Commercial Loans and Fun Blog

Coming War With China:  Our $13 Billion Aircraft Carriers Have a Reach Problem

Posted by George Blackburne on Mon, Aug 3, 2020

Container ShipA year ago, I wrote a blog article entitled, Commercial Loans, Missiles, and the Longbow.   I just re-read it, and it's an interesting article.  

The point of the article was that a weaker force can devastate a far more powerful one, if it enjoys a longer reach.  The article goes on to describe the Battle of Crecy, when a tiny English army of longbow men and men-at-arms dismounted and took positions behind trenches and horse defenses at the top of a hill.

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Over 100,000 heavily-armored French knights charged repeatedly up that hill, but the powerful English longbows, tipped with bodkin arrowheads, easily pierced the French armor.  The French knights were slaughtered.  Few got close enough to even wield their swords, axes, and maces.  The longer range of the English longbow made short work of first the French crossbow men and then the charging French knights.

The battleship in World War II became obsolete, once it was outranged by the aircraft carrier.  I don't think a single battleship from either side even fired a shot on an enemy aircraft carrier.  In the same way, the American aircraft carrier faces range obsolescence in the age of the missile.  

Ballistic missiles, particularly China’s carrier-killer DF-26, can easily outrange America’s carrier fleet.  The range of a typical carrier combat plane, with a nine-ton payload, is only 1,300 miles.  The range of the Chinese DF-26 carrier-killer ballistic missile is a whopping 2,490 miles.


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Imagine a grammar school fight with the schoolyard bully.  The tough little guy wants to get close enough to land some blows on the bigger guy, but the bully can just put his palm on the smaller guy's forehead and keep his punches from falling.

The U.S. military has woken up to the problem.  We are racing to develop midair refueling drones, which would accompany our aircraft on bombing missions and refuel them in flight.  This would allow us to reach Chinese targets.  Unfortunately, we don't have these unmanned refueling drones yet, and war may break out before they ever reach the Far East theater of operations.

With the passage of its recent extradition treaty with Hong Kong, the Red Chinese have finally taken control of Hong Kong.  Any protestor in Hong Kong can now be extradited to China for "trial" and hard labor.  Those young  protestors absolutely understood the real-life effect of this new treaty.  Four Hong Kong protestors were extradited to China this week.


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The next step in China's hegemonic ambitions is now Taiwan.  Hegemony is the political, economic, or military predominance or control of one state over others.  In ancient Greece, hegemony denoted the politico-military dominance of a city-state over other, nearby city-states.  

The dominant state is known as the hegemon.  For example, Sparta was the hegemon of the Peloponnese, that huge chunk of the mainland of Greece that is southwest of the Corinthian narrows, a tiny choke point.  That choke point is incredibly narrow.  My daughter and I have actually seen it.

Four years ago, Jordan, my wonderful 22-year-old old daughter, and I visited Greece, as part of her Spring foreign trip, while she attended Culver Academies.  I moved to Indiana, even though my company is located in Sacramento, California, in order to be close to our three kids while they attended this wonderful school.  


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Culver Military Academy is famous for its Culver Black Horse Troop - 80 all-black horses.  I rode in President Nixon's second Inaugural Parade.  George IV rode in George W. Bush's first Inaugural Parade, and Tom rode in W's second Inaugural Parade.  Jordi rode, as part of the Culver Equestriennes, in Trump's first Inaugural Parade.  As the Equestriennes were passing in review, right past Trump and Mike Pence, the camera for CNN zoomed right in on my lovely daughter's sweet smile.  She rocked!  Haha!

Will China wait for the U.S . to develop a response to its carrier-killer missiles?  Unfortunately, there is an old military adage that generals always fight the last war.   For the past 15 years, our admirals have been preparing for another World War II in the Pacific.  Our Navy has fallen terribly far behind.

This is why I read with interest an article in the National Interest, a magazine dedicated to military matters.  The article mentioned the work of Dr. TX Hammes, a retired Marine Corps colonel and a Distinguished Research Fellow at the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies.


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The article described Hammes’ solution - to phase out America’s carriers and to replace them with a large fleet of small, inexpensive missile-armed merchant ships.  Outfitting former merchant ships with missile launchers would be a substantial cost savings for the Navy.

A mere $5 billion would be enough to create forty missile merchant ships supplied with between 1600-2000 missiles, requiring only 1,600 sailors to crew all forty of them.  According to Hammes, these merchant vessels, whether they be tankers or container ships, are more expendable, tougher, and have a lower profile than aircraft carriers or other surface ships.

Developing conversion kits and experience to quickly modify merchant ships into missile platforms would allow the U.S. to quickly mobilize, in time of war, by converting even more merchant ships.  

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I fear that a missile war with China is coming.  What if the economic damage to  China from COVID and the resulting worldwide condemnation is greater than what we have been told?  What if the Chinese public starts to get restless, and the communists fear that they they are losing their grip on power?  The classic move would be to go to war with someone - this time with the U.S. over Taiwan - so that the Chinese people would rally around the flag.

Both sides know that a nuclear war would destroy most life on Earth; therefore these missiles will NOT be nuclear-armed.  These will be conventional missiles; but they will also be incredibly accurate.  The Russians are working on nuclear-powered missiles that could even reach Indianapolis.  Yikes!

Heavens, I sure hope our next President follows the advice of Dr. Hammes.  As I often tell my kids, history doesn't always happen to the other guy.


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Topics: aircraft carriers