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The Threat is Here, It’s Just Distributed Unevenly: A2/AD and the Aircraft Carrier

USS George Washington is underway in the Pacific Ocean

Courtesy of Official U.S. Navy Imagery/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 28 July 2016

Editor’s Note: You can read a longer account of Steve Blank’s visit to the U.S.S. Carl Vinson at his website later this week.

Sitting backwards in a plane with no windows, strapped in a 4-point harness, head encased in a helmet, eyes covered by goggles, your brain can’t process the acceleration. As the C-2 A Greyhound is hurled off an aircraft carrier into the air via a catapult, your body is thrown forward in the air, until a few seconds later, hundreds of feet above the carrier now at 150 miles per hour you yell, “Holy sh*t!” And no one can hear you through the noise, helmet, and ear protectors.

I just spent two days a hundred miles off the coast of Mexico as a guest of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson with Pete Newell (my fellow instructor in the Hacking for Defense class) and 11 other Stanford faculty from CISAC and the Hoover Institution. It’s hard to spend time on a carrier and not be impressed with the Navy and the dedicated people who man the carrier and serve their country.

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Making Waves: Debates Behind China’s First Aircraft Carrier

Image by roberthuffstutter/Flickr.

China commissioned its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, on September 25, 2012. It was a milestone that owes much to the vision of Admiral Liu Huaqing, who commanded the Chinese navy – formally the People’s Liberation Army Navy – from 1982 to 1988 and served as a vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission until 1997. In those positions, he helped shape China’s maritime outlook and shift its navy from a coastal defense force to one capable of projecting power into the western Pacific. Liu argued that for the navy to fully transform it had to have an aircraft carrier. Ultimately he prevailed over resistance from the army and within his own service, though he did not live to see the Liaoning underway at sea.

While the aircraft carrier is not a revolutionary combat platform today, it remains symbolic of a navy that has reached the world’s first rank. Since China accelerated its naval modernization in the 1990s, its shipyards have produced scores of new vessels that range from nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines to amphibious assault ships. And over that time, Chinese naval engineers have had many opportunities to study aircraft carrier design—including decommissioned foreign aircraft carriers that Chinese entities acquired as well as the information gleaned from various exchanges. In one such exchange in 1995, Spain’s Empresa Nacional Bazan, which built the light aircraft carrier Chakri Naruebet for Thailand, offered China plans for a similar ship. Chinese officials also inspected and received bids for other retired aircraft carriers, such as France’s Clemenceau in 1996 and Argentina’s Vienticinco De Mayo in 1997. » More