While the U.S. still boasts the most powerful maritime force on Earth, China is getting closer and closer to taking that title, a Biden administration nominee warned the Senate this week.
“The United States Navy is the most powerful, greatest Navy on the planet still, despite numbers,” U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander nominee Adm. John Aquilino told a Senate committee March 23. “That said… the Chinese are increasing their capability and capacity and closing that gap.”
Aquilino used just a few words to say a whole lot. Here’s AUSN’s breakdown:
- “Despite numbers…” Aquilino was talking about the size of the U.S. Navy fleet, which is just below 300 ships, and comparing it to the 350 ship Chinese navy. Late last year, the U.S. Navy acknowledged that China’s fleet is larger, but analysts still say America’s is still the most powerful when other factors are considered, such as technological strength and weapons systems. China was expected to hit the 360-ship mark sometime this year.
- Support for fleet expansion: Aquilino said he was grateful that Chief Naval Officer Michael Gilday put out a report in January calling for an expansion of the U.S. fleet through both manned and unmanned vessels. He also made a reference to the Trump administration’s 30-year shipbuilding plan that called for a 400+ fleet by 2051.
- Taiwan invasion: The nominee said the possibility of China invading Taiwan ranks as the Navy’s “most dangerous concern.” He said IndoPacCom’s forward posture in the Pacific will let the U.S. and its allies respond as needed and added ominously that the middle of spring is the most likely time for China to launch an invasion.
- The F-35 still matters: Aquilino defended the F-35 as a way to counter the “capabilities” China has created in the region aimed at keeping the U.S. at bay. What if we lose the F-35, a jet that is routinely maligned in the press as problematic? He said of the fifth-generation fighter, “I think they’re needed to win.”
Aquilino also touched briefly on the topic of gender and military sexual harassment. He told Democratic senators that he supports the Women and Peace Security Initiative and supports the Navy’s ongoing efforts to promote values that accept women in military service.
He also mirrored remarks made by other top Pentagon officials by stating flatly, “There is certainly no place in our military for sexual harassment…”