- Feb 2010
Gregg Easterbrooke writes about football for ESPN, but his columns include stuff like this:
China is a growing power, but it's not growing THAT fast. And while its army is huge and fierce, China's next military challenge is floating a forceful navy."CHINA FLEXES NAVAL MUSCLE" was the Wall Street Journal banner headline last month when the unnamed Chinese aircraft carrier took a test sail. Many of the nation's major newspapers had this menace on the front page, in stories that could have been written by the P.R. department of any defense contractor. One factor at work is that many journalists at elite media organizations have little knowledge of military affairs, and so don't know how to put the Chinese carrier into perspective. So let's put it into perspective.The "Chinese" aircraft carrier is actually the Varyag, laid down in 1985 by the old Soviet Union. The Varyag languished in port for two decades, a white elephant for Moscow. A few years ago, the Russkies sold the leaky hull to Beijing. The Varyag was in such poor repair it had to be towed to Chinese waters.
United States NavyThe menacing Varyag -- China's navy sails into the 1960s.
Now the Chinese navy -- whose delightful official name is the People's Liberation Army Navy -- has been tarting the hull up. Let's suppose the project is successful. The Varyag does not have nuclear power, like all United States Navy carriers. It's primary design element is a shortened "sky jump" deck, not a flat deck with catapult like all United States Navy carriers, meaning the Varyag can launch only short-range medium-performance jets, not long-range high-performance jets like all United States Navy carriers. The Varyag weighs 67,000 tons and carries about 40 aircraft; the latest United States Navy carriers weigh about 100,000 tons and carry about 100 aircraft. The Varyag is what the United States Navy would call a Kennedy-class aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy being the last conventionally powered carrier built by the United States. And the Kennedy was launched in 1967.
Even if all goes well for the Varyag, it brings the Chinese navy to roughly the position, regarding warship quality, that the United States Navy was in 44 years ago.