Aircraft Carriers and Submarines of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the Indian Navy

This article originally appeared in Bharat Shakti


In December 2016 China’s first aircraft carrier Liaoning conducted its first seagoing voyage, travelling from China’s Northern coast to the Southern coast. It left its homeport at Qingdao in Northern China and took a politically charged route through Japan’s Ryuku Island chain and the East China Sea. From there it passed through the South China Sea nearing Taiwan and the Philippines and finally berthed at Sanya Naval Base on Hainan Island. Chinese nuclear submarines have been observed at various parts of the Indian Ocean causing consternation to South Asian countries. As on date there are 37 aircraft carriers in the world with 12 navies. It would be pertinent to observe that the United States has 10 nuclear powered fleet carriers. In addition, the United States has nine amphibious assault ships, which can carry either helicopters or about 20 vertical or short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) fighter jets, and are similar in size to light fleet carriers. Aircraft carriers operate with a Carrier Battle Group providing an offensive role to a Navy. A former Chief of the Royal Navy, Admiral Mark Stanhope, has said, “To put it simply, countries that aspire to strategic international influence have aircraft carriers”. Submarines are significant operational assets of any Navy. Their strength lies in remaining undetected and their ability to launch weapons at targets under water. Nuclear powered submarines with nuclear weapons form a strategic portion of the Triad and have tremendous capabilities. Often submarines have surprised various adversaries by their stealth and firepower capabilities.

China and India have focused on their aircraft carriers and submarines. It would be of interest to note their inventories and employment in the India Pacific region.

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