US Ignorance of China’s Much Better Second-Strike Capabilities

China’s DF-31AG ICBM displayed in July-30 military parade. Photo from CNTV footage.

On July 24 I reblogged Jamestown Foundation’s article “China’s Nuclear Submarine Force” by Renny Babiarz, an AllSource analyst of China’s nuclear weapons.

The article shows serious US ignorance of China’s nuclear submarine capabilities. I wonder whether the ignorance has been caused by US inability to monitor Chinese publication or US arrogance in regarding itself always the best while other have always been copying the US or even less the Soviet Union.

Mr. Babiarz seems to rely only on what US intelligence has found even without the commonsense in jumping to his conclusion.

His article reminded me of what US Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told Congress during a House defense appropriations subcommittee hearing in May 2013. At that occasion, he said that the Chinese navy is “not there yet” in terms of undersea power despite deploying a current force of 55 submarines, both diesel and nuclear powered.

True US had not detected the secret submarine operations in the oceans, but that only meant US inability to discover them. With the least commonsense, one certainly cannot believe that China had spent billions of dollars to build a submarine fleet of 55 including nuclear ones without second strike capabilities. Can Chinese leaders be so stupid?

My post on November 6, 2013 titled “China’s Nuclear Submarines Able to Ambush Near the US for Sudden Second Strike” provided information about Chinese strategic nuclear submarine’s second-strike capabilities based on’s report in Chinese titled “In an emergency, order from above to nuclear submarine contained only 12 characters” on the same day. The report said that Chinese submarines cruise to sea areas far away quite a few times.

Mr. Babiarz, however, like Adm. Jonathan Greenert, believes Chinese nuclear submarines cannot go to the Ocean to conduct a second strike due to US strong ASW capabilities. China has to deploy its strategic nuclear submarines in the South China Sea to conduct second strike far away from continental United States.

He says as China has difficulties to send its submarines across the first island chain, China may adopt a “bastion” strategy first adopted by the Soviet Union to keep its strategic nuclear submarines within the South China Sea and thus maintain a credible nuclear counterstrike.

Soviet Union adopted that strategy as its nuclear submarines could not go near the US due to US ASW capabilities. However, before China obtained the ability to build nuclear submarines as advanced as US ones, China was already able to send its strategic nuclear submarines into the Pacific Ocean. With better submarines, China certainly has no difficulties to send them out.

What about attach nuclear submarines? China is building a blue sea navy, for which attack nuclear submarines are indispensable. A blue sea navy with its attack nuclear submarines confined in the South China Sea! What an idea!

Moreover, Mr. Babiarz simply lacks an overall understanding of China’s second strike capabilities. He believes that like the US China will develop have a triad nuclear force including land-based ICBMs, strategic nuclear submarines with SLBMs and strategic bombers with nuclear bombs.

China, in fact, needs no triad nuclear force. Its mobile ICBMs hidden in its 5,000-km tunnels are quite enough. Previously, China’s mobile ICBMs need roads for traveling to their launch sites. That makes them easy to detect and destroy as US satellites may keep constant watch on the roads leading to the tunnels. Now, China has mobile DC-31AG that can travel and launch anywhere without the need of any road. That will enable China to send out its DC-31AGs from any concealed entrances leading to forest or small piece of land surrounded by hills and mountains. The carrier trucks of such ICBMs are much cheaper than the carrier submarines of SLBMs. Why shall China launch its strategic ballistic missiles from very expensive submarines instead of land-based mobile ICBMs that cost much less and can carry much heavier loads? Compared with such land-based ICBMs deployed in existing tunnels, deployment of SLBMs in the South China Sea with only a little shorter distance to hit the US is utterly stupid.

Does Mr. Babiartz have commonsense?

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

2 Comments on “US Ignorance of China’s Much Better Second-Strike Capabilities”

  1. Combo Jaxx says:

    The so-called “bastion strategy” of the USSR was true for the for the 50s & 60s and(to a degree) in the 70s but no longer relevant by the 80s when the Soviet Navy and the submarine force was quite powerful(and capable) enough to challenge the American Navy’s earlier supremacy on the high seas. But then of course came the collapse of the USSR.


  2. Joseph says:

    The recent Kim-Trump harsh word rounds has shown that the American is not actually ignorance about China’s nuclear strike capabilities. They are just helpless and frustrated about it. So helpless that they cannot in fact prevent North Korea from achieving nuclear strike capability, which is years in the making despite many damage-intending US sanctions. As usual, the American cheap deterrent strategy is its media who always boasts how ‘good’ American techs is, and how ‘bad’ other countries’ are, which are always ‘years behind’ them. That’s why American media is always upset to Chinese media publishing their own article, as they consider the Chinese copying their bluff tactics. Or course, the problem with bluff, you would always be guessing if it is true. As the case with the J-20, the American media always potray it as ‘years behind’ compared to F-35. As years goes by, the J-20 matured to be a very capable with its powerful WS15, while the F-35 is proven to be a flop, devoid of proper engine. Still the American media still ‘ignorantly’ potrays the paper plane as ‘better’. The American always knows Chinese ICBM and submarine capabilities. But ‘ignorance’ is always their best deterrence as it makes people doubt, especially their own people. I remember not to long ago that the American ridiculed North Korea for not capable of building long-range missile. Now the North Korean can build ICBM to strike London through America, they’d blame anyone, China especially, to ‘supply’ technology to North Korea. If the American is really using their brain to even think, they should figure it out that if idiots like Indian can even build ICBM, how hard can it be for anyone else to build.