The US Pacific Fleet is changing, but China is not standing still either

A clash between America and China cannot be completely ruled out. But while the United States must rearm its fleet and reform its navy, China is launching one ship after another.

The US Navy has a new strategy for the Pacific – instead of large aircraft carriers, it will use much smaller and cheaper small “carriers” and many aircraft carriers. There is the United States ensures superiority and, in a possible conflict, victory to their biggest competitor in the area, i.e. China. However, it does not rest on its laurels and also heavily armed, while it has several aces with which it can complicate or even destroy many American plans.

Giant “planes” will be replaced by small America

The symbol of American naval power are the large aircraft carriers of the Nimitz and Gerald R. Ford classes, in both cases very demanding for maintenance and crew. In the Pacific, however, they must be replaced by aircraft America class ships, they are classified as support landing craft. They also have a submersible dock and can transport more than 1,600 Marines who land using hovercraft, helicopters and MV-22 Ospreys.

Compared to the Gerald R. Ford class, America is 80 meters shorter (she is 257 meters) and requires “only” 1,059 crew members and 165 technicians and pilots to operate. However, the maximum capacity is only 20 F-35B fighters, which can be lifted vertically and therefore do not need such a long runway. Additionally, the America class has no reactor and is limited to a range of 9,500 nautical miles (ie about 17,600 km) and a top speed of 22 knots (45 km/h). So far, 12 such ships have been ordered.

ThePhoto: United States Department of Defense
American Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier

Fear of losing large aircraft carriers is apparently behind the change in tactics, as evidenced by the order for heavy withdrawals of the Navajo class. They “tow” even heavier ships, can effectively pull those stranded on shore back into the water, and can otherwise assist in oil accidents, for example. The loss of a large aircraft carrier would be devastating for the United States, would not only shake America’s naval power in the Pacific, but would also be a prestigious and economic loss. In addition, 6,000 crew members would be at risk.

Reforming the US Marine Corps

The second most important part of the future Pacific fleet will be the Lewis B. Puller-class floating bases. They are re-engineered Alaska-class tankers with a displacement of 80,000 tons, a top speed of 15 knots (28 km/h) and a range of 9,500 nautical miles (17,600 km). Helicopters can operate from the ship, and ships can operate from the dry dock or hovercraft. The interior of the ship is modular and can easily be converted into a special forces base or floating hospital.

However, the change also occurred in the case of some tasks of the Marine Corps (USMC). The Marines are returning to their roots when instead of operating in populated areas or inland it will be their duty to land on the coast and conquer it. For example, the troops got rid of M1A2 Abrams tanks, heavy engineering equipment – e.g.

USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3), maiden voyage, Norfolk, 2017
ThePhoto Source: US Navy
USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3), the ship’s maiden voyage

On the other hand, the rocket artillery should be significantly strengthened and more HIMARS rocket launchers, famous in Ukraine, should be added to the marines’ arsenal. The backbone of the United States Marine Corps Landing Force to become the modern ACV-30, which will replace the 40-year-old AAV 7. It is armed with a 30 mm cannon and can carry up to 12 marines. The Marine Corps is also looking into acquiring floating hospitals and repair shops.

China is also heavily armed

Of course, the other side is also on the alert, China has launched an extensive program to build a fleet, so that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy will have 400 ships in the next few years. By comparison, in 2045 the Americans could have about 350 ships, some, however, slightly stronger than their rival. Another problem is that they are scattered all over the world and it is difficult to centralize them all. In addition, it is a huge asset for Beijing that if a war breaks out, it will take place in its waters.

Therefore, China can build smaller ships and rely on the support of land bases. New ones are being built mostly on atolls and islands in the South China Sea, although US bases for launching the F-35B are also growing nearby. Dragon Land places H-6 bombers and medium-range missiles on them, with which it can also hit the largest American base in the area – Guam. The big unknown, however, is the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles, which can supposedly destroy a ship up to 1,400 kilometers away without the possibility of defense.

While at least the basic specifications are known for the DF-21D missiles, the real puzzle is China’s underwater drones, about which virtually nothing is known. According to unconfirmed reports, they are very advanced and could be a deadly threat. But let it not be only praise, The Chinese Navy also has a major weakness, namely the lack of sailors and experts. Young and educated Chinese are simply not attracted to sea service, but this does not stop Beijing in its naval policy and armaments. After all, even an American general estimates that America will be at war with China within two years.

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