Articles

What it might look like if an American and Chinese carrier went toe-to-toe

It's no secret that tensions between China and America are ramping up over the South China Sea and Taiwan as President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have drawn a firm line against China. Tillerson even went so far as to suggest the possibility of a blockade against China — considered an act of war — during his Senate confirmation hearings.


So what would it look like if an American and Chinese fleet went to blows in the western Pacific? While the U.S. could win the seapower contest, China has enough land-based assets in the area to more than make up the difference.

The USS Carl Vinson sails during a training mission in the Pacific on July 17. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class D'Andre L. Roden)

The fighting would likely start with an innocent mistake during a freedom of navigation operation conducted by the U.S. Navy such as the planned deployment of the USS Carl Vinson. Vinson is headed into the South China Sea along with two destroyers, the USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy, and the cruiser USS Lake Champlain.

Meanwhile, China's aircraft carrier Liaoning deployed to the South China Sea in late 2016/early 2017 with three guided-missile destroyers, two guided-missile frigates, an anti-submarine corvette, and an oiler.

China's sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. | PLA

If the two forces came to blows, the American force would enjoy an initial advantage despite the Chinese numerical superiority. That's because America's air wings on the carrier are vastly more capable than China's.

The Liaoning was last spotted flying with an air arm of 13 J-15 fighters. While the J-15 is capable of catapult takeoffs and arrested recoveries — at least in theory — the Liaoning can't facilitate them. It utilizes a bow ramp to help its jets takeoff. So these 13 fighters can't get airborne with their full weapons and fuel loads.

They would be facing off against Carrier Air Wing 2, the air wing currently assigned to the Vinson. Air Wing 2 has three strike fighter squadrons — 2, 34, and 137 — which fly 10-12 F/A-18 Hornets each. They have approximately 34 Hornets which would be supported by the four E-2C Hawkeye early warning radar planes of the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 113.

The Vinson is packing some serious heat, is what we're saying. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The entire force would also be supported by the EA-18G Growlers of Electronic Attack Squadron 136.

So 13 Chinese fighters would fly partially blind and with limited weapons against approximately 34 American fighters backed up by early warning radar and electronic attack aircraft. The American forces would annihilate the Chinese.

Which they would have to do, because the Americans need all that firepower still available to take out the more plentiful ships of the Chinese strike group.

Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

The Growlers would be essential to limiting the anti-air capabilities of the five guided-missile ships — all of which carry anti-air missiles — and the Liaoning which carries the Type 1130 close-in weapons system which is potentially capable of firing 10,000 rounds per minute at missiles and aircraft attacking it.

The Hornets could be joined by the MH-60Rs of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 and the MH-60Ss of Helicopter Sea Squadron 4, but the Navy may prefer to keep the helicopters in reserve.

Most likely, the Hornets equipped solely for anti-air warfare would come back down and get a full load of Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Which Harpoons are available will be important to the pilots.

In the not-so-distant future, the pilots would likely receive the Harpoon Block II with a 134-nautical mile range. That's long enough that the planes could fire on the guided-missile ships from just outside of their long-range surface-to-air missiles, the HQ-9 with its 108-nautical mile range.

Aviation Ordnancemen unload a harpoon missile from an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the "Royal Maces" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27 during Exercise Valiant Shield 2016. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate)

But if the Vinson is stuck with just the earlier Harpoons, those have only a 67-nautical mile range. While the Hornets could still get the job done, they'd have to fly near the surface of the ocean, pop up and fire their missiles, and then evade any incoming missiles as they make their escape.

Still, they could destroy the Chinese fleet, even if they lose a couple of Hornets in the attack.

But the American fleet would then need to withdraw, because Chinese planes and missiles from the Spratly and Paracel islands could strike at the carrier fleet almost anywhere it went in the South China Sea.

Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China's aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

While the American strike group could complete a fighting withdrawal — hitting all known locations of Chinese missile batteries within range using land-attack missiles from the cruiser and destroyers — the group just doesn't have the firepower to really try to take out all of China's militarized islands and reefs.

Of special concern would be the anti-ship cruise missiles thought to be deployed to Woody Island, Scarborough Shoal, and potentially even Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef, and Mischief Reef. If the weapons are deployed to all of them, there's nowhere in the South China Sea the carrier can pass through without being forced to defend itself.

So, rather than go on the attack, the carrier group would likely use its Standard Missiles for ship defense and withdraw out of range. If a battle this size took place, it would surely be the start of a major war.

Better to save the Vinson and bring it back later with another strike group and a Marine Expeditionary Unit that can take and hold the ground after the Tomahawk missiles, Harriers, and Hornets soften the islands up.

Military Life

Female veterans pose on same ship that carried WW2 troops

Award-winning nonprofit Pin-Ups for Vets is releasing its 13th annual fundraising calendar to raise money for VA hospitals; ill, injured, and homeless veterans; deployed troops; and military families. The 2019 calendar, photographed on the iconic Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, features 19 female veterans decked out in World War II inspired fashion.

"Fans of Art Deco will appreciate the look of the upcoming calendar that reflects the vintage glamour of this 1936 cruise liner, now permanently docked in Long Beach, CA as a floating hotel," said Pin-Ups For Vets Founder, Gina Elise, who established Pin-Ups For Vets in 2006, as a way to honor the WWII service of her grandfather.

Gina Elise, Founder

Gina has devoted her life to giving back to the military community. To date, Pin-Ups For Vets has donated over $58,000 to help hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans' healthcare program expansion across the United States.

The 2019 calendar is officially ready for pre-order at www.PinUpsForVets.com. All 2019 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar pictures were taken by Shane Karns Photography — and let me just tell you...he really nailed it.


Kirstie Ennis, U.S. Marine Corps veteran

From a linguist, to a Human Intelligence Collector, to a combat photographer, to a combat medic, to a motor transportation operator, to a heavy equipment transporter driver leading convoys in Iraq, to a helicopter door gunner in Afghanistan, these ladies also include an above-the-knee amputee veteran (Marine Corps veteran Kirstie Ennis — who, by the way, at the time of this publishing was climbing Mount Denali in support of Service to Summit to raise money for Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that builds or modifies homes and gives them to veterans in need).

Julie Noyes, Army veteran

Army veteran Julie Noyes says, "It can be so difficult as a female service member to feel empowered in her beauty without feeling like she may betray the professionalism of her uniform when we only seek to be treated like our male counterparts. I feel that Pin-Ups for Vets does a superb job at raising money and awareness for our elderly, wounded vets and our currently deployed troops while also showcasing the class and beauty of female veterans without objectifying them. What Pin-Ups Vets Founder Gina Elise has done with this publication and non-profit is nothing short of empowering and inspiring."

Naumika Kumar, Navy Veteran

"I will always be thankful to the Navy. I met my husband in the Navy who is also a veteran now and I graduated from National University with Master's Degree in 2012 as well. I am happy to see there are organization such as Pin-Ups For Vets who are doing so much to support the military and Veterans. I am happy that I got an opportunity to be part of the organization."

Patti Gomez, Army veteran

Patti is a veteran of the United States Army, where she proudly served in the New York Army National Guard as a 35M (Human Intelligence Collector) of the 42nd Infantry Division, located in Glenville, New York. She volunteered to attend JRTC in Fort Polk, Louisiana, alongside the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in July 2016. She also trained at Warfighter at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, with her unit in October 2017. Patti attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and attended Advanced Individual Training at the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

"Pin-Ups for Vets is an incredible organization with an important mission. Being a part of a nonprofit that helps veterans and empowers women at the same time is truly an honor and one that I couldn't pass up when I was asked to be a part of the 2019 calendar. As the reigning Mrs. New York America, my platform is veteran organizations — and Pin-Ups for Vets is truly among the best of them!"

Check out that cover image!

The 2019 calendar can be purchased at: www.PinUpsForVets.com or by check to: Pin-Ups For Vets, PO Box 33, Claremont, CA 91711.

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