Could China Wipe Out U.S. Aircraft Carriers?

MaoNo / Pixabay

Former Navy intelligence specialist D.M. McCauley explores the Chinese threat to America’s largest ships.

As a result of extensive action in World War II, aircraft carriers are often seen as the capital ships of modern Navies. However as the geopolitical situation continues to evolve, their role in modern warfare is increasingly being questioned, writes McCauley for Task & Purpose.

China develops supersonic anti-aircraft carrier missile

Of particular concern is the progress being made by the Chinese armed forces. China has developed a ballistic missile known as the DF-21D, adapted to destroy aircraft carriers.

“China has expended vast time and resources determining how to kill US carriers, which suggests that the Chinese military takes carrier capabilities seriously,” wrote Robert Farley, assistant professor at Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. “The USN is very concerned about the DF-21D, which is one reason it’s working so hard on ship-borne anti-ballistic missile technology. The USN is also working on other countermeasures, including strikes on DF-21 launch sites at the onset of war (potentially delivered from nuclear cruise missile submarines), and electronic warfare.”

Some believe that the supersonic DF-21 could threaten aircraft carriers, just as torpedoes made heavy battleships vulnerable. As torpedoes eventually made battleships obsolete, the same may eventually be said of the DF-21 and aircraft carriers.

Can aircraft carriers be protected against China?

Some aircraft carrier detractors say that the DF-21 will prove almost impossible to counter, destroy or avoid, but that does not take into account the military hardware which escorts a carrier. A successful DF-21 launch relies on a number of steps, and disrupting one of them could avoid a strike.

To destroy an aircraft carrier, a huge amount of surveillance has to take place. Over-the-horizon radar can be inaccurate, and would not be sufficient to ensure a strike. Aircraft, drones and submarines are needed to provide more accurate assistance.

Perhaps the most likely location for a successful strike is the littorals, where carriers are vulnerable from land. However a successful strike from land also depends on the strength of coastal defenses.

If we consider maritime assets, the Chinese submarine fleet poses the greatest threat. Their capabilities, in addition to strike aircraft and anti-ship missiles, may push U.S. aircraft carriers further from the Chinese coast.

Greater integration and cooperation of armed forces

In response to this threat, a critical operational shift is occurring within the U.S. armed forces. Officials have realized that forces will be expected to operate across multiple domains in asymmetric ways, including disrupting missile strikes using electronic warfare.

The utility of the aircraft carrier in future warfare will depend on the integration of air, ground and naval forces to a point that has never been seen before. Moves towards greater cooperation and integration have already begun, with a joint forcible entry exercise that took place in August.

Joint-tactical networking is also necessary to improve communication and data links, and enable each military branch to use electromagnetic, kinetic and cyber weapons. One such example of this work are carrier-wing aircraft which transmit targeting data to submarine-launched missiles.

One piece of technology that could aid these efforts is the JLENS over-the-horizon sensor, which has been used to guide advanced surface-to-air missile to strike incoming anti-ship missiles. The key to the future of warfare is to ensure that all armed forces work together.

Military doctrines adapting to new technological threats

Existing doctrines are being adapted for use in multiple domains, including the use of fighter aircraft as surveillance platforms in support of submarines used to attack air defense positions, or drone operated from submarines in support of land-based forces.

Given the current evolution of military doctrines, it seems that the role of the aircraft carrier will also change. McCauley believes they will be “integrated platforms capable of regional deterrence, localized resupply, and long-range strike.”

Those who herald the death of the aircraft carrier are premature. As McCauley says: “No engagement will ever consist of a lone carrier against a swarm of carrier-killer missiles. They will operate as a staging ground for combined arms, supported by sea, land, and air assets.”

China looks set to build more DF-21D missiles, and it will certainly use them as a deterrent. For its part the U.S. will continue to consider the future of its aircraft carriers, and the forces that protect them.

There are ways in which aircraft carriers can continue to perform a meaningful role in modern warfare, but the existence of a weapon such as the DF-21D complicates the situation. Should China manage to successfully destroy a U.S. aircraft carrier, the reaction would surely lead catastrophic war.

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About the Author

Brendan Byrne
While studying economics, Brendan found himself comfortably falling down the rabbit hole of restaurant work, ultimately opening a consulting business and working as a private wine buyer. On a whim, he moved to China, and in his first week following a triumphant pub quiz victory, he found himself bleeding on the floor based on his arrogance. The same man who put him there offered him a job lecturing for the University of Wales in various sister universities throughout the Middle Kingdom. While primarily lecturing in descriptive and comparative statistics, Brendan simultaneously earned an Msc in Banking and International Finance from the University of Wales-Bangor. He's presently doing something he hates, respecting French people. Well, two, his wife and her mother in the lovely town of Antigua, Guatemala. To contact Brendan or give him an exclusive, please contact him at theflask@gmail.com

111 Comments on "Could China Wipe Out U.S. Aircraft Carriers?"

  1. Talk is cheap,nothing you got can do so to a DF31, big mouther.

  2. Not much that can be done towards China, wasnt Chinas allies from the start, China didnt lose anything, and frankly US has played a dominating role in it, everybody sees it, not that it will benefit the US in anyway in the long run.
    Besides, if philipine and vietnam think its worth it, why shouldnt china believes the same?

  3. Yes, the Hornet has short legs, but some Hornets are configured as mid-air refuelers, easily increasing that range beyond the 1000km mark. Additionally, if the USN moves forward with plans to bring in the MV22 Osprey as a logistics and refueling aircraft, that plane has a range of over 1600km and is able to refuel the Hornet (one was tested in 2013, Boeing is rolling it out as a roll on/roll off kit).

    This is an area of weakness, I admit. The early retirement of the A6 brought a host of problems the Navy is still working through. But they are on the verge of being solved with manageable, understood systems.

    And remember, the USN has deep water subs which protect the carriers and hunt enemy subs. Carriers allowed the US to win WWII in the Pacific, but US subs strangled Japan of vital material well before that.

    I guess what I’m saying is that these articles are always written as if weapon systems exist in a bottle. Its never that simple of course. Everybody is always willing to write off supercarriers because of the next gee-whiz wonder weapon, but in fact there is no more survivable weapons platform on the planet and they can each muster a level of firepower that the vast majority of nations couldn’t hope to achieve. Its going to take more than one lucky torpedo or missile to finish one off, unless we’re talking nukes, at which point we have an whole different set of problems.

    Nice discussing this with you!

  4. China is the one losing allies in the region, they are making their own bed, soon they will have to sleep in it.

  5. Yeah, sure, and We are supposed to believe that you are a rocket scientist just because you say it, yup.
    Even the newest version of Tomahawk(which most of the missiles in USN arent) which claim that it have the ability to hit moving target are still extremely limited in that capability, it has only really been sucessful tested on moving ships that the about locations are already known, noway in a million chance can it strike on a road mobile missile that are operating relative deep in a complicated urban land area, especially when many of those missiles are been defended and accompanied by land based mobile type 730 CIWS guns similer to those phalanx system used by US naval ships.

  6. Carrier need to go to a range of about 1000km for effectiveness, the F18 are very short legged, ideal range would need to be 600-800km away from the target, its not deep water.

  7. Go cry us a river.

  8. No such a place as the west phlipine sea on this planet, sorry to bust your bubble.

  9. Get a clue, its Japan that were afraid of China, scared to the death actually, its actions speaks for it. There are no alliance between Philipine vietnam, japan indonesia malaysia, USA bla blabla, you actually think the muslim nations like indonesia and Malaysia and communist Vietnam would ally with US? Haha! You actually think those countries(except for Japan and Philippines that were paranoid about China) would gang up to fight their biggest buyer of thier goods, China(yes China, not US) – their most important trading partner? You simply imagined it, period, kinda like a mind masturbation to get some self satisfaction,lol.

  10. Says someone from a country that were merely a backward banana republic just alittle more than 100years ago, why dont you give me break! Just take a look at the research facilities in the US, see how many of those that works there are american born, not many, you never hade the brains for it, just stole others.
    Btw, you are not even a american arent you?

  11. jealousy gets you killed | Oct 4, 2015, 2:50 pm at 2:50 pm |

    damn you are stupid!! “AGAIN WHICH COUNTRY DO YOU KNOW OF, THAT AGREES WITH WHAT CHINA IS DOING (building) IN THE WEST PHILIPPINE SEA? I AM NOT ASKING WHOSE SIGNATURES ARE IN THE UNCLOS” The operative word is “agree”. When you signed a document, you agree to all terms and conditions. The law does not care about how you feel. It only cares who signed it. Whats more to it? Maybe everyone should pay attention when they put that pen on paper.

    Two of the dumb questions have been addressed, now find any cliff that will end the stupidity!!!

  12. True, but if they want to attack US Navy carriers as the writer of this article suggests, they will need true deep water subs, as carriers don’t come close to the coast in military operations.

  13. LOL!!! You know they have already tested the DF-21 already multiple times. We even have footage of some of their test hitting fast moving targets in the middle of the Gobi Desert. The US military would not be concerned if they didn’t have evidence of the missile actually working….

  14. Who said Russia will be on your side? Apparently you do not know the true story of your two countries.

  15. Use your DF-31. We’ll make sure you will have a beautiful fire works show right in your own backyards.

  16. Go put on that green uniform Mao told you to ware and don’t forget the green cap with the red star. You may have the largest allocation but you will never achieve the degree of pure R&D. Sorry you just don’t have the brains for it. By the way don’t forget that Red Book.

  17. Oops sorry I didn’t know you are a Confucian. Now I am going to make my question as simple just for you. WHICH COUNTRY IN THE ASEAN (because these are country that are directly affected by what china is making of corals into islands) AGAIN WHICH COUNTRY DO YOU KNOW OF, THAT AGREES WITH WHAT CHINA IS DOING (building) IN THE WEST PHILIPPINE SEA? I AM NOT ASKING WHOSE SIGNATURES ARE IN THE UNCLOS. By the way how high of a cliff do want us to jump?

  18. Fubar 35 can’t dog fight. japan is nothing more than a vassal state to the NSA regime. I’m glad to see it falling down fast.

  19. Like the one exploded during an exercise last month? SM-3 is NO guaranteed.

  20. Sorry, but you are full of s go read up on the Tomahawks and their capabilities and how they are evolving. And BTW moron, I worked on these I happen to know full well their capabilities. so piss off looser.

  21. Heh, obviously I knew more than you, LACM like the Tomahawks are slow flying, subsonic missile that uses landhugging low altitude flight to evade early detection, its preprogramed, meaning it can only hit fixed non-moving target, its slow speed and low altitude means that once detected it will be easily intercepted and shotdown even by WW2 style anti air guns, or a MANPAD, let alone modern missiles and jet, and with airborn radar system like AWACS but also satellites, you can easily detect those from very far.
    So those LACM are only good against fixed coastal targets, or of a country that only have relatively low tech air defence capabilities, dont expect it to be too effective vs countries like Russia or China.

  22. Yea, you keep thinking that Michael. You apparently don’t know a thing about Tomahawks and their capabilities.

  23. China doesnt need too many deep water operational subs, it( at least for now) have little global aspirations, it only need to defend in asia.

  24. Is it worth it for US? For China its about national soveignty and historical pride and rights, whats it about for US? Continued dominance in asia?

  25. No escort could defend against a ballistic missile in the middle of the sea, doesnt exist yet.

  26. Well, the same did the Germans, Russians and Japanese during their industrialization, which is steal and copy, what did those country invent before that? Nothing! go read some history.

  27. If China are launching against US carriers then war would already be a fact, in the end, China are a nuclear armed nation, in a full conflict between US and China, I dont see how anyone could defeat the other without catastrophic consequence to both. But China only need to defeat US in asia, then it wins, the single best choice for US(and proberbly also for China, for now) is not to engage, this is why the so called pivot to asia policy is simply stupid, because US is showing its hand and openly alarming China instead of get a good covered card to play with, not to speak that it lost the freedom to maneuver, all while China are seeing it as a big bluff, which it really is in reality.

  28. Those are all on mobile launchers, Tomahawk can only hit fixed target, and cruise missiles like Tomahawk are easily defended against by a modern air defense.

  29. It and the more advanced and longer range DF26 have been sucessfully tested.

  30. That is a bunch of BS. China got the 2nd largest RD funding in the world nowdays, its the fastest growing country with international patent applications on the planet, its speed train are now the fastest in the world wher the germans cant even compare to both in test and in actual operational running. Get over yourself.

  31. Wow. Possibly the single greatest comeback in the history of the Internet. I am wounded to the quick.

  32. Alan, China assembles our gadgets.

    I have no idea what planet you live on, but China isn’t even barely entering a close 5th on the world’s tech industry… They don’t even place in the top ten.

    So, maybe read a book or something.

  33. fuck off bryan!!

  34. jealousy gets you killed | Oct 2, 2015, 11:44 am at 11:44 am |

    just as expected, typical morons go on ranting and calling names when they don’t even bother checking the poster’s reply.
    If UNCLOS is signed, signatories are made aware of our claims. Like fine print in the credit card agreement, you accept the terms and condition once the card is used.
    Didn’t realize CIA master issue license to be stupid!! Now do us a favor and jump off the cliff. Better yet, take your stupid family with you too. I want people that can debate to troll.

  35. Not all of them, and Midway very few of the torpedo bombers were successful.

  36. Considering that you used the wrong form of “you’re” and used needless capitalizing throughout your comments, it is ironic that you feel I am the idiot. Further proof: what you say repeats much of what I said; I noted throughout those carriers that were crippled and/or under tow when sunk. Thanks so much for reading my post, missing the point, and then posting a stupid comment. You win all the Internets.

  37. 16 feet keel is light? Three inch steel deck is light? I guess you’ve never heard of compartmentation. Ok ICBM falling to earth, if they ever leave their initial launching pads. They’ll just fall back where they started.

  38. Use it then. Lets see how stupid the DF-21 is. Why hasn’t china test it on one of their fishing boats yet at 800 kilometers? Because it does not work. The best thing china can do with their DF-21 is for chinese new years celebration. It makes a big colorful light show. OK Dokie.

  39. Did you have monkey brain or placenta for breakfast? You have “KURU”.

  40. OK Bryan your an idiot. it was Air Power that killed those ships with Torps and bombs. And launched at extremely close range and at ships that were anchored. get a clue!!!

  41. I love how you guys talk abot this as if we dont have a counter to it. The fact is, our Submarines would launch Tomahawks at those postions taking out those so called carrier killers.

  42. I didn’t say anything about whether the US starts a war or not. My simple point was that if China uses these there is a war regardless if they work or not.

  43. jealousy gets you killed | Oct 1, 2015, 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |

    check the UNCLOS moron, china clearly disclosed that when she signed the UNCLOS. Now, its your dumda$$ turn to sign and abide international law. Otherwise, shut your damn trap!!

  44. They would only be used when a war is already happening. Again by the US’s track record, it’s very likely that the US will start the war. The US is trying to change China not the other way around. Another reason why the US will most likely start the war because China isn’t changing according to the US’s own interests. And when that happens and China starts inflicting heavy casualties on the US, that’s when Americans will turn against the war. I know you come from the school of thought that the US never starts the war. No the US always manages to find an excuse to start the war. Americans live in fear of terrorism. Can Americans stomach a war with a nuclear power? It only take one nuclear bomb to terrify Americans hence why the US can’t do anything with North Korea. China’s bigger and has more nukes.

  45. My point still stands about the article. If China were to use these successful or not,war would be going on.

  46. You guys have nothing to worry about because like many believe… isn’t it made in China? The real threat to US national security is complacent belief in your natural superiority.

  47. That’s if you believe China starts the war. Plenty of scenarios where the US will start the war i,e. Gulf of Tonkin or claiming preventing an imminent nuclear attack like with Iraq. So China isn’t going to care if the US has already attacked China.

  48. if we go there, we will get wiped out, if they come out here they will be sunk to the bottom of the ocean.

  49. The last line “Should China manage to successfully destroy a U.S. aircraft carrier, the reaction would surely lead catastrophic war.” sums up the lack of validity to the author’s point. It’s not the successful destruction of a carrier that would lead to catastrophic war, but the attack successful or not. So, back to the MAD doctrine, do you think China would risk an attempt that might or might not successfully destroy all the US carriers at once (which would have to be the aim). I don’t think so. The survivability of US carriers is well documented, and I doubt any adversary, real or potential, is going to think that they have the ability to end it. If they did, it would be a mistake larger than Pearl Harbor.

  50. Kenneth William Gambill | Oct 1, 2015, 4:35 pm at 4:35 pm |

    “As torpedoes eventually made battleships obsolete, the same may eventually be said of the DF-21 and aircraft carriers.”
    Torpedoes didn’t make Battleships obsolete. In most cases Torpedoes were rarely the most Lethal weapon used against Battle ships. The Yamamoto, The Bismark, and even the USS North Carolina did not sink due just Torpedo hits. In fact The Of three mentions The USS North Carolina limped home after being hit. The Yamaoto, and the Bismark were sunk largely with AIR POWER(As were a number of aircraft carriers). Air power spelled the doom of the Battleship, not the torpedo. The correlation between torpedoes and the DF_21 is absurd. The DF-21 is a land based missile not a munition carried on a submarine.

    Brendan stick to economics dude, or at least do more extensive research into Military Tactics and Strategy before making asinine correlations between facts that are false and don’t exist.

  51. Right….you keep believing that….

  52. I would like to see them try along with any other ass backwards third world country that is feeling froggy. Go ahead and leap.

  53. Here we go China, I hope that coral reef was worth it !

  54. The torpedo made the battleship obsolete? Yeah, I don’t think so. The Japanese pretty clearly demonstrated on December 7, 1941 that carrier-based air-power was the thing to make battleships obsolete. Of the dozens of carriers of various sorts at war in the Pacific, three were sunk by submarines (1 escort carrier, 2 fleet carriers, one of those fleet carriers (Yorktown) was already crippled by air attack and under tow). Compare this to 6 lost solely to aircraft and two by enemy surface ships (one of those, Hornet, was crippled by Japanese carrier-based air attacks and a failed attempt was made to scuttle it before it was sunk by Japanese destroyers).

    Technology being roughly equal, the Chinese submarine force is substantial in numbers but not in force. It has less than a dozen subs capable of deep water ops; the majority of its subs are diesels and are not universally modern (lots of old Russian Kilos, for example).

    The problem is that China has a billion souls to feed. Despite all their money, military spending is a bottomless pit, and they will soon have to make the choice between the happiness of their people and their naval aspirations.

  55. Why not? This is what we have been waiting for for long time. We need this conflict exercise with china. We need to defang this serpent.

  56. No R&D to fall back on. Stealing is about what their good at. The stole from Germany the high speed train. From Spain wind generating turbine designed. From Japan cars, electronics, home appliances, and even the toilet seat designs. FRom the USA military designs. Japan pulled out 400 companies and move the majority to ASEAN countries.

  57. Why is China so afraid of Japan? Why is China complaining about the alliances of the Philippines Vietnam Australia Indonesia Malaysia Japan Korea and The USA? Why does China think that these nation are ganging up on her?

  58. Tell me which country in ASEAN recognize the claim of China in the West Philippine Sea aka SCS.

  59. Yahoo belongs to a chinaman. Where his allegiance is, is my question to him. America gave him the freedom and knowledge to create yahoo. He pulled out of the Philippines transferred his distorted Philippines news to Singapore, which are also predominantly-chinese.

  60. aren’t all wars catastrophic?

  61. The US planes also dropped torpedoes in the water to attack their targets in WW 2.

  62. Gregory Dittman | Oct 1, 2015, 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |

    Or one can use the AGM-158ER. The DF-21 has a range of 900 miles while the AGM-158 ER can be carried by aircraft with a range of 600 miles without external fuel tanks and the missile can travel another 800 miles. One aircraft carrier typically has 64 F-18s. Four carriers would bring it up to 256 F-18s. Each F-18 can carry at least 2 AGM-158 ER missiles. That’s 512 potential targets destroyed at a time while being out of range of the 80 or so DF-21 missiles that China has. Even if China manages to shoot them all down, China is down 512 surface to air and or air to air missiles that work.

  63. Everyday Yahoo puts out this fear mongering crap of who has the best, who to fear and what. You’d think the writer of these articles were rooting for two football teams.

  64. You do know that Truman dropped the bomb not MacArthur right?

  65. While the Pentagon machine is looking for new enemies to sustain itself, China is working on global domination through manufacturing and commerce. They don’t appear to have a single enemy anywhere.

  66. Why would China get into a military conflict with it’s biggest customer?

    But if war broke out today between any two nations with modern weapons, naval ships could be easily destroyed by either side.

  67. China knows that we have their lunch money, and if they ever try to hit us, in any way, they’ll never get that lunch money back. The cost of war is atrocious. The cost of going to war with a country that owes you $10 TRILLION dollars? Yeah. China is stupid. Hasn’t invented a single thing in 1,000 years, are responsible for 75% of the space debris around Earth, have almost caused Elephants and Rhinoceros extinction in a failed attempt to make their tiny genitals work better, etc… . But nobody’s THAT stupid.

  68. China are not intending to fight with US. Why is American media getting so hyper about China military might. Population, Economic size wise already surpassed USA along time ago. Military might still USA.

  69. Can China sink our Navy? Well, that all depends on who is making the missiles. China? Then no! They can’t build a decent automobile, haven’t invented a single thing in 1,000 years, and you think they can make a reliable, accurate, supersonic missile? LOL! Look at China’s space shuttle. Look at China’s new Operating System. All China does is steal, copy, and produce cheap facsimiles.

  70. Also remember cruise missiles are slower than dirt…they are subsonic missiles that effectively hug the ground for defense. Intercepting a slow target is a lot easier than a supersonic or worse hyper-sonic target. The Chinese and Russians are working to take combat to areas the US defense has opt’ed out of high speed weapons. Not to say the US has abandoned high speed ventures, quite the opposite, just saying they have prioritized speed further down the list. With the on-going work with mach 5 missiles and hyper-sonic ballistic missiles the US may be forced to think outside the box again. I honestly think the plan for equipping lasers on the battlefield, is to limit threats of high speed.

  71. I don’t know why these Yahoo reporters are so paranoid over China. Of cause China could US Navy. China never had any Sea War with any country and they have one Aircraft Carrier. I am more irritate and unhappy with Obama administration body body with Japan’s Abe Government. Remember Japanese attacked US not China. Japan has five Aircraft Carriers and China has only one. Used Carrier owned by Russia which was going to scrap one.
    I hope all of these writers before you write about China, read Asian history before you writes and commend about China.
    By the way one writer wrote that General Mac Arthur drop A bomb in Japan and it was President Truman not Mac Arthur.
    Again read history before you comment any thing about not only China but also about Asia.
    KH Lee rokl_2000@yahoo.com

  72. Ever wonder why the laser technology was being pushed up to the timetable so quickly? My guess would be to counter ballistic threats like this. After all, some of the first viable testing footage was shown at sea.

  73. Can Russia throw a single stone at a 29 member NATO alliance? NATO alone can keep Russia busy in Europe. Meanwhile in Far East Asia Japan, Australia, New Zealand and other US allies pose to challenge China aside from US deploying two of its massive naval fleets.. In fact its the other way around and the question is, can China with one stone able to hit US and its allies? Japan’s powerful navy alone could pose a challenge to China’s military, if not for China’s nuclear arsenal that we know US will intervene to protect Japan.

    Japan is set to receive its first squadron of F-35s around 2018. This will stealth aircraft could dramatically change the conditions on the ground now that Japan has finally dropped its pacifist views.

  74. Existing doctrines are being adapted for use in multiple domains, including the use of fighter aircraft as surveillance platforms in support of submarines used to attack air defense positions, or drone operated from submarines in support of land-based forces.

    Given the current evolution of military doctrines, it seems that the role of the aircraft carrier will also change. McCauley believes they will be “integrated platforms capable of regional deterrence, localized resupply, and long-range strike.”

    Those who herald the death of the aircraft carrier are premature. As McCauley says: “No engagement will ever consist of a lone carrier against a swarm of carrier-killer missiles. They will operate as a staging ground for combined arms, supported by sea, land, and air assets.”

    This is the key truth. The fallacy and error that the nay-sayers make is taking an “absolutist” position and in failing to understand the significance of the above.

    A war is never fought with the expectation that no lives or equipment will be lost. The most striking counter-point to the “absolutist” argument against the usefulness of aircraft carriers is D-Day. Launching an assault on a heavily defended beachhead would seem to be a fool’s errand, and applying the logic of the absolutist nay-sayer argumentation logic, that would never have been attempted. And yes, it did result in massive losses – BUT it is ALSO what was a major turning point in the war. That battle and the war were not lost on account of the losses resulting, but won on account of that which successfully made it through.

    Would aircraft carriers be lost in a war with China? Undoubtedly. That isn’t the question that gives the answer to whether we would win or lose and the utility of air craft carriers. The question that gives the answer is how much can these battle groups inflict on China?

    But that’s also a specious argument anyway. It’s not like our military is predicated on the sole purpose of fighting China, now is it? In fact, that is rather low on the the intended utility of aircraft carriers. In fact the principle actual use of air craft carrier groups is, as is often stated: “force projection”. If you can park a US Navy battle group off the coast of some troublemaker, that will give them pause in thinking about how much trouble they want to create. Being able to forestall trouble-making before it even begins is a pretty valuable asset to have.

    And in the event that some troublemaker decides to make trouble, that battle group will provide the force to put a stop to that trouble. And the reality is that there are plenty of troublemakers (and potential) apart from China. Being able to put a stop to most likely trouble-making is a valuable asset to have.

    Or consider arming police with handguns. A handgun is inconsequential against heavy armor and firepower, but that’s not the threat that police are tasked with dealing with – the threats they deal with (usually) do not posses such things. To apply the absolutist nay-sayer argument to the police, we wouldn’t provide them with handguns because someone somewhere might have armor and heavy weaponry that would render a handgun ineffective. How much sense would that make? Well, that’s about as much sense as the arguments against aircraft carriers make.

  75. Archibald_Bomwitz | Oct 1, 2015, 11:04 am at 11:04 am |

    No, China could not! The DF-21 is pure and simple Chinese propaganda and wishful thinking!

  76. Personally, I am a fan of more numerous, smaller aircraft carriers. Not a fan of all eggs in one basket (like Russia’s single aircraft carrier).

  77. China pose to challenge US superior might in a superficial way, gestures to challenge it but backs down at the actual fight. US has been investing on its missile defense with SM-3 (anti-ballistic missile) installed on 15 Burke Class destroyers and 2 Ticonderoga cruisers meant to protect aircraft carriers from possible nuclear attacks. Any effort to sink a carrier fleet there are 120 SM-3s available to intercept short range ballistic missiles. I hope you don’t confuse SeaRAM, Evolve Sea Sparrow with (Standard missile) SM-3 anti-ballistic missile interceptors. China could try, but they may need dozens of their DF21s to overwhelm AEGIS destroyers and cruisers. Well, can they? AEGIS could simultaneously.handle 100 incomings and a carrier group often have 7-12 escort destroyers and cruisers. Not to mention US 3rd and 7th fleet battle-groups are merging to face China’s assertion in the South China Sea.

  78. Mdesyeticamat Mat | Oct 1, 2015, 10:51 am at 10:51 am |

    The as of now no longer world’s leading superpower of the U.S. is really concern a lot about the other world’s superpowers of the global rising power of CHINA and the big bear of RUSSIA.

    Can the shrinking U.S. hit the two birds( CHINA and RUSSIA ) at once with just a single stone in the hand?

  79. They’re just playing the deterrent game. China would never attack the US. At least not alone. If the US were ever attacked I think it would be a multi-pronged global attack from several countries on a wide variety of US civilian and military targets and in a very short amount of time. Even then it would have to be done in such a way as to cause enough confusion that a nuclear response would be unlikely. If that’s possible. What I think is far more likely is for enemies to slowly make the US weaker through more subtle and subversive ways.

  80. Wow!! you did absolutely no research before commenting didn’t you. Here ya go look this up LaWS. It’s already on most of the Navy’s ships…You sir are the idiot here.

  81. Exactly Sean. It was the advent of the Aircraft carrier and the planes not the torpedo that replaced the Battleship as the main offensive firepower of the Navy. In fact the torpedo was around prior to the dreadnought style battleship.

  82. Sean
    There are cargo ships transformed into a carrier fitted with a deck to serve aircraft launches. Real carriers were seen in the battle of Midway. Don’t confuse real aircraft carriers with converted ones.

  83. USS Langley, USS Princeton, USS Hornet (crippled beyond repair by dive bombers, sank by destroyers after failed scuttle)

  84. That’s what I thought too.

  85. Sean
    Stop pretending. You’re merely trying to push your luck. But when reality bites and a ballistic missile comes in range of SM-3 you know it will be intercepted in mid-flight. So what’s the reason to insist they will hit their targets. Try take an in-debt research on SM-3. Specially the latest to enter service in 2018, the SM-3IIA with an extended range of 1,300 miles. This piece of missile interceptor is meant to destroy Short/mid range ballistic missiles at high altitude. Remember this satellite a US navy destroyer took down with an SM-3 over the pacific?

  86. Nope… they would never get through the escort. Now maybe if they caught a carrier in port anchored somewhere.

  87. bankster
    Exactly. And know about SM-3 and why destroyers and cruisers carry them around US carrier group. lol

  88. Sean
    Really! Lol, wow, what is the US carrier that is sank by a dive bomber. lol

  89. Yes the Yorktown survived a few dive bomber hits, but what happened to the 4 Japanese carriers? Oh that’s right, sank by dive bombers.

  90. The DF 21 is not a cruise missile, but a ballistic missile. That means it goes into space and then dives down toward its target from the sky at very high speed. You can look it up.

  91. Sean
    And you think a dive bomber will sink USS Yorktown? Read about the battle of Midway will ya.

  92. wow a double hull, they’ve used that for decades, including on ww2 era ships. they’re still sinkable.

  93. Sean
    Again, you should try do search on how a US carrier is fitted with double wall and in some important areas with Kevlar protective walling.

  94. al len, picture a dive bomber from WW2, where did it hit enemy carriers? the top. guess what? we still sank a lot of Japanese carriers with dive bombers. If I recall correctly, that happened to us at Pearl Harbor as well.

  95. don’t know if the supersonic missile will work. let us assume it does. then there is a problem. does the new laser gun works? perhaps it does. then the supersonic missile threat is reduced appreciably. but this is simply guessing. and how do we know the numbers of nuclear warheads the Chinese have. China isn’t going to tell. again, guess work. but, i am pretty sure it has enough to destroy the US. so, let us hope it doesn’t come to a physical trial of strength.

  96. bankster
    Maybe you should do more research. Why shoot down an incoming high speed missile from a short distance? SM-3 has a range of over 300 miles meant to defeat an incoming from its mid course. Ballistic missiles don’t dodge or do critical maneuvers at mid-flight. SM-3 is designed to intercept a short range nuclear missile in mid-flight… Meaning while it’s still in its cruising moments. Remember cruise missiles do not have pilots to maneuver against an incoming at a visual range. Cruise missiles are dumb targets in mid-flight. Check out SM-3.

  97. A ballistic missile falling to earth carries enough energy that the warhead wouldn’t even need to have explosive capability. The kinetic energy alone would send it through the ship and cause massive damage. Just like the modern tank round, the SABOT shot, relies on kinetic energy and doesn’t have any tnt. Carriers and most modern ships are lightly armored.

  98. bankster
    Picture an incoming cruise missile… where do you think will hit the carrier… Side, top, rear? Often a cruise missile will land on the side to sink it. Why blast the top-deck when afterwards it can be repaired at sea. Cruise missiles often takes a ship at its side or its rear.

  99. Torpedo’s didn’t make battleships obsolete at all. Aircraft made battleships obsolete. If you’re going to write an article using military history as a comparison, can’t you at least research it? It’s a basic concept.

  100. I said render it non-operational, not sink it. An explosion from a conventional warhead can destroy the surface and structures on the carrier, making it impossible to land aircraft.

  101. I’m no expert, but it seems to me shooting down a missile with another missile would put the defender at a disadvantage. You have to rely on the incoming missile following a fixed path, which they don’t these days. Also the speed is so fast it leaves the defender seconds to react. In the end, I hope human-beings can use their brainpower to invent things to better the lives of everyone rather than destroying them. Of course that’s a pipe dream.

  102. bankster
    No cruise missile or torpedo could sink a US carrier, you don’t know? No, not even DF21 unless fitted with a nuclear warhead. Remember the battle of Midway? US is so excellent in operating aircraft carriers since WWII… China is nowhere near any major conflict. Besides, China is only good at pirating technology, or steal top secret military weapons.

  103. I don’t think the DF21 anti-ship missile is meant to carry nuclear warheads. Being hit by a conventional warhead at that speed will render the aircraft carrier non-operational. When it comes to nuclear warfare, the US can destroy China 10 times over, but China can also destroy the US 1 or 2 times over. So what’s the difference?

  104. Is this a real question? We know that if China uses a nuclear weapon against any US vessel, the next actual response is China’s total annihilation. There is no other alternative on the table except destroy the enemy all the way, the reason why Mac Arthur drooped the Atom Bomb in Japan. And now with existing nuclear proliferation? With US 7,000 nuclear warheads what is China going to do? I’m sure China’s leadership knows the very consequences and what is upon them if they attack any US forces.

    So my answer to this question is NO, they can’t, or face annihilation.

  105. Grammar Check

  106. Tom N April Long | Oct 1, 2015, 9:52 am at 9:52 am |

    oh and btw, by the time china gets to the point in 20 or 30 year that they would even risk an asymmetrical attack on an us carrier, lasers may not be such the fantasy..

    we both understand, china is working hard on it’s military capabilities, but you have to remember how they stand today. they’re in the testing phase of everything.. hell eventually there might be something we can steal from them militarily..

  107. Tom N April Long | Oct 1, 2015, 9:46 am at 9:46 am |

    lol, pot calling kettle black, i love it

  108. You are idiot! your laser fantasy to protect the aircraft carrier is not even exist yet its only a theory

  109. “Should China manage to successfully destroy a U.S. aircraft carrier, the reaction would surely lead catastrophic war.” – Exactly..

  110. Whoever wrote this article acts like the US doesn’t have defensive measures in place to protect their carriers. There is a reason all of their ships are being fitted with lasers…

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