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

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China’s Navy Can’t Beat US Navy in Combat; Won’t Become World’s Most Powerful Navy

 Power projection

(Photo : PLAN) J-15 fighters on the Liaoning.

Given their current capabilities, there is little doubt the U.S. Navy will easily defeat the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) should there be wars over the South China Sea and East China Seas, according to Chinese military experts.

The qualitative and quantitative inferiority of the PLAN is the most marked in the weapon that will dominate all future sea battles -- the aircraft carrier.

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The experts conclude PLAN can't beat the U.S. Navy even decades into the future and will never become the world's most powerful navy.

PLAN currently operates one obsolete aircraft carrier -- the CNS Liaoning (CV-16) -- which it considers a training carrier unfit for combat. PLAN last month launched its second carrier, CNS Shandong (CV-17), which is expected to see service by 2020. It's building a third carrier.

"A sole aircraft carrier cannot become a fighting force because it needs the presence of other warships to form a strike group, as well as the protection given by other vessels," said Li Jie, a leading researcher at the People's Liberation Army Navy Naval Military Studies Research Institute.

He's also a retired Senior Captain of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). The institute is PLAN's think tank.

Li said China's carrier strike group air crews are still far below international standard.

"An aircraft carrier needs regular large-scale maintenance. China should have more than four carrier groups if it wants to fulfill escort missions on the high seas and safeguard its overseas national interests," said Li.

The US Navy operates 10 Nimitz-class carrier strike groups worldwide. An 11th carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) will be commissioned in June, giving the U.S. Navy 11 active aircraft carriers.

A severe PLAN inferiority is in the number of naval fighter pilots in the PLAN Air Force. PLAN only has 37 pilots qualified to take-off and land the Shenyang J-15 multirole fighter on the Liaoning, said Li.

In contrast, a single U.S. Navy aircraft carrier has anywhere from 48-60 single seat McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 E/F fighters.

The naval and air wing crews that man the Liaoning are just "kindergarten students," said Li, compared to the U.S. Navy whose carrier fleet has more than a century of operational experience in combat at sea.

"It's still a long way to go for Chinese carrier strike group crews to catch up their U.S. counterparts," said Antony Wong Dong, a military observer based in Macau.

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