With America’s military posture and strategic focus pivoting to the Western Pacific, it’s a good time to ask how vulnerable the centerpiece of our naval force structure is to attacks by China. The centerpiece, of course, is large-deck aircraft carriers. There has been much discussion of late about how the military buildup fueled by China’s double-digit economic growth may be creating a more hostile local environment for carriers. However, a close look at what the Chinese would need to do to target U.S. carriers is reassuring. Even with long-range missiles and maneuvering warheads, the Chinese military would have great difficulty completing all the steps in the “kill chain” that ends with a dead or disabled carrier. The ships are hard to track, their defenses are very dense, and their structures are highly resilient. The Navy is investing many billions of dollars in making them more survivable, for example by developing the stealthy F-35C fighter and an advanced version of the Hawkeye carrier-based radar plane. I have written a commentary for Forbes that you can read here.
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