CNN Analyst: U.S. Navy Must Worry About 4 Types Of Chinese Ships
With the recent launch of its third and most modern aircraft carrier, China made a significantly clear statement about its naval ambitions.
Photo Insert: Type 039 submarines are almost silent diesel-electric-powered boats with capabilities that could prove tough for U.S. military planners to deal with.
The Fujian, China's largest, most modern, and most powerful aircraft carrier to date, is the 80,000-ton crown jewel in a military buildup that has seen Beijing expand its navy to become the world's largest.
While the launch of the Fujian amid considerable pomp was certainly intended to send a message to Beijing's adversaries, analysts warn against swallowing too much of the hype just yet, according to Brad Lendon in an analysis for CNN.
First and foremost, the Fujian will most likely not be operational for another three to four years, according to Carl Schuster, a former U.S. Navy captain and former head of operations at the U.S. Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center.
Even if it is operable, its size will make it an obvious target; any adversary will be well aware that destroying such an iconic warship would be as big a morale blow to China as a military disaster.
Then there's the reality that, impressive as they may appear, aircraft carriers aren't always best suited to what experts perceive as the most likely combat scenarios in the near future, such as conflicts in the East and South China Seas and an invasion of Taiwan.
According to experts, the Fujian may be China's largest ship, but it is unlikely to be the most pressing issue on the minds of US military leaders right now.
China currently has four ship types at its disposal, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), that could pose a significantly greater threat to US naval dominance: Type 055 destroyers, which are 13,000-ton stealth guided-missile destroyers and have 112 vertical launch tubes that can used to fire everything from anti-ship missiles to long-range land-attack missiles; Type 039 submarines are almost silent diesel-electric-powered boats with capabilities that could prove tough for U.S. military planners to deal with; Merchant ferries that could transport an invading force of hundreds of thousands of men -- some analysts have suggested more than a million would be needed for Taiwan, and; Maritime militia, which Beijing says does not exist, is made up of at least 122 vessels and likely as many as 174.