US commander says he wants more aircraft carriers in the Pacific

  • The US Navy recently conducted joint exercises with allies and partners in the Pacific.
  • The 7th Fleet commander said it was “an incredible amount of power”, but added that more was needed for deterrence.
  • “Four aircraft carriers is a good number, but six, seven or eight would be better,” he said.

The commander of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet recently said he would like to see many more US and Allied aircraft carriers in the Indo-Pacific region to deter his Chinese and Russian rivals, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Following a multinational naval exercise in October involving two U.S. aircraft carriers, one British aircraft carrier, and one Japanese helicopter carrier, the U.S. Navy partnered with Japan, Australia, Canada and the ‘Germany in November for exercises in the Pacific.

In this most recent exercise, 7th Fleet Vice Admiral Karl Thomas called the joint force “incredibly powerful” but noted that it would be better to send a message to potential adversaries than ” today is not the day “to start a fight, the WSJ reported.

Thinking “how we could fight, it’s a big water space, and four aircraft carriers is a good number, but six, seven or eight would be better,” said the fleet commander.

The US Navy has a large fleet of just under a dozen nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, but does not deploy all of them at the same time or in large numbers in a single region.

The Maritime Service has one aircraft carrier forward deployed in the Pacific and regularly operates a second, and in some cases a third, in this region. While most US aircraft carriers continue to be armed with fourth-generation F / A-18 Hornets, one US aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, is operating in the Pacific with fifth-generation F-35s.

The US carrier force is reinforced by amphibious assault ships armed with vertical take-off / landing variants of the F-35 stealth jet, as well as transport capabilities from partner countries.

U.S. aircraft carriers have the ability to bring significant combat power to combat and have long served as important means of power projection, but China, as a great power in the Pacific, is trying to develop the capabilities to withdraw. these means of combat.

China has an arsenal of DF-21D and DF-26 anti-ship ballistic missiles, known as carrier killer missiles, and has, according to the Pentagon, fired them against moving targets at sea.

Satellite image shows a carrier target in Ruoqiang, Xinjiang, China on October 20, 2021

A satellite image shows a suspected aircraft carrier target in Ruoqiang, Xinjiang, China on October 20, 2021.

Satellite image © 2021 Maxar Technologies / Document via REUTERS

Earlier this month, satellite images showed a mock-up of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, along with other ships, in the western Chinese desert near an area that had already been used for target practice for the Chinese rocket force, USNI News reported for the first time.

The models found in the desert are expected to be used in practicing missile strikes against naval assets.

Russia and China have conducted military exercises in the Indo-Pacific region aimed at defeating an enemy aircraft carrier attack group.

As China, through an area anti-access / denial strategy, seeks to limit the ability of U.S. carriers to fight near its shores, the country is also building its own carrier force.

China currently has two carriers. The Liaoning was built using the hull of a former Soviet ship, and the Shandong is a Chinese copy of this early ship with some improvements.

Chinese aircraft carriers are very similar to Russia’s only aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, and are distinguished by their ramp-assisted aircraft launch systems, which can limit an aircraft carrier’s combat capability.

A third aircraft carrier is however in the works and could be ready for launch in the coming months, analysts say. The new Chinese aircraft carrier appears to be a larger, more modern ship equipped with catapults and other upgrades.

Experts have said that when this aircraft carrier “finally enters service, it will be a tremendous addition to the Chinese Navy and allow it to project power more effectively.”

In addition, China is in the process of developing a new, next-generation, on-board fighter to replace or expand its fleet of fourth-generation J-15s.

China has the world’s largest navy and an extremely robust shipbuilding capability, according to U.S. military assessments, and the United States and others have repeatedly expressed concerns that they are choosing to use their military might. growing to aggressively pursue their interests in the region. The United States and its partners also have a number of concerns regarding Russia.

Commenting on recent joint exercises with allies and partners of the United States, Thomas said that such exercises are necessary to “deter aggression from some of those nations which show nascent strength” and to “tell those nations that this may not be the day “.

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