The Underwater Arms Race between US and China

China's submarine drone the Haiyan that Tianjin University has developed for both civilian and military use.

China’s submarine drone the Haiyan that Tianjin University has developed for both civilian and military use.

China's homegrown remote-controlled submersible Seahorse that is able to operate at the depth of 4,500 meters, which proves China lags behind no one in submersible technology. Photo from SCMP's report

China’s homegrown remote-controlled submersible Seahorse that is able to operate at the depth of 4,500 meters, which proves China lags behind no one in submersible technology. Photo from SCMP’s report

On January 29, 2012, I said in my post “CHINA STEPS UP ITS NAVY BUILDUP”, “In July 2010, China reacted angrily at statements concerning South China Sea disputes by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during an Asean security gathering.” Since then China has been “conducting an arms race with America in earnest. It now wants to catch up with and surpass America in military strength as soon as possible because it believes that America wants to bully it.”

Later on March 5, 2012, I described the arms race in my post “Arms Race between China and America”.

It was followed by my posts such as:

“Chinese Admiral and NPC Spokeswoman Justifies Arms Race with the US” on March 4, 2014, showing China’s official stance towards the arms race;

“In Its Arms Race with America China Launches Two Satellites for Its GPS System” on April 30, 2012;

“China: Intensive Arms Race Causes Stress on Elite Engineers” on November 26, 2012;

“Chinese Dream and China’s Arms Race with the US” on January 8, 2013,

too many to give a full list.

However, perhaps the term “arms race” had better be avoided; therefore, SCMP uses the term “fight for supremacy” in its article today titled “China and US in silent fight for supremacy beneath waves of South China Sea”

China is indeed fighting in silence; therefore, it has not made public the development of its fourth-generation super quiet and super fast nuclear submarine with magnetic fluid propulsion (see my posts “China Developing Super Quiet and Fast Strategic Nuclear Submarines” on July 26, 2013, “Official on Successful Development of 4th-generation Nuclear Submarine in past decade” on August 20, 2013 and “Shocking Exposure of China’s 098 Fourth-generation Strategic Nuclear Submarine” on February 23, 2014).

As nuclear submarines are China’s top secret, what I said in my posts may be but speculation. However, my post “Official on Successful Development of 4th-generation Nuclear Submarine in past decade” on August 20, 2013 is reliable as it is based on local Chinese newspaper’s report on a provincial official’s speech at a provincial meeting not intended for readers outside the province, let alone outside China.

From my posts, you can see that US intelligence has been unable to know what China is capable of. SCMP quotes Pentagon as saying in its report to US Congress that China was also developing an improved, third-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, the Type 096, to be fitted with JL-3 long-range missiles that could reach the US from the waters of the South China Sea.

China has successfully built a prototype of its fourth-generation Type 098 nuclear submarine, but Pentagon is still talking about China’s development of its third-generation Type 096 submarine!

In fact, the two incidents mentioned in SCMP’s article must have been enough to wake Pentagon from its arrogant dream of underwater superiority to China:

SCMP says in the article:

In 2006, a People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 039 (Song class) diesel-electric submarine surfaced within five nautical miles (9km) of the USS Kitty Hawk when the aircraft carrier was on a training exercise in the East China Sea between Japan and Taiwan.

And last October, officers on board the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan were shocked when they discovered that a People’s Liberation Army Navy attack submarine had sailed “very close” to it near Japanese waters, the Washington Free Beacon reported, citing American defence officials.

I said in my previous posts that China has incurred huge costs in building 7 artificial islands to prevent US nuclear submarines from attacking Chinese homeland with cruise missiles launched from US submarines in the South China Sea.

US military experts’ suggestion on such attack has made China realize the danger and allocate huge funds to build the artificial islands.

The US is clear that with the artificial islands, China has geographic advantages in the South China Sea to annihilate US nuclear submarines if they attack China from the South China Sea. That is why SCMP quotes US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter as saying that the US would spend more than US$8 billion next year to ensure it had “the most lethal and most advanced undersea and anti-submarine force in the world”. That budget – a roughly 14 per cent increase – will include spending on the development of undersea drones.

The US now wants to attack China with undersea drones that are able to operate in shallow waters in the South China Sea without being detected by China.

That will certainly cause China to make much more investment than the US in developing drone submarines and the surveillance system to detect enemy submarines and submarine drones.

SCMP quotes British-based IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly as reporting that state-owned China’s state-owned shipbuilding giant had proposed building a sound surveillance network of ship and subsurface sensors to detect US underwater vehicles.

Suggested sub defense system

Suggested sub defense system

That is precisely China’s goal in building its artificial islands. It is certainly very clear that China has been building such a network. It has better technology to do so as the shipbuilding giant wants to export the technology of the sound surveillance network. China certainly will not export the top technology that it is using and will use in the surveillance network it is building.

In response to US submarine drone development, Chinese media says in its report on June 16 that as a part of China’s State High Technology Research and Development Program (863 Program), Tianjin University has conducted the research of a new generation of underwater robot focusing on mixed propulsion technology and made its Haiyan submarine drone that has successfully passed tests of single, multiple and long-range trips.

The submarine drone is superior in small energy consumption, low cost, long range, all-weather operation, controllability, and convenient deployment for both military and civilian application.

China does not lag behind the US in submarine drone technology.

What will be the possible consequence? Carter gives China the idea that China can use submarine drones to attack US homeland just like US military experts in giving China the idea that its most advanced super quiet and super fast submarines can attack US homeland with submarine-launched cruise missiles.

What is China’s active defense strategy? Attack for defense.

To understand that, one shall think about the nuclear second-strike capability as nuclear deterrence to prevent nuclear war.

China is developing its conventional deterrence through its development of global prompt strike capabilities with hypersonic glide and flying vehicles. It is making great efforts to develop aerospace bombers to obtain integrated space and air capabilities for both attack and defense that Chinese President Xi Jinping told Chinese air force to develop.

Now, Carter and US military experts tell China it can use nuclear submarines and submarine drones for conventional deterrence. That is indeed very good news for China as China can obtain such deterrence capabilities more readily.

It is time for Carter and others not to tell China how to attack US homeland and pay attention to US homeland defense as China is winning its arms race with the US because the US is simply not aware of the arms race.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s article, full text of which can be viewed at


5 Comments on “The Underwater Arms Race between US and China”

  1. Simon says:

    China should change its “no nuclear first strike” policy. It should now adopt a policy that it will use nuclear weapons first strike should a country threatens to attack it with nculear weapon.
    With reagard to submarines and drones the Chinese should be sending them over to America’s west coast and explore the options to attack their mainland.


    • alking1957 says:

      yes I agree, that policy is out of date. It should be changed to “any country who is part of an alliance or military partnership with any country that has nuclear weapons is fair game for nuclear destruction if there is a war”. That would include Japan, Philippines and now S. Korea with their THAAD systems.


    • Steve says:

      Good Lord — U guys are bloodthirsty. Jumping ahead of strategy & exposing geographical advantages to the enemy.


    • Sun Tzu says:


      Simon is quite correct. The time has come for Beijing to have that capability to threaten US with nuclear drones to send shivers of fear down Americans’ spine. Otherwise they – especially their neo Nazis and neocons and Establishment figures – think themselves as gods and nothing of exterminating pesky inferior life forms in East Asia.

      The time has come for Beijing and China to strive for nuclear parity or beyond, with America. With large globalized business which are under threats of being cut off by America any time, China is in essence a super economic power without the military to support it. If it therefore seeks to give meaning to the word “superpower”, it MUST build upm a nuclear arsenal equal or greater than America’s to protect its super economic status as a global trading nation. Otherwise, it will become a joke and continually bullied and humilated by the American gangster with a bigger gun.

      Preemptive strike must also be part of its doctrine as is a doctrine to establish floating military bases ringing America to threaten them with nuclear missiles targeted at US cities with delivery times from 5 minutes only. No need to react or talk too much. Just focus your resources without delay in this direction of policy change.


  2. Steve says:

    It will be unbelievable news to western powers when China finalises production and release the 098 nuclear submarine with magnetic propulsion. Noted submarine export producing countries as in France, Germany, US and Russia seeing this Chinese made 098 submarine would be an awe inspiring sight. It has been said that the US will project underwater stealth vessel production in drones and submarines, as the future naval wars will be fought underwater. Probably causing underwater earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. in any major explosion and implosion.

    Since China’s submersible technology lacks behind no one and can operate closer to depths of 5,000 meters including far away distances, it means that future armed submarine drones can hunt enemy nuclear and conventional subs in the depths of the SCS and shallower ECS.

    Aircraft carriers should be able to harbour such drones and release these hunter subs at far away distances from China’s mainland to deploy underwater sea mines, hunt enemy underwater & surface vessels and act as reconnaissance.