China’s Nuclear Submarine Force

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By: Renny Babiarz July 21, 2017 04:53 PM

Over the past three years, China’s sea-based nuclear deterrent capability has noticeably improved, beginning with the first service deployment of a nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine in 2014. Most recently, geospatial analysis conducted by AllSource Analysis has recently revealed four Jin-class (Type 094) ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) at Longpo Naval Base on Hainan Island, supporting United States Department of Defense reports that China has at least four Type 094 SSBNs in service. [1] Available evidence shows that China’s development of a sea-based nuclear deterrent has been incremental, fits within generally accepted norms of nuclear deterrence strategy, and faces certain technical and geographic constraints that will most likely limit China’s nuclear deterrence patrols in the near future. [2]

China’s SSBNs have apparently entered into service with its South China Sea Fleet as China has improved and expanded its political administration and military occupation of maritime territory throughout the South China Sea. This has included the creation of islands with deep-water ports, runways, and various other administrative and storage facilities throughout the Spratly Islands along the western edge of the South China Sea. While this South China Sea territorial expansion has several effects—extending claims on energy resources and protecting critical sea-lanes—the most important outcome is that it facilitates unimpeded deployment of its SLBM force. As China’s SSBN force continues to expand and receive upgrades, this could have the eventual—and unprecedented— intent of China deploying a global nuclear deterrent from within the South China Sea.

China’s SLBM Program

China initiated its SLBM research during 1958 with the code name “1060” (later renamed Julang Yihao, or JL-1, 巨浪; in 1964), and received technical assistance and equipment from the Soviet Union towards this project. China constructed a naval base at Qingdao and a shipbuilding facility at Huludao as part of its early submarine development. [3] As research and development on SLBM systems continued during the late 1960s and into the 1980s, China conducted submarine nuclear propulsion trials at Hulu Dao shipyard, tested rocket components at Wuzhai Missile Test Facility, and conducted missile ejection tests in the Bohai Strait in association with nearby Xiaoping Dao and Lushun submarine bases (see figure 1). [4]

Development of China’s SLBM program was intermittent during China’s Mao-era political leadership (1949–1976) due to budgetary constraints, historical events (such as the Great Leap Forward, the Sino-Soviet split, and the Cultural Revolution), restricted access to oceans, and periodic strategic reassessments. [5] After the leadership ascension of Deng Xiaoping in 1978, China’s SLBM program received new emphasis, and 1982 marked the first successful test-launch of a JL-1 missile from a submerged Xia-class (Type 092) SSBN, China’s first generation of operational SSBNs. The Type 092 entered into service in the 1980s, yet probably did not conduct nuclear deterrence patrols given certain technical, geographic, and international security constraints. China’s current SSBN program, the Jin-class (Type 094), was initiated in the 1980s and carries the JL-2 missile with a range of approximately 7,200 kilometers (DOD, 2016). The first Type 094 SSBN entered into service by 2014, roughly 60 years after the initiation of China’s SLBM program, 35 years after China’s first successful test launch of a ballistic missile from a submerged submarine, and about 30 years after the initiation of the Type 094 SSBN program, underscoring the incremental pace of development for China’s SLBM capability.

South China Sea

The South China Sea is bounded by the Malacca and Singapore Straits in the west and the Taiwan Strait in the east, and lies between Vietnam, the Philippines, China, and Indonesia. An estimated 50 percent of global oil shipments pass through it, and surveys suggest there are projections of large oil and natural gas reserves under the seabed.

The Paracel Islands, located approximately 300 kilometers southeast of Hainan province’s southern coast, are generally recognized as being occupied by China after they dislodged Vietnam from these islands in 1974; they are still claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. China’s expansion of infrastructure throughout the Paracels has been extensive ever since, and the area has recently been included in China’s domestic political administrative system.

In the Spratly Island region, located approximately 1000 kilometers southeast Hainan province’s southern coast, China has been expanding and improving its outposts since approximately 2014. China has reclaimed land and constructed civil-military facilities in the following seven areas of the Spratly Island region: Subi Reef, Gaven Reefs, Fiery Cross Reef, Hughes Reef, Johnson Reef, Mischief Reef, and Cuarteron Reef (DOD, 2015).

China’s Nuclear Doctrine and Evolving Nuclear Force Structure

China’s current nuclear doctrine is best characterized as a nuclear counterstrike strategy (核反击), which some scholars have summarized as “assured retaliation.” [6] Developing a secure counterstrike (or second strike) capability is a fundamental tenant of nuclear deterrence strategy, although corollary concepts such as minimum and limited deterrence vary in the importance placed upon this tenant. [7] China’s nuclear counterstrike strategy may be considered as either an independent nuclear counterstrike campaign or coordinated within a broader counterstrike campaign employing nuclear forces deployed in different services. [8] Although China has long worked to develop a more credible second strike capability, such as through improved road-mobile ballistic missile systems for its land-based nuclear forces, its deployment of a sea-based nuclear deterrent offers the most secure theoretical nuclear counterstrike capability.

China’s Type 094 SSBNs measure between 132–137-meters-long on satellite imagery, with a “humpback” (龟背) area in the vessel’s mid-section containing 12 ballistic missile tubes (figure 2) (The Paper, July 21, 2016). [9] The Type 094 is designed to carry the JL-2 ballistic missile with a range of approximately 7,200 kilometers (DOD, April 26, 2016). China’s four Type 094 SSBNs are probably based at Longpo Naval Base at Hainan Island as part of the South China Sea Fleet, and the nuclear weapons they carry are possibly controlled by the PLA Navy instead of China’s PLA Rocket Force (the force currently in charge of administering China’s nuclear forces). [10] Located nearby Hainan’s Yulin Naval Facility, the Longpo Naval Base was constructed between 2003 and 2010 and contains submarine piers, probable military administrative areas, a probable sea-based tunnel entrance, and a probable magnetic silencing facility (figure 3).

China currently faces limitations regarding deployment of Type 094 SSBNs from Hainan Island based on interactions between the current international maritime security environment, technical features of the Type 094 SSBN, and maritime geography factors of the South China Sea. More specifically, Japan and the United States most likely deploy a variety of submarine surveillance systems throughout the East China Sea and the western Pacific, and operate sophisticated anti-submarine assets throughout the region. Type 094 SSBNs reportedly generate a level of noise while under sail that more easily allows for tracking and, in theory, targeting (IHS Janes, July 15, 2016). The maritime geography of the East and South China Sea offers limited access channels to the Pacific Ocean for open-ocean nuclear deterrence patrols. Taken together, these factors most likely constrain China’s deployment of its sea-based nuclear deterrent in the near term.

To mitigate these constraints, China may adopt a “bastion” strategy that keeps its SLBM force within the South China Sea while maintaining a credible nuclear counterstrike. [11] A bastion strategy of SLBM deployment was a concept first applied to Soviet SLBM deployment patterns, wherein Soviet SSBNs with long-range SLBMs deployed within the Barents Sea, close to Soviet territory, due in part to U.S. superiority of submarine tracking in the open ocean. [12] In the case of China, such an approach would probably rely on developments currently underway that recast interactions between China’s SLBM technology and maritime geographic features of the South China Sea. In terms of technical advances, China may be developing a quieter variant of the Type 094 (the Type 094A), a longer-range ballistic missile for the Type 094 based on the JL-2 (sometimes termed the JL-2A), and is planning a next-generation SLBM system (the type 096) to be equipped with a next-generation ballistic missile, the JL-3 (DoD 2016, IHS Janes July 15, 2016). Yet it is China’s actions in the Paracel and Spratly Islands of the South China Sea that hold the greatest promise for advancing a possible bastion SLBM deployment strategy. While a full summary of China’s expansion in the South China Sea is beyond the scope of this article, several recent political and military developments bear mention.

Since 2012, China has expanded its political and military occupation of the Paracel Islands as part of its larger claim of national sovereignty over South China Sea. In 2012, China established formal political administration of the Paracel Islands by creating Sansha city (三沙市) on Woody Island (永兴岛) as part of Hainan province (海南省) (Sansha Government [accessed June 18]; AMTI, April 17). Additionally, China has improved civil-military infrastructure on Woody Island, to include the island’s airport and seaport areas, and probable military jets are observable on the island’s nearby runway hangars on satellite imagery via Google Earth (figure 4). China now promotes tourist visits to the area, and Woody Island has since been used as the subject of propaganda posters on China’s mainland territory promoting China’s sovereignty over the entire South China Sea (Sansha Government Tourist Info [accessed June 18]).

In the Spratly Islands, China has expanded and improved seven areas, in some cases creating new landforms where only underwater reefs existed before. At Subi Reef, Gaven Reefs, Fiery Cross Reef, Hughes Reef, Johnson Reef, Mischief Reef, and Cuarteron Reef, China has expanded physical territory through land reclamation, built new probable administrative facilities, and constructed deep water ports (see figure 5).

At Mischief Reef, Subi Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef, China has constructed runways between 2.8-3.1kilometers-long. Additionally, China has most likely upgraded aviation and naval-related navigation communication systems through occupied areas of the South China Sea region. [13] As a result of these improvements, China has improved it capacity for coordinating and hosting a range of civil-military activity throughout the southern and eastern portions of the South China Sea.


While China’s emergent sea-based nuclear deterrent is a new military capability, it has been long expected and fits well-established expectations of nuclear deterrence strategy. Further, China’s deployment of its SLBM systems faces certain constraints in the near term related to the current international security environment, maritime geographic factors in the South China Sea, and certain technical aspects of the Type 094 SSBN. Future technical improvements to China’s SLBM capability are to be expected and bear close observation. Yet it is the interaction of such technical advances with the reshaped maritime geography in the South China Sea that offers China the requisite political and military support for regular nuclear deterrence missions in the future. China’s future deployment of longer-ranged SLBMs within this reshaped maritime environment could facilitate global nuclear deterrence patrols from within the South China Sea.

Even in the absence of a bastion strategy, China’s expanded political and military occupation of areas within the South China Sea has nonetheless improved its capacity for deploying its SLBM force in the Asia-Pacific region. Politically, China is developing administrative jurisdiction over areas of the SCS that legitimate the deployment of military assets in the region. Militarily, China can host and coordinate greater numbers and types of naval vessels, and can provide improved air transport and combat support. Seen in this light, China’s emergent sea-based nuclear deterrent is one part of a much broader expansion of China’s presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Renny Babiarz received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University where he wrote his thesis on of China’s nuclear weapons program. He previously served as a geospatial analyst for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and currently works as a research analyst for AllSource Analysis. You can follow him on Twitter @RennyBabiarz

Source: Jamestown Foundation “China’s Nuclear Submarine Force”

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.

China’s Private Security Sector Booms as Overseas Investment GrowsChina’s Private Security Sector Booms as Overseas Investment Grows

Security guards from Zhongzhou Bodyguard pose in suits and shades in the company gym in Shenzhen. The firm has been looking after China’s business leaders for the past 11 years. Photo: Handout

In its article “A peek into China’s top ‘bodyguard factories’” today, SCMP describes China’s booming bodyguard firms and schools due to the demands for protection of China’s investment, firms and personnel abroad.

The article describes Zhongzhou Bodyguard, a private bodyguard company that “has provided minders for thousands of clients, including many of China’s top businessmen” for the past 11 years. The company trains its recruits to master the art of hand-to-hand combat, knife-throwing or marksmanship, etc.

It says, “One of the company’s top trainers is Wang Yuhao, a former soldier with 12 years’ military experience who was once part of a team assigned to protect then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

“He joined the company in 2011 and now, aged “nearly 40”, splits his time between looking after elite businesspeople at home and abroad, and teaching others how to do so.”

Source: SCMP “A peek into China’s top ‘bodyguard factories’” (summary and excerpts by Chan Kai Yee, full text of which can be found at

Chinese military developing unmanned supply truck

A still from a video released by the MND in Beijing showing what appears to be a prototype of an unmanned supply truck being developed for the Chinese military. Source: Chinese MND

Gabriel Dominguez – IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly 18 July 2017

The Chinese military is developing an unmanned supply truck. Video footage recently released by the Ministry of National Defense (MND) in Beijing shows what appears to be a prototype of an 8×8 unmanned supply truck conducting trials at an undisclosed location demonstrating its ability to navigate obstacles and control speed.

The footage, which does not provide further details about the truck or the programme, is part of an English-language video entitled ‘PLA Today’ that showcases China’s growing military capabilities, including in so-called battlefield smart supply vehicles.
The MND released the video on 16 July, two weeks ahead of the 90th birthday of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The prototype shown in the footage appears to be somewhat similar in appearance to the US 8×8 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT).

In the past China has used technology from Western suppliers as the base for its logistics vehicles. For example the SX2300, which is built by the Shaanxi Automotive company, is based on technology from Steyr, and Shaanxi also signed a co-operation deal with Germany-based truck manufacturer MAN in 2003.

The result is that the origins of the new unmanned vehicle are uncertain. However, the prototype does appear to be optionally manned, and may employ a leader-following system or way points and GPS to navigate roads.

Forerunners to this prototype include the Norinco Crew Task Support Unmanned Mobile Platform, which is capable of autonomous operation, teleoperation, follower behaviour, and waypoint navigation. With this technology already having been developed and tested by the Chinese defence industry, it is possible that the system has been transplanted onto the recently shown prototype truck for trials.

Source: IHS Jane’s “Chinese military developing unmanned supply truck”

Note: This is IHS Jane’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.

New BVRAAM may have entered PLAAF service

A PLAAF CAC J-10C combat aircraft armed with PL-10 short-range AAMs (outer underwing pylons) and what appear to be new BVRAAMs (mid-underwing pylons). Source: Via Chinese internet

Andrew Tate and Neil Gibson – IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly

18 July 2017

Images have emerged on Chinese online military forums showing a People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC) J-10C combat aircraft armed with what appears to be a new beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM).

The fighter was photographed carrying two PL-10 short-range AAMs on its outer underwing pylons and two of the new missiles on its mid-underwing pylons.

Although nomenclature is uncertain as no official information is forthcoming, it is likely that the new missile is the one being referred to unofficially as the PL-15, with its appearance on the underwing pylons of a J-10C possibly reflecting that it is now in service.

The missile is estimated to be around 3.7 m long, with a diameter of 200 mm. It is fitted with low aspect ratio aerodynamic stabilising surfaces (trapezoidal wings) on its mid-section and at the moveable control surfaces (clipped delta fins) at its tail.

The respective surface spans approximately 390 mm and 515 mm. There is no visible evidence of a thrust vectoring control (TVC) system present at the rear of the new missile, as can clearly be seen on the PL-10, so control appears to be aerodynamic only. Additionally, there are no air intakes that would be necessary if propulsion was provided by a ramjet, so it can be assumed that a standard form rocket motor is being used.

Photographs of a similar missile carried by a Shenyang Aircraft Corporation J-16 emerged in 2012, which is thought to be undergoing development trials. Like the recent sighting, the missile’s aerodynamic surfaces are the same low aspect ratio planform, which facilitates loading in the internal weapons bay of the CAC J-20 ‘fifth-generation’ fighter.

Source: IHS Jane’s 360 “New BVRAAM may have entered PLAAF service”

Note: This is Jane’s 360’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.

Taiwan says Chinese aircraft flew near island in military exercise

TAIPEI (Reuters) – China flew several fighter and reconnaissance aircraft near Taiwan in a training exercise, the self-ruled island’s defense ministry said on Friday.

Despite decades of growing trade across the Taiwan Strait, China has never renounced the use of force, if necessary, to reclaim what it considers a breakaway province to which the defeated Nationalists fled after losing a civil war in 1949.

“We were in a position to monitor their movements from the beginning to the end,” defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said, describing what he called a routine exercise. “There’s nothing for our people to worry about.”

The ministry released two photographs, one showing a Chinese warplane as it flew near Taiwan on Thursday.

The Chinese government has not issued a statement on the exercise.

In a similar military exercise last week, China flew six warplanes over the Miyako Strait between Japan’s islands of Miyako and Okinawa to the northeast of Taiwan, which Taiwan’s defense ministry said it had also monitored.

Such exercises were legal and proper and Japan should “get used to it”, China’s defense ministry said at the time.

The flyover by the formation of Xian H-6 bombers was “unusual”, Japan’s defense ministry said in a statement, but added there had been no violation of the country’s airspace.

China’s navy and air force have held exercises in the Western Pacific in recent months, as they hone their ability to operate far from home shores.

Reporting by Faith Hung; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Source: Reuters “Taiwan says Chinese aircraft flew near island in military exercise”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

China, Russia to Begin Joint Mass Production of New Heavy Helicopter

According to Russian’s report on July 18, China and Russia have jointly developed a new heavy helicopter with takeoff weight between 38.4 to 40.9 metric tons, commercial load between 10 to 15 tons, maximum range of 630 km and speed of 300 km/hour. The helicopter adopts the advanced technology of Russia’s Mi-26 helicopter and is able to operation day and night in all kinds of weather.

Due to conscientious cooperation, it takes only one year to finish the design and resolve all the technological problems since the cooperation development agreement was signed in June 2016 when Russian President Putin visited China.

Russia is in charge of technological investment, proposal of technological suggestions and some specific systems of the helicopter while China is in charge of the design and manufacture of the prototype, test flight, certification and sales.

Mass production of the advanced heavy helicopters will be carried out in China.

Source: “Russia media: Technological problems resolved in China-Russia joint development of heavy helicopter: China is in charge of manufacture” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

Exclusive: U.S. bank card companies to seek licenses to operate in China in months

Sumeet Chatterjee July 20, 2017 / 6:31 PM / 2 hours ago

HONG KONG (Reuters) – U.S.-based payment card companies, including American Express (AXP.N), MasterCard (MA.N) and Visa (V.N), are preparing to submit license requests to operate in China within months, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter.

The long wait for the U.S. companies is, though, unlikely to end soon. It may take as long as two years or more for the companies to clear all official scrutiny, including from banking regulators, and for them to pass a security review, as well as meeting other conditions, the sources said.

The move comes against a backdrop of growing economic friction between China and the United States, after the two countries failed on Wednesday to agree on major new steps to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China.

U.S. payment network operators have been waiting for more than a decade to get access to China. It is set to become the world’s largest bank card market by 2020, when the number of cards in circulation is forecast to rise to 9 billion from 6 billion in 2016, according to research firm GlobalData Plc.

China first agreed in 2015 to open the card market to local and foreign businesses, a move triggered by a 2012 World Trade Organization ruling. However, foreign card companies have been unable to set up local operations in the absence of a clear roadmap from Chinese authorities.

In May, Beijing and Washington agreed to a July 16 deadline for China to issue “necessary guidelines” for the launch of local operations by U.S. payment network operators, leading to “full and prompt market access”.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the central bank, issued the guidelines on June 30, according to three people familiar with the matter and a copy of the document reviewed by Reuters.

The expected entry of foreign card companies will challenge the dominance of state-backed China UnionPay Co Ltd, which currently is the sole operator in a yuan bank card payment network worth more than $8 trillion in China.

“It’s exciting that the uncertainty is finally over and they have finally come out with the rule book, but it’s not going to be a fast and smooth journey,” said one of the people with knowledge of some of the U.S. payment companies’ plans.

The people said the applicants would be subject to intense scrutiny by the banking regulator as well as security agencies. The companies will also have to set up extensive local infrastructure.

An American Express spokesman said it will apply for a license as soon as possible. “The PBOC’s guidelines clearly set forth the process … and we’re continuing to work with different regulators as we move through this process,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Visa declined to comment, citing the quiet period ahead of the announcement of the company’s quarterly results. MasterCard did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The PBOC declined to comment in response to questions faxed to them by Reuters.

Under the conditions laid out by the central bank, all payment companies would have to set up technology and data infrastructure and a back-up data system within China.

This is a concern for the foreign payment network operators, which fear this could result in internal systems being put under surveillance and could make it difficult to maintain the confidentiality of proprietary data, according to industry insiders familiar with the situation.

“There was some expectation that this requirement would be eased a bit but that has not happened, so all the companies will have to build business plans keeping this mind,” said one of the people. “That’s the biggest challenge.”

Some industry insiders have privately expressed concerns about whether China would provide a level-playing field for foreign companies, which could significantly impact the market share of UnionPay, set up in 2002 by China’s central bank and China’s top government body, the State Council.

UnionPay also has been expanding its operations overseas and has a presence in over 160 countries including the United States, while the likes of MasterCard and Visa have been waiting to offer yuan-denominated cards for years.

UnionPay’s share of the global credit card market rose to 25 percent in 2015 from 13 percent in 2010, drawing level with MasterCard but lagging Visa’s more than one-third market share, according to Euromonitor International.

The plans by the major global card companies to enter China also comes at a time when Chinese consumers are increasingly turning to mobile and online payments and money transfers using services such as Tencent Holdings’ (0700.HK) WeChat Pay and Alibaba Group Holding’s (BABA.N) affiliate Alipay.

Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; Additional reporting by Lusha Zhang in Beijing; Editing by Philip McClellan in Singapore

Source: Reuters “Exclusive: U.S. bank card companies to seek licenses to operate in China in months”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.