Future PLAN naval and carrier operations


kriss

Junior Member
Registered Member
The advantage of an SSGN is that it should be able to close to within 200km of a target undetected.
Then it can launch a much larger numbers of missiles - because each missile is a lot smaller and cheaper.
The gist of it is if we take the assumption that with current technology intercepting a HGV or a salvo of them would be extremely difficult if not out right impossible as true, it would mean there wouldn't be a single piece of ocean where you could be sure there isn't a submarine hold your life on a button. An SSGN could eliminate an entire carrier group from 1000km away and it's not even close for a surface group and/or submarine fleet to even dream an ASW perimeter of this size even with all the technology advancement of next decade or two.
 

AndrewS

Captain
Registered Member
The gist of it is if we take the assumption that with current technology intercepting a HGV or a salvo of them would be extremely difficult if not out right impossible as true, it would mean there wouldn't be a single piece of ocean where you could be sure there isn't a submarine hold your life on a button. An SSGN could eliminate an entire carrier group from 1000km away and it's not even close for a surface group and/or submarine fleet to even dream an ASW perimeter of this size even with all the technology advancement of next decade or two.
That is all true.

But note that the CSBA have an estimate that a 750km ASBM would cost $2M, whilst a 1500km ASBM would cost $8M each.
So if you have a class of SSGNs and the same budget, do you choose:

Option A. 16 missile tubes carrying $8M ASBMs with a 1500km range
or
Option B. 64 missile tubes carrying $2M ASBMs with a 750km range

I would go with option B because 64 missiles is a lot more difficult and expensive to defend against.
Plus a submarine should still remain undetected at any distance of over 300km anyway.

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But if we're talking about firing 16 ASBMs at a distance of 1000km+ in a blue water conflict, why use an expensive SSGN at all?
A Chinese SSGN would presumably cost at least $2000 Million, whereas a Type-55 only costs $850M.
And at a distance of 1000km, presumably there shouldn't be too much difference in terms of survivability.
 

plawolf

Brigadier
The gist of it is if we take the assumption that with current technology intercepting a HGV or a salvo of them would be extremely difficult if not out right impossible as true, it would mean there wouldn't be a single piece of ocean where you could be sure there isn't a submarine hold your life on a button. An SSGN could eliminate an entire carrier group from 1000km away and it's not even close for a surface group and/or submarine fleet to even dream an ASW perimeter of this size even with all the technology advancement of next decade or two.
Having a 1000km missile doesn’t mean you can hit moving targets 1000km out. How is a SSGN going to target enemy carriers 1000km away without offboard sensor support?

Having 055s carry ballistic missile launched hypersonic gliders as part of a carrier battle group means it can rely on carrier launched recon assets for long range targeting of moving surface targets way beyond its own onboard sensor range.

I think it is a very attractive strategy for Chinese manned naval aviation to focus on air superiority, while leaving recon and strike to UAVs and UCAVs and long range missiles launched from the likes of 055s.

A Chinese manned naval 5th fighter designed from the ground up to focus primarily on air combat would not have the same sacrifices or complexity as a plane also needing to perform naval strike, so should not face the many problems that plagued the F35, and would have a good chance of having better air superiority performances, thereby achieving parity if not superiority in the most important domain of naval combat.

However, there are a few key issues I can see with this new rebalance of roles between carriers and 055s, to make 055s to be the backbone of both the air defence and long range naval strike missions. First would be that the 055 would need to carry large numbers of very different missiles to do both roles.

Quad or more packing or medium and short range SAMs would help, but you still cannot get away from the simple reality that if you want the 055 to perform multiple high priority tasks, having more VLS cells is better than fewer, especially when the design appears able to quite feasibly be able to accommodate more cells without too much difficulty or sacrifices.

It could be that the PLAN doesn’t want to put too many eggs in one basket; and/or it could be that the PLAN intends to field and deploy more 055s per carrier battle group than we expect, so doesn’t need quite so many cells on each ship to have more cells overall; and/or it could be that the PLAN is really impressed with the performance of China’s hypersonic gliders, and so doesn’t feel it needs saturation numbers with such weapons

All of that and more are possible, and good answers. But I just don’t feel like that is enough to justify and support such a fundamental shift in naval roles.

The main issue I have with this suggest is that the spear and shield nature of arms development means that even though hypersonic gliders might be without effective counter right now, that is unlikely to remain so forever. Sooner or later, effective counters and defences will be developed to counter hypersonic gliders, just like every other new weapon systems before it.

As such, it seems extremely risky and dangerous to me to build a long term naval strategy centred around what is likely to be a short term and transitory advantage on a single new weapons class.

The beauty of traditional naval air power is that the aircraft are just delivery vehicles, and can be upgraded to carry the latest and greatest in weapons development, thereby ensuring their long-term viability.

When (not if) effective counters against hypersonic gliders are developed, what would a PLAN battle group built around those gliders as it’s primary offensive weapon do then?

I still like the idea of dedicated air dominance manned 5th gen carrier fighters, however, I think unmanned strike UCAVs would still be the primary offensive means of future PLAN carrier groups.

055s carrying hypersonic gliders might act as a supplementary anti-ship asset, and may even become the primary one for the PLAN in the short to medium term until effective counters to hypersonic gliders and developed and fielded. However, I think the PLAN would treat such a development as a short term bonus rather than expecting that advantage to last indefinitely; and so would still be fully committed air developing carrier launched strike aircraft as their primary long term offensive means.
 

ZeEa5KPul

Junior Member
Registered Member
I think it is a very attractive strategy for Chinese manned naval aviation to focus on air superiority, while leaving recon and strike to UAVs and UCAVs and long range missiles launched from the likes of 055s.

A Chinese manned naval 5th fighter designed from the ground up to focus primarily on air combat would not have the same sacrifices or complexity as a plane also needing to perform naval strike, so should not face the many problems that plagued the F35, and would have a good chance of having better air superiority performances, thereby achieving parity if not superiority in the most important domain of naval combat.
That's a bit of a risky play. Leaving the recon, targeting, and strike entirely to slow, unstealthy planes with little capacity for self-defence assumes the manned J-31s (or whatever it's called) can clear the skies to a sufficient degree and for a long enough interval for the UCAVs to do their work; because the drones are helpless otherwise. I think it would be very valuable for the J-31 to have some strike capability (with an NSM-like missile) and - more importantly - the sensor and datalink capability to dunk the AShBMs the PLARF and PLAN destroyers alley-oop on their targets.
 

Bltizo

Lieutenant General
Staff member
Super Moderator
-post snipped out due to length of my reply, however I am fully responding to the content of your post-
This is a larger question about what future naval strategy may be like for the PLA, so I'm going to move these posts to a different thread.

I strongly agree that I think UCAVs should form a significant part of a carrier's future airwing for the strike role -- but also to provide persistent organic and preferably wide scale ISR for CSGs or combined task forces.

However there are a few points you make which I will quibble with:

1. "effective counters" to HGVs -- IMO there is technically a "counter" to every kind of munition. Whether it's a direct attack munition, or a cruise missile/powered stand off weapon, or a ballistic missile or an HGV. Similarly, these munitions can be surface launched, sub launched or air launched as well. That is to say, I would expect HGVs to become multi platform in nature -- to have the ability to be air launched, surface launched, sub launched etc in the same way that cruise missiles are/have been. It is very plausible that future PLAN task forces may be built around a healthy mix of HGVs and cruise missiles, distributed among a number of naval platforms including naval air (UCAVs and strike capable fighters), surface launched (surface combatant/VLS), and sub launched (submarines).

2. The "problems" which plagued the F-35 -- imo the teething issues that F-35 faced during its development were not inherently related to the fact that they desired it to be a fighter with strike capabilities. I think the fact that it was such an ambitious programme to develop three different variants of the aircraft simultaneously, involving so many nations, and with a different developmental concept than some other past aircraft, made it appear to have more "issues" but in the end I think it has ended up being a very burgeoning success story. In the case of the PLAN, whatever 5th gen carrier fighter they end up with (likely an FC-31 derivative) IMO should definitely seek to have competitive strike capabilities -- perhaps it won't have the ability to carry the same large diameter weapons as F-35 can on its central two internal weapon bays stations, but it should still have the ability to carry some small powered strike weapons in the vein of JSM or KH-59MK2.


Which takes me to the overall future of PLA + PLAN warfighting concepts in the region.

IMO the key to future warfighting in westpac requires a combination of ISR which is persistent, multidomain, redundant and distributed -- with the combination of strike systems which is multi-domain/joint, responsive, collaborative and defensible.


To achieve the above, IMO it will require the leverage of both land based systems for ISR and strike operating in conjunction with seagoing and naval ISR and strike systems.

Land based strike systems include: long range bombers (particularly stealthy ones), with air superiority fighters capable of strike, large land based UCAVs, as well as mobile land based TEL long range missiles (HGVs, AShBMs, long range cruise missiles) with large regional reach.
Land based ISR systems include: large land based recon UAVs, OTH radars, MPAs, as well as a variety of satellite systems (which are technically space based but require a substantial land based infrastructure to effectively sustain so they are "land based"). However, the aforementioned bombers and air superiority fighters and UCAVs should all have potent ISR capabilities of their own and be datalinked to share their data at the operational level.

Naval strike systems include: aircraft carriers with carrier based UCAVs and fighters fielding munitions (air launched HGVs and/or cruise missiles), as well as surface combatants and submarines (fielding HGVs and/or cruise missiles, as well as torpedoes for submarines of course).
Naval ISR systems will primarily be made up of: aircraft carriers with organic recon UAVs, as well as the above carrier based UCAVs and fighters with their own potent sensor suites datalinked into an overall operational picture, and the various above ships and submarines will form bubbles of their own mobile active and passive sensor screens.


The purpose of a land based and naval component in the ISR and strike domains will of course be to try and cover up each of their respective weaknesses.

- A land based ISR and strike system is much less mobile than a naval one, and the reach and persistence of a land based ISR and strike system reduces the further from the coast you get. Beyond 2000-3000km you want an organic and capable self contained naval ISR and strike system, particularly in the ISR domain even if your land based strike systems may theoretically have very long range.
- A naval ISR and strike system OTOH is mobile, and able to go into the deep ocean, however if they are operating against a capable enemy with their own very capable naval force and supporting land based bombers and strike of their own, you will likely need to greatly supplement your own strike and ISR with your own land based systems if possible.

(Both your land ISR+strike system and naval ISR+strike system obviously need their own ability to defend against opposing missiles and aircraft; SAMs, fighter CAP, CIWS, and potentially DEW in future etc)

So, my concept of operations will be that you want to combine a land based ISR system with your naval ISR system to have more persistent and reliable ISR coverage at greater distances from the coast between 0km to 4000+ km. Meanwhile, any opposing forces that are detected by your vast array of land based and naval based ISR systems can be effectively engaged not only by your naval strike systems, but also your long ranged land strike systems.

Such a "strike package" optimally should be multi-domain -- i.e.: involving a number of different munition types (HGVs, AShBMs, AShMs, and potentially even torpedoes), launched from a variety of different land based platforms (TELs, long range bombers, long range UCAVs, land based strike fighters) and naval platforms (carrier based UCAV and strike fighters, surface combatants, submarines).
The purpose of a multi-domain, coordinated strike package will of course be to attempt and saturate the defenses of an opponent by forcing them to simultaneously against a number of targets across a number of domains.

Of course, EW/ECM is an important domain as well, and you require effective EW/ECM/ECCM to enable your ISR systems to work -- but offensive EW/ECM against the enemy as part of your strike package in the form of escort jamming aircraft or escort jamming UAVs or even escort jamming missiles may enhance the success of your overall strike.



.... Going back to the YJ-XX missile discussion for 055; it is my way of saying that I think having a potent surface combatant anti-ship/anti-surface capability will likely be an important category of anti-ship/strike systems for the PLA's overall menu of strike options.
 
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AndrewS

Captain
Registered Member
The main issue I have with this suggest is that the spear and shield nature of arms development means that even though hypersonic gliders might be without effective counter right now, that is unlikely to remain so forever. Sooner or later, effective counters and defences will be developed to counter hypersonic gliders, just like every other new weapon systems before it.
Yes, but an offensive Antiship HGV is targeting a large, slow ship.
A defending SAM is trying to target a very fast and small missile.

So with existing technology, the cost of defending SAMs is likely to be a lot more expensive than the offensive HGV.
That is great strategy from the Chinese perspective.
 

AndrewS

Captain
Registered Member
Here's a few thoughts on future naval drone warfare, premised on the introduction of Valkyrie type drones which cost $2M and don't necessarily need a runway to either launch or to land.

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If/when we see the widespread deployment of these drones, I can also see commercial ships like a VLCC becoming the basis for drone carriers.

Cost
For example, a typical VLCC supertanker costs about $120M. That is 107x cheaper than a Ford supercarrier.
Even a military version of a VLCC with a landing deck will be far cheaper than a Ford.

Fuel
A VLCC has a liquid capacity of about 300M litres. A Nimitz carries 15M litres of aviation fuel, which is 20x less volume
Again, a military version of a VLCC will carry far more aviation fuel than a Nimitz.

Deck/Hanger Storage
A VLCC has a similar deck size to a supercarrier. Theoretically, you could use the deck as a landing pad for a parachuting drone.
Or you could build in a drone tailhook for carrier landings.
And a VLCC could store at least 200 Valkyries (worth $400M) along with as much fuel and munitions as needed.

Speed
A VLCC would be a lot slower, but that isn't an issue for the Valkyrie. In comparison, a Nimitz needs to be fast in order to generate enough airflow to launch aircraft.

For the Chinese navy, the slow speed is fine because it is operating close to mainland China. In comparison, the US is operating from distant bases.

Endurance
A VLCC essentially has an unlimited cruising range as well, because of the vast volume of diesel engine fuel it could carry.

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Or maybe the ship doesn't actually store any Valkyries, and is simply a lily pad which performs recovery, rearming and launch for drones based in mainland China.

The operational concept would be say 5 drone carriers stationed 1000km off mainland China. You'd be looking at a cost of less than $2 Billion.
Say each drone carrier could support 200 drone sorties per day. The drones may be based on the carrier, or possibly on mainland China.
So you now have the capacity to support 1000 drone sorties per day, which can all reach Guam.
Then it is possible to envisage a massive war of attrition for control of the airspace over Guam.
The Chinese military is perfectly happy with such an outcome, because it struggles to reach Guam today.

Also remember that Chinese industry has the advantage in building large numbers of navy and commercial ships at low cost.
The same applies to building large numbers of simple unmanned drones at low cost.
And having a lot of airbases, land area and strategic depth to operate those drones from.
 

Tam

Captain
Registered Member
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #328
Here's a few thoughts on future naval drone warfare, premised on the introduction of Valkyrie type drones which cost $2M and don't necessarily need a runway to either launch or to land.

---

If/when we see the widespread deployment of these drones, I can also see commercial ships like a VLCC becoming the basis for drone carriers.

Cost
For example, a typical VLCC supertanker costs about $120M. That is 107x cheaper than a Ford supercarrier.
Even a military version of a VLCC with a landing deck will be far cheaper than a Ford.

Fuel
A VLCC has a liquid capacity of about 300M litres. A Nimitz carries 15M litres of aviation fuel, which is 20x less volume
Again, a military version of a VLCC will carry far more aviation fuel than a Nimitz.

Deck/Hanger Storage
A VLCC has a similar deck size to a supercarrier. Theoretically, you could use the deck as a landing pad for a parachuting drone.
Or you could build in a drone tailhook for carrier landings.
And a VLCC could store at least 200 Valkyries (worth $400M) along with as much fuel and munitions as needed.

Speed
A VLCC would be a lot slower, but that isn't an issue for the Valkyrie. In comparison, a Nimitz needs to be fast in order to generate enough airflow to launch aircraft.

For the Chinese navy, the slow speed is fine because it is operating close to mainland China. In comparison, the US is operating from distant bases.

Endurance
A VLCC essentially has an unlimited cruising range as well, because of the vast volume of diesel engine fuel it could carry.

---

Or maybe the ship doesn't actually store any Valkyries, and is simply a lily pad which performs recovery, rearming and launch for drones based in mainland China.

The operational concept would be say 5 drone carriers stationed 1000km off mainland China. You'd be looking at a cost of less than $2 Billion.
Say each drone carrier could support 200 drone sorties per day. The drones may be based on the carrier, or possibly on mainland China.
So you now have the capacity to support 1000 drone sorties per day, which can all reach Guam.
Then it is possible to envisage a massive war of attrition for control of the airspace over Guam.
The Chinese military is perfectly happy with such an outcome, because it struggles to reach Guam today.

Also remember that Chinese industry has the advantage in building large numbers of navy and commercial ships at low cost.
The same applies to building large numbers of simple unmanned drones at low cost.
And having a lot of airbases, land area and strategic depth to operate those drones from.

Why do you think the Chinese military would struggle to reach Guam? One of their destroyers recently lased a P-8 near Guam, after traveling past across the date line between Midway and Hawaii. Recently, a PLAN oceanographic survey ship passed through the Panama canal, and another is off somewhere near Australia. Its a fact of life the Chinese Navy is blue water right now.

You don't need to make a VLCC from scratch for this when you can buy plenty used ships for such in the open market for cheap, and refit them. But then, the USN and other navies can do the same.
 

AndrewS

Captain
Registered Member
Why do you think the Chinese military would struggle to reach Guam? One of their destroyers recently lased a P-8 near Guam, after traveling past across the date line between Midway and Hawaii. Recently, a PLAN oceanographic survey ship passed through the Panama canal, and another is off somewhere near Australia. Its a fact of life the Chinese Navy is blue water right now.

You don't need to make a VLCC from scratch for this when you can buy plenty used ships for such in the open market for cheap, and refit them. But then, the USN and other navies can do the same.
In a high intensity conflict, current technology means the Chinese military will definitely struggle to reach Guam.
After all, it is 3000km away and way beyond the practical range of a manned fighter jet.
That leaves expensive options like ballistic missiles or bombers etc etc
But 3000km is not beyond the range of unmanned drones with an overall range of 4000km. They could be launched relatively close at a distance of 1000km.

You could convert existing ships yes. But it would be better for a purpose built design.

Eg. a VLCC is designed just to carry crude, but you would want more diesel tanks for the ship engines and also aviation fuel tanks buried deep inside the ship. Plus elevators for ordnance storage and elevators for a separate hanger deck etc etc

This is all stuff which is relatively cheap to add to a ship.
 

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