The end of an era

We are rapidly approaching the end of the Carrier Age with regards to sea power:

They’re the pride of the US fleet: enormous 100,000 tonne, 333m long nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. But Beijing thinks they’re Washington’s achilles heel.

Rear Admiral Lou Yuan has told an audience in Shenzhen that the ongoing disputes over the ownership of the East and South China Seas could be resolved by sinking two US super carriers.

Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) reports Admiral Lou gave a wide-ranging speech on the state of Sino-US relations. The high-profile, hawkish military commentator reportedly declared the current trade spat was “definitely not simply friction over economics and trade,” but was instead a “prime strategic issue”.

His speech, delivered on December 20 to the 2018 Military Industry List summit, declared that China’s new and highly capable anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles were more than capable of hitting US carriers, despite them being at the centre of a ‘bubble’ of defensive escorts.

“What the United States fears the most is taking casualties,” Admiral Lou declared.

He said the loss of one super carrier would cost the US the lives of 5000 service men and women. Sinking two would double that toll.

“We’ll see how frightened America is.”

I don’t think it’s an accident that both Russia and China have developed carrier-killer missiles. It’s not so much that they want to get into a conventional war, it’s that for the first time since the end of World War II, they appear to possess the ability to keep the US military from exercising air superiority or even supremacy and controlling the oceans wherever it pleases.

One carrier sinking will forever change the balance of power. And even a shift in US strategy that clearly reflects an awareness of the new vulnerability of its carriers will probably be enough to alter it substantially.

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