Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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China’s Surface Warships are a Joke, says Top US Navy Admiral

Distributed lethality

(Photo : US Navy) Vice Admiral Tom Rowden.

The admiral behind the U.S. Navy's new warfighting concept called "distributed lethality" believes the quality of the surface warships of the People's Liberation Army Navy Surface Force (PLANSF) is a joke and the fighting ability of Chinese sailors nothing to fear.

Vice Admiral Tom Rowden, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces (COMSURFOR) is the man widely regarded as the driving force behind distributed lethality.

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This concept seeks to redress the decline in the number of surface combatants forecast over the next decade by arming most of the navy's surface ships not classified as warships with anti-ship missiles and transforming others into mini-aircraft carriers capable of launching vertical take-off and landing aerial drones such as TERN and other types of drones to attack the enemy.

This concept has identified over 100 ships that can be converted into mini-carriers. The addition of this vast number will increase the offensive striking power of the Navy's surface warships while allowing its 10 Nimitz-class supercarriers to focus their massive firepower on more strategically important targets.

Distributed Lethality seeks to expand the Navy's offensive sea control capabilities and operations to severely threaten PLANSF and the Russian Navy surface force by dispersing its offensive firepower over more ships and other assets.

The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is in the midst of a massive shipbuilding campaign that reminds one of the U.S.' effort in World War II.  In 2016, China built one naval corvette every six weeks.

In September and October, China launched three Type 056 corvettes (Jiangdao-class), bringing to 39 the total number of corvettes in PLANSF, and making this class the most numerous surface warships in the PLAN.

Of this total, 27 are in active service patrolling littoral or near shore waters off the Chinese mainland. PLANSF plans to have at least 60 of these small but heavily armed warships with most being equipped for surface warfare (Type 056) and the rest for anti-submarine warfare (Type 056A).

In response to a question it takes a year or more for the U.S. Navy to deploy a new destroyer, what are the Chinese doing the U.S. isn't?

"Two gray ships riding on the sea go by. They've got a bunch of flags flying and a bunch of sailors up on deck,"said Admiral Rowden.

"One of them couldn't fight their way out of a wet paper bag (the Chinese) and the other one will rock anything that it comes up against (the American).

"So what are the Chinese thinking? I don't know anything about it. I would tell you that I find it kind of interesting they feel they have to do that. To what end? I don't know."

He said the U.S. Navy takes a long time commissioning its warships because it wants "those men and women on that ship to be 100 percent confident in the ship and confident in the execution of any mission leadership may give them."  

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