|After my last venture in here, where I was generally considered a pathetic nut - now with senility added - I'm in for more humiliation.
During the latest half year China has presented some new aircraft in the fighter arena.
They appear generally to be all right - provided you are prepared to fight a 1970'ies war. I.e. they are on top of a Nimitz-class carrier, when it was launched. There are some improvements in the Chinese designs with respect to stealth - at least from certain viewing aspects; but that is about it.
The bomber or attack plane would be very deadly with a nuclear device toss-bombed at the carrier. This is how the problem should have been addressed in 1970-75. But it presupposes that the rest of the systems are able to find the carrier for an attack to be mounted - even in distributed numbers along a broad front. That is to say send out enough and hope one of them will find the carrier and get close enough to release its weapon.
That makes sense - provided there are enough of attacks so the chance of finding the carrier is reasonable. But it doesn't really take into account that the carrier might be escorted at some distance by f.i. destroyers with control- and warning facilities. Not that these destroyers are targets in themselves; but they just might be placed there to provide early warning so the carrier can launch fighters to deal with a low flying bat out of Hell, that doesn't turn very well.
So to be honest the tactical concept - as far as I can judge - is marginal - at best.
The real flaw is that the Chinese think, that the USNavy has stuck to their 1970'ies concept against the Russians. The typical French general staff assumption - that the Germans will fight the next war in the same way they lost the most recent. Sort of: "I'll honour my granddad's memory as an admiral, by doing the same dumb thing he did!"
Why, with the USNavy everything is possible, but there must be admitted a fair chance that junior has not been totally lobotomised in primary school.
As I said: The planes look all right as developments of f.i. the F-105 Thunderchief or perhaps something between late model F-4 and prototype F-15.
What is apparently wrong is that present day F/A-18's are - if we are fair and conservative - two generations ahead of a F-105: Engine, avionics, weapons, range - you name it - might be a tad lower on manoeuvrability (compared to an F-16) supposing present day naval aviators guts are looser than their ancestors.
This will mean that the death-wishing Chinese pilots are to face an enemy that in every respect is two generations ahead of him in the hardware department.
This in itself reduces the chance of success (or even survival) from slim to remote.
It also assumes, that the tactics of the USNavy will NOT take advantage of longer range and keeping destroyer scouts far ahead of the carrier - so the interceptors can be directed to the radar-reflecting butt of the attacker. So even if the carrier screen only uses hand-cranked AAA and not Goalkeeper or something like that few pension funds - even in the USA, where an death in infancy is considered a fair assumption - will even consider taking the Chinese pilot on as a client.
Is the situation like that, that the Chinese are not to be taken serious? Oh no, nuclear weapons are always serious - ask in Tjernobyl.
Even the remote risk of a nut-case getting through is devastating.
The only real defence against nuclear weapons is being far away from where they explode - very far indeed.
Here we come to the next point:
Hardly had the Chinese revealed their latest prototypes with panache before the USNavy demonstrated to the Chinese chagrin an idea that made their second-hand carrier spilling off a fighter seem slightly silly. The USNavy sort of responded: "Nice for a first try; but why do You actually need a pilot?"
They did this by launching a fighter size drone off a carrier.
If that isn't urinating on their parade, I don't know what it is!
Comparing generations it is safe to assume that the difference between the technologies of China and USA is around three - give or take the odd decade. It does vary from weapon to weapon. Helicopters are probably maybe two if you take the SeaKnight-Osprey distance.
Furthermore it isn't a one off as the USS Dewey showed off a laser AAA - how practical it will be in actual combat remains to be seen.
The practicality raises the issue of tactics:
I can see at least two options with a stealthy drone - apart from the obvious recce.
a) Use them as pack-mules to carry ammunition - or extra missiles which would force any Chinese fighter formation to fly through a crossfire of homing missiles with the controlling fighter somewhere well back. You might nail the drone; but which one? The drones might run out of missiles; but ehhmm what about their replacement - either transferred from the other fighter pairs or even launched from carrier before retrieving the empties.
b) As an arial minefield: Drones with an autonomous evil temper shooting at everything within range and the defending fighters well back. This would mean constantly launching and retrieving drones - sure; but carriers have sort of that figured out. Anyhow, for how long would you need that mine field. Mines are generally a nuisance - not only during; but particularly after the war.
The Baltic is still infested with mines from WW1 - where some might even be working today. I wouldn't count on it; but an attacker would be brave to disregard the possibility - and the possibility that the minefield might have been refreshed at a later date.
The carrier? So far to sea from the coast that it will be out of Chinese worst case range.
The conclusion is that this is a race China can't win!
1) Your weapons are outdated at the introduction into service - a drawback that might be compensated with numbers.
2) Not only that, but the successors to the weapons China is introducing are outdated.
3) The Americans are very cruel indeed. They only introduce the solution to China, when China is committed to large scale production - running of antiques off the assembly line.
The yanks are even nastier: If China thinks they can skip a generation and catch up - that leap is met by an American generation ahead of that - while having plenty of elderly - but still advanced planes compared to the Chinese - in long term storage.