China owns aircraft carrier now


By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM

The aircraft carrier launched on Tuesday, 25 Sep 2012 at the Dalian port in North-East China is counted as a great achievement by China. Hu Jintao, President of China and Wen Jiabao, Prime Minister of China were present at the launch ceremony because it was a historic event that would change the mindset of the Naval warfare experts in various parts of the Chinese strategic domain. The Chinese Naval Admirals had not given a damn to the concept o making an aircraft carrier as the hub of the naval strategy so far and had placed reliance on the fast moving missile boats. One may recall that when the Chinese Navy had acquired the carrier killer, Dung FengII, the American Admirals of the Seventh Fleet in the Pacific were losing sleep.

China acquired an old vessel from Ukraine and refurbished it to be used strategically AS A CARRIER .However, there was many a slip between the cup and the lip. Their country did not have the necessary aircraft capable of taking off the deck and after the training flight land on the deck. The old Communist ally, the Russian Federation came to China’s help with an offer of slightly inferior aircraft but capable of all other functions expected of an aircraft of the Air Arm of the blue water Navy. Russians also volunteered to train the Chinese pilots but for a consideration. As the negotiations are going on, the Chinese pilots of the newly acquired carrier are practicing Landing and take off from an alternative playground. Indeed not a perfect environment for training naval pilots.

There is no denying the fact that China has acquired a Blue Water Navy status ,notwithstanding PLA- Navy being a new Service, comparatively speaking. It was the sheer will power of the people of China and their leaders that saw them make commendable progress in raising the Navy from the scratch. The People’s Liberation Army is basically a land based force that fought a civil war against the Kuomintang government and won their motherland on ground and conquered the hearts of their people through simple living and making sacrifices. The battles were lost or won on land by the ground forces and the then coast-hugging Navy of Kuomintang had no role to play. Chairman Mao Dzdong lived in caves during the civil war, ate the same food as his volunteer army won the country hands down. He, along with his comrades entered Beijing on 1st October1949 and in the entire procedure saw no necessity to have a Navy .Indeed that explains why the People’s Republic of China did not have a regular Navy till recently.

As stated heretofore the Chinese Admirals found long range missiles and missile boats quite effective. In their concept of a sea battle, the aircraft carrier will be like a sitting duck an , therefore, more of a liability than an asset. The country shelved the project of building an aircraft carrier until recently. In the revised Naval warfare strategy and the spirit of keeping up with the Jonses , China chose to go in for an aircraft carrier group for safety and security. One aircraft carrier would be very vulnerable to an enemy attack. To divert the attention and resources of the enemy, put a group of three aircraft carriers on sea. Of course, the flotilla would have a full complement of accompanying ships and sub-marines for protection and counter-attack. China has been able to launch only one carrier on 25thSeptember 2012 and that too has been marked as a training ship because of its deficiencies as a combat ship.
Indeed one needs patience and long life to see other two carriers being launched to supplement as the correct complement of the present strength of the aircraft carrier group. Historically speaking the Chinese nation has come a long way from the days of the Dowager Empress of the Ming dynasty who drew a lot of money to raise a Naval fleet to fight against the British Navy but built a ship like palace in the middle of a lake near Beijing and announced that she would lead the ragtag Chinese navy from this ship-like palace. Many centuries later, the Chinese nation is proud to have its own aircraft carrier designed and built by its own engineers and manned by its own Naval officers and ratings. PLA – Navy has come of age.

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