NAVAL WAR COLLEGE REVIEW
most experienced aviators.54 While the Chinese will certainly benefit from im- provements in technology and will not be attempting a scale of operations even close to that of the United States during the early Cold War, they must realize that their learning curve will be costly in terms of blood and treasure. Moreover, the PLAN air force has traditionally been poorly funded and its pilots have only a fraction of the flying hours that their peers in the United States, India, and Japan have. These factors will make China’s mastery of carrier aviation even more costly in human terms.
Quantum leaps forward are required not only in sea-based fixed-wing avia- tion and midair refueling but also in PLAN doctrine and antisubmarine warfare (ASW) as well as in PLANAF service culture if China’s aerial power-projection capabilities are to be improved dramatically. Without major improvements in ASW, for instance, any Chinese CV would be an easy target for a diesel-electric or nuclear-powered attack submarine (SS/SSN). Chinese ASW capabilities,
while slowly improving, cannot yet be counted on to provide a reason- able degree of security in open wa- ters. In a crisis scenario, many air support tasks would be performed by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). This means that, un- like a U.S. carrier strike group, a Chi- nese CSG would not need to be wholly self-supporting. But it re- mains unclear how capable of joint coordination China’s different ser- vices are in operations over water. Integrating operations between a highly regimented and rigidly struc- tured PLAAF and an immature and sea-based PLAN contingent would require technological and service-culture innovations, as well as exercises less carefully scripted than has been usual, to develop the requisite interoperability and interservice coordination. Significant additional research is required to gauge how much coordination exists within the PLAN between its ground-based naval air and surface/subsurface assets. This is all the more critical as the type and de- gree of coordination will necessarily vary depending on maritime mission, (i.e., humanitarian, interdiction, area denial, sea control, or strike power projection). View from the flight deck of the Kiev. There are no actual carrier aircraft present at this museum.
The Chinese navy must also determine what mix of surface vessels and sub- marines would be necessary to support a carrier. Here the evolution of the over- all naval order of battle may offer insights. China might be unlikely to commit