If you were a higher-up in the British Empire in the late 1790s, you were probably a little freaked out, and understandably so. You’d just said goodbye to the American colonies and watched the French populace rise up in bloody revolution against their monarchic government—and now French general Napoleon Bonaparte was seizing territory all over Europe and even beyond. You wouldn’t be crazy to think that the general had his eye on the British Isles next. But exactly how you expected the French armies to land on British shores… let’s just say the Brits let their imaginations run away with them a little bit.
For your viewing pleasure, we’ve collected a series of slightly bonkers popular engravings of imaginary invasion methods dating between 1798 and 1805, when the Napoleon’s troops seemed to be looming on the horizon.
Napoleon’s moving castle
This slightly histrionic plan from 1798 shows perhaps the most visually striking paranoid fantasy to come out of the period. In it, a massive windmill-propelled barge carries not only 60,000 men but also an entire castle across the English Channel.
Similarly relying on windmills for power, this illustration of an invasion raft described by a French prisoner of war (who we assume got a kick out of the credulous Brits) somehow makes even less sense than the barge above. It’s basically a fortress on a floating island. Not the most hydrodynamic contraption—and what happens if the water is choppy?
This… thing, part 2
Also from 1798 is this intricate engraving of the imaginary “Raft St. Malo,” which was likely based on the same false information as the last raft. It allegedly “was 600 feet long by 300 broad, mounts 500 pieces of cannon, 36 and 48-pounders, and is to convey 15,000 troops for the invasion of England. In the midst is a bomb-proof, metal-sheathed citadel.”
Oh look, a real boat
Dating to 1803, when hostilities broke out again after a hiatus, this print showing “A Correct VIEW of the FRENCH FLAT-BOTTOM BOATS intended to convey their TROOPS for the INVASION of ENGLAND” is a little more realistic. As the National Maritime Museum explains,
Unlike the earlier prints… with their monstrous and bizarre ‘rafts’ for transporting huge numbers of troops, this shows much more feasible vessels and appears to be based on much better founded information.
“My ass in a band box”
Not all Brits bought into the technological hype, however. The cartoon above shows a small-statured Napoleon on a donkey, sailing over to the British Isles in a decidedly non-threatening box labeled “Invasion.”
Balloons, ships, and a tunnel
Perhaps the craziest idea came from Napoleon himself, who imagined a three-pronged approach to invading Britain using hot air balloons, ships, and foot soldiers via a tunnel dug under the English Channel, as illustrated in this 1803 French engraving.
So what actually happened? None of the above. Urged on by fears of French innovation, the British government invested heavily in defense measures, including a number of forts and a massive naval blockade of the Channel. Napoleon’s attempt to piece together a big enough flotilla to break through the blockade ended up being a major flop.
The Marines of Hotel Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines had a pretty rough Vietnam deployment as they patrolled through the violent streets of Hue City. They managed to kill several enemy combatants all while sharing a few laughs — and a Da Nang lady of the night.
But did you ever think about where they all might be today?
After being the first kid on his block to get a confirmed kill, Pvt. Joker eventually finished out his tour of duty and moved to Southern California. He began dating a single mother who sold and smuggled marijuana into the country for a living.
Unfortunately, their love didn’t last more than a year or so. Joker then decided he needed another career change and became a scientist. Although his brilliance dominated the secret laboratory where he worked, one of his creations ended up escaping, prompting a massive manhunt.
This Marine machine gunner made an interesting career change after the Vietnam war ended. Apparently, the Marine Corps didn’t need his explosive trigger finger during peacetime, so Animal Mother moved onto the 1st CivDiv. After a few months of not getting into any fights, the commander of Area 51 got ahold of him and offered him an officer commission in the Air Force. He took it.
Luckily for him, aliens attacked earth, and he got to get back into the sh*t — where he belongs.
Take that you damn soda can. (Source: Screenshot from “ID4” Fox)
After helping to defeat earth’s unwanted guests, he went where the action is and joined the Navy. Eventually, he became the XO of a naval destroyer as a pandemic killed off most of the world’s population.
You probably thought Pvt. Pyle blew his brains out while sitting on a toilet after shooting his drill instructor, but you’re wrong. In fact, the bullet he shot himself with missed the brain’s vital structures, and he just suffered a skull fracture, along with a concussion.
After several hours of surgery, the doctors managed to save Pyle’s life, but he’d never be the same again. He got even crazier if you can believe that. Years later, a hot FBI agent pursued him after a string of kidnappings.
She busted him, entered his mind and found out about all the twisted sh*t he’s been thinking.
After the hot FBI agent busted him, Pyle faked his death and escaped to an island where genetically engineered dinosaurs now roam. But he got greedy and ended up getting eaten by a velociraptor.
Nobody liked him anyway.
After putting countless recruits through intense training and amusing hazing, Gunny was indeed murdered by Pvt. Pyle. But since the Marine Corps never dies, Gunny found a way to f*ck with people from beyond the grave.
Yup, you guessed it. He became a freaking ghost.
What cast of characters would you like us to track down next? Comment below.
North Korea tested the Hwasong-14 ICBM for the second time July 28, demonstrating previously-unseen offensive capabilities. The missile flew for around 45 minutes, soaring to a maximum altitude of about 2,300 miles and covering a distance of roughly 600 miles.
Expert observers assessed that were the missile fired along a standard trajectory, it would have a range between 6,500 miles and 6,800 miles, putting most of the continental US within striking distance.
The Pentagon has not released information on the range of the missile, but two intelligence officials have confirmed that Pyongyang likely has the ability to launch an attack against cities across the US, escalating the threat, Reuters reports.
The missile test on July 28 performed better than the Hwasong-14 tested earlier last month. Experts and defense officials estimated that the first missile could hit targets at ranges somewhere between 4,600 miles and 5,900 miles, putting Alaska, and possibly Hawaii and parts of the West Coast, in range.
The improved performance might be linked to additional motors.
North Korean state media reported the test “confirmed the performing features of motors whose number has increased to guarantee the maximum range in the active-flight stage as well as the accuracy and reliability of the improved guidance and stability system.”
The missile may have featured second-stage yaw maneuvering motors, according to Ankit Panda, senior editor for The Diplomat. He added the North may have also increased the burn time for its engines.
After two successful ICBM tests, doubts remain about North Korea’s capabilities.
Russia, for instance, has yet to acknowledge North Korea even has an ICBM. After the July 4 test, Moscow claimed the North tested a medium-range ballistic missile, and they said the same after the July 28 test. It is unclear if Russia is being intentionally defiant or whether their outdated radar systems simply failed to detect the second stage of the ICBM.
There are also questions about whether or not North Korea has developed a reliable re-entry vehicle, a key step in the process of fielding ready-for-combat ICBMs and establishing a viable nuclear deterrent. Some also suspect that North Korea has not yet designed a suitable nuclear warhead for its missiles.
Several leading experts, however, assess the North has either already achieved these goals or will do so soon. The Pentagon expects North Korea to be able to field a reliable, nuclear-armed ICBM as early as next year, two years earlier than initially expected.
On July 10, 1940, the Nazis launched the first bombing attack on Great Britain.
Just one month prior, a defeated France signed an armistice, leaving the United Kingdom alone against the German war machine. The battle received its name from a speech Winston Churchill delivered in response to France’s armistice in which he stated, “the Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin.”
He was correct.
Wanting to capitalize on his momentum, Hitler set his sights — and his Luftwaffe — across the English Channel. That first day, 190 German bombers and fighters struck British military targets, but the Brits fought back in what would become the first battle in history fought solely in the air.
Over the next 3 months, a strong air defense system, a robust air force, and even the aluminum pots and pans from British citizens would deliver the Luftwaffe a near lethal blow from which it would never fully recover. The Luftwaffe’s Messerschmitt BF-109s attacked Britain’s airfields, air fighter production sites, and even cities, but the Royal Air Force defended her skies with Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes.
The British victory was decisive, but the losses were staggering – including 40,000 British civilians who were killed during the city-bombing raids known as “The Blitz.”
Still, the Battle of Britain would be the first major defeat of the war for Hitler. It became a turning point in the war, strategically preventing Hitler from gaining control of the English Channel or invading the British Isles. Britain became a base of operations for the American invasion of Normandy on D-Day in 1944, securing a major blow against Hitler in his waning days.
Finally, the Battle of Britain was a mark of British courage and resilience — and allowed Great Britain to remain free from Nazi occupation.
The U.S. Defense Department has approved the Air Force’s new KC-46A Pegasus refueling tanker for initial production despite recent technical challenges that resulted in program delays.
The service late last week announced that Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, approved the Boeing Co.-made aircraft based on the 767 airliner for low-rate initial production, known in acquisition parlance as Milestone C.
“I commend the team for diligently working through some difficult technical challenges,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, said in a statement.
Earlier in the week, she suggested Kendall’s decision might not come until later in the month and that failure by Congress to approve a budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 would hurt the acquisition effort.
Under a continuing resolution, “KC-46 production would be capped at 12 aircraft,” not the 15 as proposed in the fiscal 2017 budget, and the result would be to “delay operational fielding of this platform,” James said.
Parts of the plane that required reworking included the boom used to refuel Air Force planes (hoses extend from the body and wings to refuel Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, as well as those from allies); the fuel system (which was overhauled after workers loaded a mislabeled chemical into it); and wiring and software.
Boeing has reportedly spent more than $1.2 billion on the repairs, including installing hydraulic pressure relief valves to alleviate “higher than expected axial loads in the boom” discovered in tests to refuel the C-17 Globemaster III, according to the Air Force statement.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said he was confident “the KC-46 is ready to take the next step.”
Meanwhile, Darlene Costello, an acquisition executive with the service, said, “I appreciate Boeing’s continued focus as they work to finish development prior to first aircraft delivery.”
Boeing plans to deliver the first 18 KC-46As to the service by January 2018, a date that was previously scheduled for August 2017.
The Air Force within the next month will award the Chicago-based aerospace giant two contracts with a combined value of $2.8 billion for 19 aircraft.
The service plans to spend $48 billion to develop and build 179 of the planes to replace its aging fleet of KC-135s, according to Pentagon budget documents. Boeing forecasts an $80 billion global market for the new tankers, the website Trading Alpha has reported.
The Air Force has selected as preferred bases for the aircraft Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, and Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire.
Concern is rising in Japan that the Chinese military may be training for a future mission in the disputed Senkaku Islands, where Beijing has been dispatching coast guard ships at increasing frequency in recent years.
Quoting the Pentagon’s 2017 survey of the Chinese military, Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported June 8 the People’s Liberation Army could be training for a raid of outlying areas, including the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, also claimed by China and Taiwan.
In a section on China’s amphibious capabilities, the report from the U.S. Department of Defense states the “PLA Army focuses its amphibious efforts on a Taiwan invasion while the PLA Navy Marine Corps focuses on small island seizures in the South China Sea, with a potential emerging mission in the Senkakus.”
The Japanese military also may be concerned that, according to the report, China’s PLA Navy Marine Corps brigades conducted “battalion-level amphibious training at their respective training areas in Guangdong,” or the Southern Theater.
“The training focused on swimming amphibious armored vehicles from sea to shore, small boat assault and deployment of special forces by helicopter,” the report states.
In May, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported China’s Navy Marine Corps is in the process of building a 100,000-strong military unit.
The Pentagon report states China has used “coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims.”
Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty applies to the Senkakus, and the United States is obligated to defend the islands if they come under attack.
In May, four Chinese coast guard ships entered Japanese territorial waters near Okinawa and the Senkaku Islands and in 2016, more than 100 Chinese ships trespassed into Japan’s territorial waters, the second-largest annual number of Chinese ships entering disputed areas since Japan announced the nationalization of the Senkakus in September 2012.
Watch cliff divers, bungee jumpers, or even just kids fooling around and jumping into a lake. At some point, one or more of them will yell “Geronimo!” It’s a safe bet that at some point, we’ve all yelled this name.
It seems like a pretty random thing to yell when jumping from a bridge, cliff, or plane, but it’s actually from the military tradition of paratroopers yelling it as they jumped from a perfectly good airplane.
But where did the paratroopers come up with it?
It dates all the way back to the origin of paratroopers. In 1940, the Army was still developing the strategy of dropping troops out of planes. On the eve of the first test jump, soldiers from from Fort Benning started a night of drinking with a viewing of a wild west movie beforehand. This was likely the 1939 film “Geronimo” starring Andy Devine and Chief Thundercloud.
After the movie, Pvt. Aubrey Eberhardt boasted that he wasn’t scared of the jump, despite being the tallest man in the unit. This caused his fellow soldiers to call him out on his bragging, saying he would forget his name at the door, as the troops were supposed to shout their name when they jumped.
Everyone in their jump group successfully jumped — all the soldiers remembered their names and shouted them as they made their jumps.
The 6’8″ Eberhardt did them one better — when his turn at the door came, he shouted “Geronimo!” — and a new military tradition was born.
Some of the top military brass weren’t in love with the new tradition, but others thought it evoked the bravery and daring of the Apache chief — the last holdout against American expansion to the West. They let the paratroopers keep the tradition.
Civilians just kinda took it from the paratroopers. And who could blame them, with that kind of pedigree?
The Coast Guard may not have a lot of hulls, but what they have, they make very good use of. In fact, they were able to keep old ships in service for a long time, and they even bring in some unique systems. Here’s some of the cool stuff they’ve used over the years.
1. Casco-class high-endurance cutters
After World War II, the Navy had a lot of leftover vessels. The Coast Guard took in 18 Barnegat-class small seaplane tenders and used them as high-endurance cutters for over two decades.
While many were scrapped or sunk, the USCGC Unimak (WHEC 379), stayed in active service until 1988. One ship, the former USCGC Absecon (WHEC 374) may have remained through the 1990s after being captured by North Vietnam.
The Barnegats had a five-inch gun, two twin 40mm mounts, two twin 20mm mounts, and were even fitted with 324mm torpedo tubes.
The 1987-1988 version of Combat Fleets of the World noted that the North Vietnamese had fitted launchers for the SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missile on the former Absecon.
2. HU-16 Albatross
Helicopters took a while to develop. Before that, the best search-and-rescue assets were flying boats and amphibian aircraft.
The Grumman HU-16 was one asset that handled this mission after World War II. The Air Force put it to use during the Korean War, and it also saw action in the Vietnam War.
In Coast Guard service, the survivors of a 91-plane purchase of HU-16s stuck around until 1983 – and civilian versions still operate today.
It’s not surprising the plane lasted so long. According to specifications at GlobalSecurity.org, the Albatross had a range of over 1600 miles and a top speed of 240 miles per hour. Let’s see a helicopter do that!
3. HH-52 Seaguard
This amphibious helicopter was the epitome of the specialized aircraft the Coast Guard bought when it could.
Imagine being able to land on the water to retrieve a survivor, but not needing to make a long takeoff run.
According to a Coast Guard fact sheet on this helo, the capability was necessary because there was no rescue swimmer program at the time. That omission was rectified in the 1980s, and in 1989, the last HH-52 was retired. By that time the fleet of 99 helos had saved over 15,000 lives.
4. Boeing PB-1G Flying Fortress
After World War II, the Army Air Force had a lot of planes lying around – many of which had been built too late for them to see action.
The legendary bomber served as a search-and-rescue asset for 14 years, using a lifeboat slung underneath for that mission. The Coast Guard’s fact sheet notes that another legendary plane, the C-130, eventually replaced the Flying Fortress in their service.
5. MH-68A Stingray
The Coast Guard once had a specialized unit, HITRON 10 (Helicopter Interdiction Squadron 10), that specialized in stopping the flow of drugs into the U.S. To do that, the service got a special helicopter, the MH-68A Stingray — a version of the Agusta A109.
With a forward-looking infrared system, an M240 machine gun, a M82A1 Barrett sniper rifle, and other high-tech avionics, this helo was a lethal hunter. According to Helis.com, the eight-plane force was retired in 2008, and the Coast Guard modified 10 MH-65s to the MH-65C standard to replace them.
6. Sea Bird-class Surface Effect Ships
This three-ship class was fast (25-knot cruising speed), and they were perfectly suited for the drug interdiction mission in the Caribbean.
Germany dropped a lot of bombs on England (not to mention the rest of the United Kingdom) during World War II. Not all of them exploded – and unexploded ordnance, or UXO, has been an ongoing issue.
According to a report by NavalToday.com, war’s gift that keeps on giving turned up in Portsmouth, England. This is where the Royal Navy is planning to base the 65,000-ton Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
The report said that the German SC250 bomb, which weighed 500 pounds and had 290 pounds of high explosive, was discovered while dredging was underway as part of a program to improve the Royal Navy base’s infrastructure. The London Guardian reported on a past UXO find in Portsmouth in November that was rendered safe in a controlled detonation. The Guardian report also mentioned a bomb discovered in September.
UXO has been a long-running problem after wars. In fact, last October saw EOD personnel in the United States tasked to deal with Civil War cannonballs that were unearthed by Hurricane Matthew. UXO from World War I and World War II has been very common in Europe, including poison gas shells.
In 2009, a U.S. Navy release reported that a number of leftover mines and a British torpedo from World War II were discovered during a mine countermeasures exercise during that year’s BALTOPS. Three years later, during that same exercise, an unexploded aerial bomb was discovered according to another U.S. Navy release.
A 2011 Navy release estimates that in the Baltic Sea alone, there are over 200,000 pieces of UXO from not only conflicts, but training exercises dating back to the Russian Revolution.
Third, it has the Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL), a system originally devised to communicate between F-35s that has now been expanded to participate in the NIFC-CA.
MADL provides significant advantages over traditional systems of transmission, namely that it’s very difficult to jam. Adversaries have never seen anything like the MADL, and if they ever do figure out how to disrupt it, it will certainly take some time.
When the F-35 program reaches its maturation point about a dozen US allies will be flying the Joint Strike Fighter. They will all have the ability to contribute targeting data to their own fleets as well as that of allied nations. So an Australian F-35 could transmit data to a nearby South Korean Aegis-equipped destroyer and take out a distant target, no problem.
The applications and versatility of the F-35’s MADL has surprised even those close to the program.
“Originally we didn’t think F-35s would use through datalinks directly to ships… This gives them the ability to talk directly to the ship with a very hard to detect very hard to jam MADL link,” retired Navy officer Bran Clark told USNI News.
US President Donald Trump has launched an extraordinary broadside at allies for failing to pay their fair share of the defense bill.
The billionaire leader used the highest possible profile platform of his first summit in Brussels to accuse members of the alliance of owing “massive amounts of money”.
Unveiling a memorial to the 9/11 attacks at NATO’s new headquarters, Trump also urged the alliance to get tougher on tackling terrorism and immigration in the wake of the Manchester attack.
Allies who had hoped to hear Trump publicly declare his commitment to NATO’s Article 5 collective defense guarantee were left disappointed as he made no mention of it and instead castigated them on their home turf.
“Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense,” the president said as fellow leaders looked on grim faced.
Trump said that even if they met the commitment they made in 2014 to allocate two percent of GDP to defense, it would still not be enough to meet the challenges NATO faces.
“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States. Many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years,” Trump added.
The diatribe stirred memories of his campaign trail comments branding NATO “obsolete” and threatening that states that did not pay their way would not necessarily be defended, which deeply alarmed allies.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg was repeatedly asked at a closing news conference about Trump’s comments but insisted that while the president might have been “blunt” his message was unchanged — the allies had to do more.
In dedicating the 9/11 Article 5 memorial, the president was “sending a strong signal” of his commitment to NATO, Stoltenberg said.
“And it is not possible to be committed to NATO without being committed to Article 5.”
“The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration as well as threats from Russia and NATO’s eastern and southern borders,” the president said.
The surprising focus on immigration echoed another key feature of Trump’s campaign, which included a vow to build a border wall with Mexico, a measure derided in Europe.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel struck an entirely different note as she unveiled a memorial made up of a section of the Berlin Wall to mark the end of the Cold War.
“Germany will not forget the contribution NATO made in order to reunify our country. This is why we will indeed make our contribution to security and solidarity in the common alliance,” she said.
Trump’s rebuke came despite NATO saying it would formally join the US-led coalition against IS at the summit, despite reservations in France and Germany about getting involved in another conflict.
Article 5 has been invoked only once in NATO’s six-decade history — after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
Analyst Thomas Wright of the Washington-based Brookings Institution said Trump’s failure to publicly declare this was “shocking and damaging”.
Brussels presented Trump with the first problems of a landmark foreign trip, including tense moments with the head of the European Union and with key ally Britain.
Trump announced a review of “deeply troubling” US intelligence leaks over the Manchester bombing, in which 22 people died, and warned that those responsible could face prosecution, the White House said.
He later discussed the row with Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, who had condemned the leaks that left British authorities infuriated with their US counterparts.
A meeting with European Council chief Donald Tusk and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker did not go smoothly either, despite hopes it could clear the bad blood caused by Trump backing Britain’s Brexit vote.
During his meeting with the two top EU officials, Trump launched a salvo against Germany and its car sales in the United States, Der Spiegel reported.
“The Germans are bad, very bad,” he said, according to the German weekly’s online edition.
“See the millions of cars they are selling in the US. Terrible. We will stop this,” he reportedly said.
Tusk had earlier said there were differences on climate change and trade but above all Russia.
“I’m not 100 percent sure that we can say today — ‘we’ means Mr. President and myself — that we have a common position, common opinion about Russia,” said Tusk, a former Polish premier who grew up protesting against Soviet domination of his country.
Trump on the campaign trail made restoring relations with Russia a key promise but he has faced bitter opposition in Washington and has since become embroiled in a scandal over alleged links to Moscow.
Trump also held talks with new French President Emmanuel Macron, with the pair appearing to engage in a brief yet bizarre battle to see who could shake hands the hardest.
Trump came to Brussels direct from a “fantastic” meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, after visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories.
A recent report from the US Congressional Research Service details how China’s navy, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), has undergone a stunning modernization push that puts it near parity with the US.
In fact, China’s military posture and prowess in the Western Pacific presents the US with a challenge unseen since the end of the Cold War.
By perfecting deadly ballistic and cruise missiles, by buying and designing submarines, planes, and surface ships, by cracking down on corruption and improving internal organization and logistics, the PLAN presents US naval planners with plenty to think about going forward.
Though few expect a military conflict to emerge between the world’s two biggest economies, China’s brinkmanship in the South China Sea has lead observers to describe their strategy of escalation as a kind of “salami-slicing,” or steadily taking small steps to militarize the region without taking any one step that could be viewed as a cause to go to war.
However, the US military, with its global network of allies, doesn’t have the luxury of choosing which conflicts to get involved in, and therefore must take every threat seriously.
In the slides below, see how the PLAN has shaped into a world-class navy capable of dominating the South China Sea, and even the entire Western Pacific, if left unchecked.
China’s naval mission
Those who observe China’s specific modernization goals, as well as their expressed intents in their actions, have determined that the PLAN’s mission most likely focuses on the following goals:
1. To possibly curb Taiwan’s continued attempts at independence militarily.
2. Asserting or defending China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea and generally exercising more control over the South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars of trade passes every year.
3. Enforcing China’s assertion that it has a legal right to regulate foreign military activities in its 200-mile maritime exclusive economic zone, despite the protestations of their neighbors in the region.
4. Defending China’s commercial sea lines of communication with military and trading partners.
5. Usurping the US as the dominant regional power in the Western Pacific, and promoting China as a major world power.
China’s DF-21D “Carrier Killer” ballistic missile is the cause of much concern for US naval planners. The missile has a tremendous range of about 810 nautical miles, far beyond the range of a US aircraft carriers’ highest-endurance planes, effectively denying them the luxury of lurking off China’s coast in the Western Pacific while in striking range.
The DF-21D uses a range of sensors to adjust its course during firing. This means that it can hit a moving target at sea in sub-optimal conditions and presents difficulties to any missile trying to intercept it. The DF-21D can deliver a high-explosive, radio-frequency, or even cluster warheads, which all but guarantee a kill, even against a formidable target such as a US aircraft carrier.
The PLAN’s submarine fleet continues to undergo a modernization push that focuses on “counter-intervention” tactics against a modern adversary. The force has acquired 12 of Russia’s Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and launched no fewer than four new classes of indigenously made submarines, all of which are vastly more capable than the Cold-War era vessels they’re replacing.
The PLAN has launched two diesel-electric (Song and Yuan class), and two nuclear classes (Jin and Shang class). But the Shang class was stopped after only two hulls were produced, which led the DOD to speculate that the PLAN may be exploring an updated version of this class.
As the DOD states:
Over the next decade, China may construct a new Type 095 nuclear powered, guided-missile attack submarine (SSBN), which not only would improve the PLA Navy’s anti-surface warfare capability, but might also provide it with a more clandestine, land-attack option.
Additionally, the Jin class can be armed with 12 JL-2 nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which, given the submarine’s range, could potentially hit any of the 50 states in the US from locations in the Pacific.
The PLAN’s Russian-bought submarines remain some of the most capable in the fleet. Eight of the 12 Kilo classes (presumably the newer ones) carry the Russian-made SS-N-27 Sizzler cruise missiles, with a range of over 180 miles.
The PLAN possesses a large, varied inventory of cruise missiles. Some of their most capable missiles are Russian made, like the SS-N-22 Sunburn and the SS-N-27 Sizzler, but their indigenously made missiles are also rated highly.
China’s YJ-18 cruise missile goes into a supersonic-sprint phase when approaching a target, making it harder to stop. Other rangy platforms like the YJ-62, fired from surface ships, and the YJ-12, that can be fired from bombers, complicate the US’s naval plans with their versatility.
The PLAN’s sole carrier, the Liaoning, has been referred to as a “starter” carrier, as its limited range and capabilities have made it primarily useful as a training craft. Having an aircraft carrier allows the PLAN to test carrier-launched aircraft and carrier-strike-group procedures in a realistic way.
The Liaoning has a displacement of about 50,000 tons and can support about 30 aircraft. US Nimitz-class carriers double both of those figures, and also provide catapults to launch planes with heavier weapons and fuel loads, increasing their range.
As the Liaoning is conventionally powered, and not nuclear-powered like the US carriers, it’s ability for long-range power projection is greatly diminished.
China is thought to be making rapid progress toward building additional aircraft carriers. Little is known of China’s future carriers, but they will most likely also feature the ski-jump platform of the Liaoning.
With the help of the Liaoning, the PLAN has succeeded in fielding the J-15 “Flying Shark” carrier-based aircraft.
The J-15 is modeled after Russia’s Su-33 “Flanker,” just as much of China’s military hardware borrows from Russian designs. On land, the J-15 has a range of about 745 miles, but launching the plane from a ski-jump-style carrier platform means that it cannot carry as much fuel, and therefore has a reduced range. Only eight production J-15s are known to be flying at this time.
It has been previously reported that the PLAN seeks to create a short takeoff, vertical-landing plane for carrier-based use in the future. However, they still lack carrier-based reconnaissance plane like the US’s E-2 Hawkeye.
The PLAN’s Air Force has been steadily developing new aircraft for “missions including offshore air defense, maritime strike, maritime patrol, antisubmarine warfare, and, in the not too distant future, carrier-based operations.”
The PLAN has been replacing their aging Chengdu J-7 variants and Shenyang J-8B/Ds with 24 Su-30MK2s, which were purchased from Russia in 2002.
Additionally, the PLAN has a licensed copy of Russia’s Tu-16 Badger bomber, the H-6 Badger, of which they likely have 30. The bombers are escorted by JH-7 Flounder fighter/bombers.
The PLAN, like most modern navies, is also pouring money into drones.
“Some estimates indicate China plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023,” according to the DOD.
Much like the submarine program, the PLAN’s fleet of surface combatants has grown rapidly since 1990, with the purchase of four Sovremenny-class destroyers from Russia and the launch of 10 new classes of indigenously built destroyers and frigates, as well as a new class of corvettes.
US naval planners consider several of the newer frigate classes to be nearly as capable as Western models, and note that shipboard air defense have notably improved in the newer classes.
China’s coast guard, which it wields as a sort of paramilitary force for enforcing their maritime claims, has also benefited from a large number of new cutters.
The newer ships have sophisticated radar and missile capabilities across the board, and future vessels are expected to truly rival the systems used by the US.
China has built four large YUZHAO class amphibious transport docks, which provide a considerably greater and more flexible capability than the older landing ships, signaling China’s development of an expeditionary warfare and OTH (over the horizon/long range) amphibious assault capability, as well as inherent humanitarian assistance/disaster relief and counter piracy capabilities.
The Yuzhao class vessels carry helicopters as well as two Russian-designed Zubr class cushioned landing ships, the largest military hovercraft of its kind.
However, after conflicts in Africa, the PLAN was unsatisfied with the firepower aboard the Yuzhao class and reportedly thought to create a new vessel, the Type 081 (pictured above).
Perhaps one of the more novel ideas being explored by the PLAN is very large floating sea bases. Only in the concept stage currently, these floating bases could host airstrips, barracks, docks, helipads, or security bases across their massive proposed 2-mile-long surface.
But experts on the topic speculate that these platforms would have ample peacetime uses, like supporting offshore oil rigs or even tourist destinations with duty-free shops.
The DOD cites Bill Gertz, writing for The Washington Times, as saying the following:
China’s military is developing electromagnetic pulse weapons that Beijing plans to use against US aircraft carriers in any future conflict over Taiwan, according to an intelligence report made public on Thursday [July 21]…. The report, produced in 2005 and once labeled “secret,” stated that Chinese military writings have discussed building low yield EMP warheads, but “it is not known whether [the Chinese] have actually done so.”
China also possesses a nuclear triad, or the ability to launch nuclear-armed warheads from submarines, land-bases silos, and bomber aircraft.
China’s development and deployment of advanced and long-range radars in the South China Sea is well documented.
The PLAN can use these sensors, which “reportedly include land-based over-the-horizon backscatter (OTH-B) radars, land-based over-the-horizon surface wave (OTH-SW) radars, electro-optical satellites, radar satellites, and seabed sonar networks,” to guide their ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as more conventional forces.
China’s military writing does not specify how they would use cyberwarfare in a naval conflict, but it should be assumed that network warfare would be part of any sea battle. The PLAN is known to have invested heavily in cyberwarfare.
The PLAN and the other branches of China’s massive military have made impressive progress in modernizing they forces, but they still lag behind in some key areas.
The US Navy, unlike the PLAN, has commitments around the world. Currently two carrier-strike groups are stationed in the Mediterranean as the fight against ISIS rages on and Russia continues to threaten NATO territory and personnel.
The US would face extreme difficulties in abandoning their posts worldwide to focus on the Pacific, whereas China would leverage every possible dimension of warfare (psychological, informational, legal, cyber, conventional, and possibly even nuclear or electromagnetic) to assert their dominance in their immediate region.
However, the US has a built-in advantage that the Chinese cannot hope to design or buy — alliances. Through the US’s solid support of democratic and Western-leaning nations in the region, they have built a network of strong and determined allies that can band together against a rising authoritarian power like China.
Some aircraft carriers are legends – either from long service like that of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) or with an unmatched war record like that of another USS Enterprise (CV 6).
They have either heroic sacrifices, the way USS Yorktown (CV 5) did at Midway, or they simply take a ton of abuse as USS Franklin (CV 13) did.
But some carriers just stink. You wouldn’t wish them on your worst enemy… or maybe you would, simply to make the war easier. There’s arguments on both sides of that. Here are the carriers that would prompt such an internal debate.
6. USS Ranger (CV 4)
When America was down to one carrier in the South Pacific in 1942, re-deploying America’s first purpose-built carrier, the USS Ranger (CV 4) was not considered as an option.
That tells you something about the ship. Her combat career was relatively brief, and she eventually was relegated to training duties. Still, she had a decent air group (mostly fighters and dive-bombers), so she is the best of this bad lot.
5. Admiral Kuznetsov Class (Kuznetsov, Liaoning, and unnamed Type 001A)
If you’ve read a lot of WATM, then you know about the Kuznetsov Follies. The crappy engines (the Russians send tugs along with her in case of breakdown), the splash landings, and the fact the Russians ended up using her as a glorified ferry all speak to real problems. In her favor, though, is the presence of 12 long-range anti-ship missiles on the lead ship, and she can fly MiG-29K and Su-33 Flankers off her deck. China’s versions carry J-15 fighters, but not the missiles.
4. Kiev class (Kiev, Minsk, Novorossiysk)
The Russian Kiev and her sisters are on here for a crap air wing.
The Yak-38 Forger was one of the worst planes to ever operate from a carrier. The Kiev gets a higher ranking largely because she had a lot of firepower, including eight SS-N-12 Sandbox missiles as well as a lot of SA-N-3 Goblets and point-defense systems, which were arguably more of a threat to the enemy than the planes she carried.
Yeah… that kinda has the whole purpose backwards. Now, a modern version with F-35Bs or even AV-8B+ Harriers and the Aegis system could be interesting.
3. HTMS Chakri Naruebet
The Chakri Naruebet from the Thai navy is on the list not so much for inherent problems, but because of substantial air wing neglect during the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (aka Rana IX). Worse, the Thais officially call her an “offshore patrol helicopter carrier.”
They did buy some second-hand AV-8S Matadors from Spain. But most flunked the maintenance, and soon Thailand had one flyable jet. At least the Kievs had heavy firepower to make up for their crap air wing!
That said, his successor, King Vajiralongkorn, was a former fighter pilot, and hopefully will be able to turn things around.
2. Ise Class battleship/carrier hybrid conversions
Okay, in some ways, this is understandable. After the Battle of Midway, Japan needed carriers in the worst possible way. Ise and Hyuga are perfect examples of getting those “carriers” — in the worst possible way.
Initially built as battleships with a top speed of 23 knots, they got turned not into full carriers, which might have been useful. But a half-battleship/half-carrier holding 22 seaplanes (okay about 50 percent more than Hosho) that they could launch and recover wasn’t totally awful.
Remember that’s seaplanes, not Zeroes for fighter cover or strike planes. Granted Japan had the A6M-2 Rufe, a seaplane Zero, but this was a rush job, and it showed. At least they each had eight 14-inch guns.
1. HIJMS Hosho
This was the world’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier. But let’s be honest, the Japanese boat was a dog. It had a top speed of 25 knots, and it carried all of 15 planes. During the Battle of Midway, it had eight biplanes.
By comparison, USS Langley (CV 1), America’s first aircraft carrier, could carry 36 planes. Even with a top speed of 15 knots, she would have been useful escorting convoys in the Atlantic – if America hadn’t turned her into a seaplane tender to satisfy an arms-control treaty Japan violated anyhow.
Are there any bad carriers we missed? Let us know in the comments!