This Is How Japan Hopes to Deter (Or Sink) China’s Aircraft Carriers

This Is How Japan Hopes to Deter (Or Sink) China’s Aircraft Carriers

Zachary Keck

Security, Asia

Would it work?

Key point: Tokyo is worried over Beijing’s construction of a full carrier fleet and has thought about how to best defeat them. For better or worse, Japan has concluded that submarines are a better bet than missiles.

As we approach the day when China will have multiple aircraft carriers, Beijing’s neighbors and the United States are likely beginning to prepare for this eventuality. This is especially true of Japan, China’s traditional rival in the region. While it will be tempting to try to imitate China’s strategy of holding U.S. aircraft carriers at risk, a more economical and effective approach would be to leverage a capability Japan already possesses: submarines.

China, of course, inaugurated its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, a refurbished Ukrainian flattop, back in 2012. But this carrier has limited combat capabilities and is most likely being used to train personnel for the carriers Beijing is building domestically. The first of these indigenous aircraft carriers was launched this spring, and it is likely to enter into service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) sometime in 2020. As defense editor extraordinaire, David Majumdar, noted, this second carrier only makes marginal improvements over the Liaoning. Notably, it still has a ski-jump catapult. Starting with its second domestically built carrier, China’s flattops are expected to be more technologically advanced, including using steam catapults and eventually possibly electromagnetic ones. Majumdar quoted a Chinese military analyst as saying, “002 is entirely different from the Liaoning (001) and 001A, and it will look like [a] US aircraft carrier rather than a Russian one.”

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