Key point: Washington has better reconnaissance capabilities, which would be key in any modern war.
If U.S. and Chinese aircraft carriers were to clash, the U.S. Navy would win.
And who makes that prediction? A Russian military expert.
Konstantin Sivkov, a member of the Russian Academy of Rocket and Artillery Sciences, argues that superior U.S. reconnaissance capabilities would trump China’s advantages in hypersonic missiles.
Sivkov lays out a sort of wargame for an America vs. China carrier clash that seems based on the World War II carrier battles between America and Japan, particularly the Battle of Midway. Those battles tended to be nail-biting, knife-edge affairs where victory or defeat rested on which side first spotted the other side’s carriers, and then dispatched an airstrike against the vulnerable flattops.
“The key role that determines the course and outcome of hostilities at sea in modern conditions is played not so much by the power and quantity of strike weapons, but by the capabilities of the reconnaissance system on an ocean theater of operations,” Sivkov writes in the Russian defense publication Military-Industrial Courier. “Surpassing the enemy in this respect, the U.S. Navy is able to significantly level the superiority of the Chinese in hypersonic anti-ship missiles.”
While the U.S. has by far the greatest carrier fleet in the world, China already has one carrier, is almost ready to sail another, and may eventually build a half-dozen or more to assert Chinese power in the Western Pacific and beyond. That leaves Russia, a traditional land power that has just one carrier (now out of commission after a dockyard accident), as something of an interested bystander in carrier warfare.
Sivkov assumes that because China lacks power projection capabilities such as overseas bases, the battle would be fought closer to bases within 500 to 1,500 kilometers from the coast of China (or a base in, say, the Indian Ocean if China manages to obtain one from a friendly state). Presumably outgunned in a purely carrier battle, the People’s Liberation Army Navy will seek an engagement within range of its hypersonic missiles launched from land and by bombers.