China’s Submarine FleetPosted: February 1, 2020
On this topic we have National Interest’s article “China’s ‘Long March’ to a Credible Nuclear Attack Submarine” dated April 30, 2019 republished on January 30, 2020 and nti.org’s article “China Submarine Capabilities” dated October 9, 2019.
The latter lists its sources mostly earlier than end of 2017 except US Department of Defense’ 2019 annual report to Congress.
The former is based on articles in Chinese on December 2018 edition of Naval and Merchant Ships [舰船知识] in Chinese (NAMS).
Both are not reliable update sources, but as each and every maritime power, especially China, regards its submarine capabilities as its top secret, no reliable sources are available.
According to the latter, China has in service four Jin-class strategic nuclear submarines (SSBN) that can travel over 20 knots when submerged. Each of them is able to carry 12 JL-2 SLBMs with range not long enough to cover the entire United States if launched from Chinese coast. Two others have been built and are being outfitted in shipyard.
Construction of Type 096 SSBN armed with JL-3 SLBMs that cover the whole United States will will in early 2020s.
From the two articles, especially the former, we can see that China has build up its surface navy quite impressively but its nuclear attack submarines (SSN) do not satisfy its navy. It has only 6 of them, merely enough to escort China’s SSBNs and aircraft carriers An article in NAMS urges China to build 1.5 to 2 SSNs a year to satisfy the need.
China has 50 conventional submarines, 17 of which are air-independent propulsion (AIP) enabled. They will play a vital role in defending Chinese homeland but if China wants to have submarines for its blue-water navy, it needs SSNs instead of conventional ones.
There has been report that Chinese shipyard at Huludao has built facilities for building six nuclear submarines simultaneously. If so, China may build submarines on the same large scale as its building of surface warships.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on National Interest and nti.org’s articles, full text of which may respectively viewed at https://nationalinterest.org/feature/china’s-‘long-march’-credible-nuclear-attack-submarine-55137 and https://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/china-submarine-capabilities/.