How China Could Become a Naval Superpower: 6 Aircraft Carriers

David Axe


If China indeed builds six flattops, each fleet in theory could possess two. One always would be available for operations, assuming China follows the same kind of deployment calendar that the U.S. Navy does.

How China Could Become a Naval Superpower: 6 Aircraft Carriers

A six-carrier fleet could set back the Chinese government tens of billions of dollars. The U.S. Navy spends $14 billion to build each new Ford-class carrier. A Nimitz costs around $500 million per year to operate.

The Chinese navy could possess as many as six aircraft carriers by the mid-2030s, experts told state media.

(This first appeared last month.)

Six carriers might allow Beijing to equip each of its regional fleets with two flattops. One vessel could deploy while the other underwent maintenance.

It's unclear exactly how much a six-carrier fleet would cost China. But it would be a lot.

Song Zhongping, a military expert and T.V. commentator, told Global Times that China needs at least five aircraft carriers to execute its military strategy. Wang Yunfei, a retired Chinese navy officer, said Beijing needs six flattops.

The Chinese defense ministry declined during a November 2018 press conference to specify how many carriers it planned to acquire.

Leaving aside the high cost, six flattops makes sense. The Chinese navy includes three regioal fleets -- one each for China's northern, eastern and southern coasts.

In 2018, each fleet possessed between 20 and 30 major surface warships, at least a dozen su....

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