The Pentagon’s recent annual report on the Chinese military spotlights growing Chinese naval capability, underscoring the narrowing gap between the Asian power’s maritime forces and those of the US Navy (USN), as well as drawing attention to China’s increasing dominance in the Western Pacific.
The report, 'Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2018', was released on 16 August and also highlights the global naval ambitions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) - which are far beyond the traditional perimeters of its land-based defence systems.
“The PLAN continues to develop into a global force, gradually extending its operational reach beyond East Asia and the Indo-Pacific into a sustained ability to operate at increasingly longer ranges,” the Pentagon reported. “The PLAN’s latest naval platforms enable combat operations beyond the reach of China’s land-based defences.”
In particular, the Pentagon said, “China’s aircraft carrier and planned follow-on carriers, once operational, will extend air defence coverage beyond the range of coastal and shipboard missile systems, and enable task group operations at increasingly longer ranges.”
The PLAN’s emerging requirement for sea-based land-attack will also enhance China’s ability to project power,” the US Department of Defense said. “Furthermore, the PLAN now has a sizable force of high-capability logistical replenishment ships to support long-distance, long-duration deployments, including two new carrier operations. The expansion of naval operations beyond China’s immediate region will also facilitate non-war uses of military force.”
China continues to learn lessons from operating its first aircraft carrier, Liaoning , the Pentagon pointed out.
“[China’s first domestically produced aircraft carrier was launched in 2017 and is expected to be commissioned in 2019 - the beginning of what the PLA states will be a multicarrier force,” the Pentagon reported. “China’s next generation of carriers will probably have greater endurance and be capable of launching more varied types of fixed-wing aircraft, including EW [electronic warfare], early warning, and ASW [anti-submarine warfare] aircraft.
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