The U.S. Navy in 2005 Tried to Sink Its Own Aircraft Carrier (And Failed)

David Axe

Key point: Beijing may boast over its array of anti-ship weaponry, but carriers are tough ships to kill.

A Chinese admiral and pundit told a trade-show audience that Beijing could resolve China's territorial disputes by sinking two U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and killing thousands of American sailors.

Rear Adm. Lou Yuan's threat isn't an empty one. The Chinese military has deployed an array of weaponry that it acquired specifically to target American flattops.

But a U.S. Navy test in 2005 proved that even if you hit them, carriers are really hard to sink.

Lou made his provocative comment on Dec. 20, 2018 at the Military Industry List summit, according to media reports.

“What the United States fears the most is taking casualties,” declared Lou, an anti-American author, social commentator and military theorist at the PLA Academy of Military Science.

Sinking just one carrier could kill 5,000 Americans, Lou pointed out. Sink two, and you double the toll. "We’ll see how frightened America is" after losing 10,000 sailors, Lou crowed.

Leaving aside the likelihood of a full-scale war breaking out between the world's two leading military powers and economies, sinking a carrier is easier said than done. History underscores the difficulty of the undertaking.

In 1964 Viet Cong saboteurs managed to damage and briefly sink the former U.S. Navy escort carrier Card while the vessel, then operating as an aircraft ferry for U.S. Military Sealift Command, moored in Saigon.

But the last time anyone permanently sank a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in combat was during World War II. Twelve American carriers sank during the war, usually following intensive air attacks. The last to sink, USS Bismarck Sea, fell victim to Japanese kamikazes in February 1945.

In subsequent decades, American flattops suffered serious accidents including collisions and fires, but none sank. It's very difficult to sink a buoyant, thousand-feet-long ship that's mostly made of steel.

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