A few thoughts on tonnage:

There's been wide discussion recently on the size of the Chinese Navy, largely driven by a recent DoD report's statement that the PLA Navy is now the "largest navy in the world" on the basis of its number of ships. washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/…
If you haven't been paying attention, the PLA Navy is engaged in a naval buildup the likes of which hasn't been seen in quite some time. In fact, the last time any nation build this many warships, and this fast, was during the legendary US "600-ship Navy" buildup of the 1980s.
China's recent buildup is, indeed, comparable in terms of the numbers of ships. As an example, during the years 1982-1986, the USN procured 86 warships, resulting in the the USN's fleet count peaking at the end of that decade. news.usni.org/2020/05/06/rep…
Since we don't have a way (that I know of) to track PLAN warship procurement, we can instead track launches, which are visible via satellite imagery and thus available in open sources.

So, how many warships did China launch over the last 5 calendar years?

By my count: 86
Now, many commentators have pointed out - not incorrectly - that the PLAN's ships are on average much smaller than those of the USN; that the USN remains much larger in terms of its tonnage - the sheer heft of the force as measured, essentially, by its weight.
Assuming that combat power has a somewhat comparable density among modern warships, tonnage would, indeed, perhaps be a better measure than the sheer number of hulls.

So let's take a look at the tonnage of recently built warships, instead.
For the count, I again focused on warships actually launched from 2015-2019. By "warships", I included ships useful in high intensity combat or major power projection: subs, carriers, amphibious assault ships, surface combatants, & ocean going fleet auxiliaries (e.g., tankers).
I did not include patrol craft, mine warfare vessels, or ships focused on low-intensity operations (e.g., Expeditionary Staging Bases).

"Tonnage" was measured as full load displacement, in tonnes (i.e., metric tons, most data coming from Janes), times number of hulls launched.
The result: by my count, over the years 2015-2019, the Chinese navy launched almost 600,000 tons of warships, the U.S. Navy, just under 400,000 tons.

Bear in mind, as well, that the US total includes about 80,000 tons of the somewhat controversial LCS and DDG-1000 classes.
It's worth considering too that the USN has worldwide responsibilities - with roughly 60% of forces allocated to the Pacific - unlike (for now) the PLA Navy. By that measure, new US warships available for the Pacific might be closer to 200,000 tons.
But, ah, some would say: the US has allies and partners (e.g., "the Quad") across the Indo-Pacific, and China has few. Our combined maritime power will continue to dwarf the PLAN!

The Quad's shipbuilding tonnage (w/ the US Pacific Fleet's allocation)? A little over 400,000 tons.
As ally/partner nation policymakers consider the rise of the PLAN, & whether to support basing missiles on their territory, they might want to consider this: the combined tonnage launched by the main non-US Indo-Pacific navies? Less than 300,000 tons.
Given that the PLAN is a unitary force and that coalitions introduce natural inefficiencies (esp. with deep-seated mistrust among some of these nations), what seems clear to me is that were the US to be driven from the region, or to reduce its commitments due to lack of support..
...the likely result would be domination of maritime Asia by the PLAN (particularly when combined with the anti-ship firepower of the PLA Rocket Force).

With the great dependence on trade by sea that almost all of these regional countries share...
...and the already-demonstrated willingness of the PRC to engage in coercive diplomacy, all concerned should understand these facts when making assessments about their willingness to make investments and support close and coordinated action among the US and other regional allies.
In summary:

Here's a re-do of the tonnage figure from above, seemed to come out with the background a bit off:

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More from @tshugart3

8 Sep
Some thoughts on the PRC’s growing IRBM force:

I recently pointed out what I thought was the biggest news in the recently-released 2020 China Military Power report: an apparent more-than-doubling of the PLA Rocket Force’s DF-26 IRBM inventory.
This growth to IRBM launchers is a continuation of previous trends: the 2018 report had listed "16-30" launchers, then 80 in the 2019 report, and now 200 in this year's report. iiss.org/blogs/military…
I said in my commentary that, if this growth in capability is real, it could present a more significant challenge to the American way of war in the Western Pacific.

I'd like to expound on that a bit more.
Read 22 tweets
1 Sep
Ok, folks. The 2020 China Military Power report is out!

Here are a few thoughts on some of the interesting tidbits (IMO): media.defense.gov/2020/Sep/01/20…
First up: overall size of the PLAN.

Folks will debate whether the PLAN is the "largest" in the world - ship count vs. tonnage, etc.

Regardless, this report reflects its continued VERY strong growth, referring to it as "approximately 350" vs last year's "more than 300".
As the USN continues to produce (& soon start decommissioning) the "controversial" LCS, and works on the design of FFG(X), the PLAN has 42+ Jiangdao FFLs in service.

The FFL production run is now projected to be at least 70(!) ships, the latest equipped with towed array sonars.
Read 22 tweets
14 Aug
This week I finished a bit of a bucket list item: flying an airplane coast-to-coast.

For pro pilots (mil or civ) this’d be a snoozefest, but flying isn’t something I do full-time and I’d be doing it solo in a small plane.

If you’d like to hear about the trip, then come along...
The overall journey was from Potomac Airfield, just outside of DC, to Thun Field near Tacoma, WA. I figured it’d take about 4-5 days to complete, with about 6 hrs of flying a day and probably one or two weather delay days. Flying solo, I wanted to keep each day reasonable.
My ride for the trip would be N2543U, a 1980 Piper Archer with 4 seats and a single 180 HP piston engine. While the plane is 40 yrs old, it’s in great shape and has had major upgrades to its avionics, equipped with GPS, an autopilot, digital glass-panel instruments, and ADS-B.
Read 48 tweets
31 Mar
Along these lines, while we're all stuck in our houses, here are some fun ways to pretend you're on a submarine while at home:
1. Sleep on the shelf in your closet. Replace the closet door with a curtain. Every 2 hours after you go to sleep, have someone whip open the curtain, shine a flashlight in your eyes, and mumble "Sorry, wrong rack", or "Sign this!"
2. Don't eat any food that you don't either get out of a can or have to add water to.
Read 40 tweets
2 Jun 19
At this risk of piling on to an earlier thread of mine on this topic, Malaysia's defence minister really ought to talk to Dr. Michael Beckley of Tufts University about Malaysia's chances in a conflict with China...
...as he thinks that Malaysia could "plausibly deny sea and air control to a restricted Chinese task force."
He also assesses that Malaysia's navy and air force are pretty well-equipped and trained, constituting "A2/AD forces" that "may be more capable than they seem on paper".
Read 5 tweets
28 May 19
I happened to read this article (with great interest) recently and I have some...thoughts about it:
On the topic of the military balance in Asia, it was published in International Security, a peer-reviewed academic journal published by Harvard’s @BelferCenter.

In general, the author seemed pretty sanguine about China’s military challenge.

In summary, “China’s maritime neighbors can prevent China from dominating East Asia militarily, allowing the United States to avoid the costs and risks of expanding its forces in the region...", as
Read 40 tweets

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