicopters and airborne early warning and control aircraft.

China is currently developing an early-warning and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) twin turboprop aircraft similar to the E-2 aircraft used by the US Navy. Military analysts believe the marine surveillance aircraft will operate from China’s aircraft carriers.

An ASW version of the Shaanxi Y-8 is also believed to be in production.

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