U.S. looks to “compete” with Chinese Navy

Southside Matt

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US-China TensionDepositPhotos.com

In September 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) released a report titled “2020 China Military Power Report.” This report acknowledged that China has taken the title of the “world’s largest navy.” This title was confirmed through the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence which tallied the Chinese navy at approximately 360 vessels, compared to an estimated 297 for the United States Navy.

As more and more land-based warfare is left to medium- to long-range weapons and to “unmanned” vehicles – drones, both aeronautical and vehicular – naval size and capability are becoming increasingly important in the defense of nations. As tanks, missile launchers, and drones on the ground and in the air fight the land war, technology and firepower, not necessarily numbers, are the determining factors in military victory. This pushes the numerical as the determining factor to naval battles.

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Chinese Frigate Weifang, Cape Town, South AfricaUS Naval Institute

While technology and firepower do play a part in naval battles, the number of vessels involved in such conflicts is more important than in current land-based battles. The more vessels available for a given side, the larger the probability that they will be victorious.

Some will argue that the size and capabilities of the United States Navy vessels far outweigh the strength of the Chinese Navy, but the numbers remain the same, leaving China with the largest navy in the world. This numerical deficit has some lawmakers calling for increased funding to the U.S. Military as the House Armed Services Committee debates the renewal of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

With the Biden Administration having requested $744 billion for military, defense and energy programs, Ranking House Member Mike Rogers (R-AL) submitted an increase of almost $25 billion, an amendment that was adopted with bipartisan committee support, to improve shipbuilding as well as air and ground capabilities.

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Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL)U.S. House of Representatives

During debate and to gain approval of the amendment, Rogers invoked the fact that such an increase would “ensure the United States can compete with adversaries like China.” Putting money into emerging technologies, he said, “would help the United States stay competitive.”

Recognizing the needs to maintain a certain level of spending on these programs, Rogers continued, “It will ensure defense spending grows by 3 percent above inflation, meeting the recommendations of the bipartisan National Defense Strategy Commission.” He also countered reductions that are proposed by President Biden’s submission. “It reverses the cuts proposed by the president’s budget.”

The amendment further fulfills $15 billion unfunded procurement research and readiness initiatives for the military. Further, it addresses over 200 priorities left out of the president’s proposal, according to Rogers.

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) chimed in as part of the bipartisan support for the amendment submitted by Rogers. As a former Navy officer, Luria stated that “[w]ith the president’s budget, I have been saying ever since it was revealed that it does not do enough. We needed 3 to 5 percent real growth, and I want to applaud Mr. Rogers and my other colleagues who support this legislation and finally doing what we need to do to deal with China.”

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Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA)U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Luria further cautioned against reducing funding as the proposal from President Biden suggests. “Right now, there are malign actors who seek to attack us and do harm, whether that’s through provocative and illegal maritime claims in the South China Sea, devastating cyberattacks, or confrontations with our allies such as Israel.”

Some on the committee, while not disputing the need to enhance the military to compete with others such as China, complained that the amount of spending is too high. Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) exhibited this by stating “I really believe that the single most important thing that the Defense Department needs to do right now is spend its money wisely, is do a better job of acquisition and procurement, do a better job of anticipating what the threats are now versus what they were 30 years ago.” Through this statement, Smith also recognizes that the global landscape, and the threats created by it, are constantly changing, but seemed to indicate that the military is stuck in the past of the 1990s.

As the United States House of Representatives debates ramping up its navy, China has already set a plan in motion. By 2025, the People’s Liberation Army and Navy (PLAN) is projected to have over 400 vessels in its fleet, compared 355 for the United States. PLAN projects this growth through the increase in the number of small coastal patrol ships and amphibious transport-landing ships.

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USS McFaul - Fleet Week 2014DepositPhotos.com

The U.S. Navy currently hosts a fleet of 11 aircraft carriers, 92 carriers and destroyers, and 59 surface combat and logistics ships. For submarine warfare, the U.S. has 50 attack, 14 ballistic missile, and four cruise missile submarines. The United States Coast Guard is also contributing with 243 vessels, compared to China’s 255.

As some will claim that, even with an inferior number, the U.S. has a naval capability that far outweighs that of China due to its alliances with other naval forces. China’s only formal ally with a navy would be North Korea’s handful of submarines and coastal patrol vessels, although Beijing and Moscow have been holding naval drills jointly in recent years. With the exception of Australia and Japan, the majority of viable American naval allies are located on the Atlantic Ocean side of the world.

Russia plays into the mix in other ways, as well. With its fleet of approximately 606 ships, the Russian Navy would occupy many of the Atlantic-based alliances that the U.S. has. With that, the U.S. would also have vessels of all sorts deployed to the Atlantic to either assist with the defense of its allies or in the defense of its own homeland. This would greatly reduce the might that some claim the U.S. has over China.

If a war were to break out that involved the Chinese and American navies, other countries would likely see this as an opportunity to expand their own empires and attack either the U.S. or its allies. The U.S. Navy, at current levels, would either be so focused on the battle with China or so far-spread in battling China while protecting itself and its allies that “holes in coverage” would form causing the U.S. Navy to be defeated in its purpose.

Rep. Smith’s comments ring true for many who watch government spending – the U.S. Military does need to rein in its spending and look for more-efficient procurement and acquisition programs. As this is done, reducing the nation’s military capabilities, particularly in the area of naval forces, reduces its ability to compete with adversaries such as China.

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Hailing from the Great State of Texas, South Side Matt monitors government for compliance with the Constitutional values that founded the United States, and works to maintain liberty for all in that spirit. His articles focus on furthering this cause, but also occasionally go "off track" into lighter topics such as cooking, general life and others.

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