01'USS George Washington'
02Guarding the machinery that keeps the flight deck functioning
03Crew take shade under an E-2C Hawkeye
04Asian-American crew members report to the flight deck to greet their Hong Kong guests
05The navigation tower
06Even in Hong Kong's friendly waters, the crew of the 'GW' must keep watch
07A packed flight deck
08Cockpit of an F/A-18 'Super Hornet' fighter aircraft
09The supercarrier in Victoria Harbour
10Crew keeps watch over its F/A-18s, which are worth €55m a piece
11The carrier is a floating city with its own arcane forms of language
- 4 squadrons of F/A-18 Super Hornets
- 1 squadron of EA-18G Growler electronic warfare fighters
- 1 squadron of E-2C Hawkeye surveillance aircraft
- 1 squadron of SH-60 Seahawk helicopters
- Sea Sparrow anti-ship/anti-aircraft missiles
- Rolling Airframe anti-ship/anti-aircraft missiles
- Phalanx close-in weapon systems
- 1 Nimitz-class supercarrier
- 1 carrier air wing, comprising over 70 aircraft
- 1-2 Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers
- 2-3 Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers
- 1-2 Los Angeles-class nuclear-attack submarines
- 1 supply ship
Race for the pacific
In the vast Pacific Ocean, it’s the tiniest places that often end up causing the biggest problems. Numerous countries lay claim to the thousands of islands bestrewing the waters, and friction over who owns what is intensifying.
Though often miles from the countries that claim them, these mainly unpopulated territories enable their owners to claim huge swathes of surrounding ocean complete with valuable fish stocks, as well as any other undersea resources.
They also become symbols of national pride, causing rival claimants to risk conflict even over obscure territories with little material value. As the American military pivots to the Asia-Pacific, it needs to prepare itself for oncoming traffic.
Most East Asian nations are significantly enhancing their naval capabilities with a view to safeguarding their prize maritime possessions. In particular, three world-class navies are emerging in Northeast Asia, as China, Japan and South Korea aim to counter each other’s military upgrades.
China covets great-power status and so is emulating the US formula of fielding full-sized aircraft carriers, complete with embarked fighter jets. Its first carrier is currently in testing; three or four Chinese flat-tops should be operational by 2030.
Japan’s pacifist constitution means its navy is spearheaded by a growing fleet of new Hyuga-class helicopter destroyers: mini carriers with up to 11 onboard helicopters. Two of these ships are finished; two larger follow-ons are in the works. Tokyo may be able to fly its new F-35 stealth fighters from the carriers, should the need arise.
The pride of the South Korean navy is a third configuration: its Dokdo-class amphibious assault ships are capable of carrying 10 helicopters, but also hundreds of marines, tanks and other armoured vehicles. One of these ships has already been commissioned, with three more being built. As with Japan’s mini carriers, the Korean assault ships may yet be able to accommodate F-35s, which Seoul is also eyeing.