By Seth Robson
Copyright 2014 Stars and Stripes
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Chinese aircraft carriers won’t be able to compete with the combat power of the U.S. Navy any time soon, but experts say that won’t be obvious to many people when the great ships start to exercise, make port calls and respond to natural disasters in the Pacific.
As the one of the most technologically advanced in the world, China is dead set on flexing its military muscle.
For decades, the U.S. Navy has controlled the world’s waterways, in both size and strength. But China appears to be preparing to challenge U.S. supremacy by accelerating the construction of a second aircraft carrier. Plans for several more carriers — including one being built at a shipyard in the coastal city of Dalian — were announced by a senior Chinese official last month.
China launched its first aircraft carrier — the 74,406-ton Liaoning — just two years ago.
The plans don’t come as a surprise to U.S. military commanders. In a report to Congress last year, the Department of Defense predicted: “China … will likely build multiple aircraft carriers over the next decade. The first Chinese-built carrier will likely be operational sometime in the second half of this decade.”
U.S. naval commanders, who have been ordered to move the bulk of their fleet to the Pacific theater, say it’s clear that China is building a “blue-water navy,” capable of sustained operations across oceans and able to project power far from home.