May 23, 2013:
As China sends more long-range maritime patrol aircraft out over the West Pacific (to search for American warships, especially carriers), the U.S. is reviving some Cold War era practices it used against Russian maritime patrol aircraft. Mainly this involves sending land-based P-3 maritime patrol aircraft out to keep track of their Chinese counterparts. This task could be done with carrier aircraft, but this would confirm that an American carrier was less than 500 kilometers away.
During the Cold War the U.S. Navy was fairly confident that the Russians couldn’t find American warships at sea, especially the carrier task forces, very well. U.S. aircraft that regularly shadowed Russian patrol aircraft already knew where the ships were and noticed that much of the time the “Red Eagles” hadn’t a clue as to where the American vessels were. That was the main reason for using P-3s or other land-based aircraft shadow the Russian patrol aircraft.
China now has a growing number of radar satellites that can search for ships at sea, but this is not a perfect solution because the Pacific is vast and radar satellites can only monitor a small portion of that ocean.