The ongoing trials of China’s first aircraft carrier and her ship-based jet fighters represent a major leap ahead in capability for the People’s Liberation Army Navy. But the hype surrounding Lioaning’s debut test cruise last summer and the inaugural landing of her J-15 fighters in late November masks an important truth, one the world’s other carrier powers have long known.
Developing a flattop and its planes is hard, requiring years of trial and error and no small amount of risk. And while China’s ascent as a naval power might seem unstoppable, the saga of China’s first seagoing fighter pilots proves otherwise. A lot of things can, have and will go wrong, casting into doubt whether Beijing will possess a truly useful carrier capability any time soon.
Here’s why Danger Room, Wired’s milblog, consistently pisses me off.
Yes, China faces challenges in fielding a genuine carrier air capability. But the examples cited aren’t all that indicative of an inability to field that force. Two of the three incidents noted are simply aircraft maintenance problems, the kind that occur to both land and sea based aircraft, and the third is a arresting cable parting, something that still occasionally happens in our Navy. And guess what? In none of the three incidents was the plane written off or the crew killed.
That’s not a bad record.