CHINA - China is preparing to deploy three new carrier battle groups (CBG) in the world's oceans, with the first expected just three years from now.
News of the new carriers appears in the latest issue of GI Zhou Newsletter published in Australia that specialises in forensic analysis of China's defence-related publications and news sources.
A CBG is perhaps the most formidable means of force-projection any nation can muster. It would typically consist of a carrier escorted by a host of surface vessels and submarines whose main aim is to protect it.
While carriers are symbols of big-power military might, China's navy is many years from building a blue-water fleet capable of staring down the United States Navy.
However, India, lying athwart sea lines of communications between China and Africa, increasingly a source of raw materials for Chinese industries, is aware of the implications. It has its own aircraft carrier building programme.
While China's CBGs would not have the choice of as many support vessels available to the US or even the Japanese navy, China has enough for at least its first CBG, says Dr Martin Andrew, who edits the newsletter.
"There will be on present indications 14 air-defence destroyers and around 20 modern frigates."
The CBGs of the US Navy, which has 11 carriers, vary in size depending on the assignment but might contain a couple of guided-missile cruisers equipped with Tomahawk long-range missiles, a guided missile destroyer used primarily for anti-air warfare, a destroyer and two attack submarines, and a supply ship.