China is planning to build more aircraft carriers to bolster its maritime capabilities, which could pose a bigger threat to India. A Chinese security expert was quoted by state-run news outlet, Global Times, as saying that China could have at least six aircraft carriers in the future.
China is also planning to build more naval bases across the world, especially in countries such as Pakistan, with whom it has close economic and military relations. The bases are being planned for the six aircraft carriers.
China’s latest modernisation plans can pose a problem for India which is witnessing increasing Chinese naval activity in its backyard, the Indian Ocean. In the past, Chinese nuclear submarines have docked in Karachi.
Xu Guangyu, a senior advisor to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times, “In the long run, China needs to develop its own aircraft carrier battle teams, with at least six aircraft carriers, maritime forces led by guided missile destroyers, as well as attack submarines."
China will soon complete the construction of its second aircraft carrier, Type 001A. China Central Television reported that the second carrier would begin service with the PLA Navy by 2020. The country is also developing a third aircraft carrier, the Type 002, in Shanghai.
Xu said China will build about 10 more bases for the six aircraft carriers. He explained that they could be built around countries friendly to China, such as Pakistan. He added that the bases could also be built in every continent, but this would depend on whether the countries would want to cooperate with China.
China has also strengthened the battle capabilities of its first and lone aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, as reported by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily. China is training its own carrier-borne fighter pilots. It is one of the few countries to do so.
The Liaoning has been redesigned from an older Russian model, the Varyag. It was commissioned into the Chinese Navy in September 2012.
China sees the need to have a strong navy in view of maritime disputes such as the South China Sea.
Although India has long years of expertise in operating aircraft carriers, what it badly needs for its lone aircraft carrier, Vikramaditya, and future ones too, is carrier battle groups, meaning more ships and anti-submarine helicopters for protection against enemy submarines. India currently has a minimal number of anti-submarine helicopters for providing close support to the carrier and its battle group.
The requirement of more such helicopters becomes increasingly important with India building its first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, which is likely to be deployed in Visakhapatnam, to counter China, probably by 2023.