Former Navy Intel Officer: Chinese Navy ‘Very Competent,’ Getting Better


By: John Grady
May 15, 2019

China’s rise as a naval power goes well beyond its growing number of ships and submarines but the People’s Liberation Army Navy growing capability to operate jointly with the Chinese air force and rocket corps, a maritime intelligence expert said Tuesday.

Speaking at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., James Fanell, a retired Navy captain, said, “we need to respect that” growth in capability as much as China’s increasing numbers of modern warships, including carriers and ballistic missile submarines.

“I’m not surprised they’re becoming more and more like us,” Fanell said, down to China’s new emphasis on building a robust noncommissioned officer corps to improve quality afloat.

Fanell is considered a controversial figure in maritime security discussions on China and the Pacific, because of his belief the U.S. Navy should not engage in high-level military-to-military meetings. In his experience as U.S. Pacific Fleet intelligence officer, Fanell said, Chinese officers “would ask a thousand questions, and we’d give them a thousand answers. We’d ask one question and get nothing back.”

However, he warns China’s capability must be respected. In short, “they are very, very competent,” and have progressed a long way in exercising command and control. The Chinese Navy also strengthened their skills in targeting and improving intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance thanks to an active satellite-launching program at a rate far outpacing the United States’ satellite launching program.

Beijing’s operations in the South China Sea and now their extended submarine patrols into the western India Ocean are examples of increased expertise in operations over great distances, he said.

“Where will they next operate,” Fanell asked rhetorically. The answer lays in where Beijing is dispatching its oceanographic fleet. They are currently mapping the Atlantic Ocean’s floor, he said.

But when it comes down to numbers and tonnage, Fanell said China “is determined to be first” in naval power by 2049, the centennial of the Chinese Communist takeover of the mainland. Their goal is to achieve “sea dominance,” the ability to bully or intimidate any nation so that they can impose their will in a crisis, he said.

With its modern shipyards, skilled workers and low costs, China is capable of producing two nuclear attack submarines and one ballistic missile submarine annually. The yards producing surface combatants have the same production efficiency, Fanell said. Beijing’s naval building program for all combatants “may be greater than originally estimated.”

The People’s Liberation Army Navy has at 450 surface ships and 110 submarines today, Fanell said. The fleet is concentrated regionally to keep the United States and its allies at bay. As for the United States’ long-term fleet planning strategy, he doubts the Navy could reach its goal of having a 355-ship fleet, according to its latest 30-year shipbuilding plan. To meet current global naval commitments, Fanell said the U.S. would likely need an even larger fleet than what’s planned.

In conjunction with expedited shipbuilding, Beijing is investing in sophisticated weaponry to keep the U.S. Navy and its allies and partners at bay. Using anti-ship cruise missiles as an example, Fanell said, “they simply dominate in numbers, range [200 miles] and speed — all supersonic.”

And that’s what is known.

“We know the Chinese hide many things from us” when the U.S. government, U.S. allies and partners try to gauge Beijing’s activities, he said. “Assumptions [about what the Chinese are doing, planning and considering] must be rigorously tested [and] thrown out if found to be wrong. Bad assessments have made us less secure.”

The Chinese are very open with work in the South China Sea to convert coral reefs and rock formations into militarized artificial islands. “Three of these [seven] islands] are the same dimensions as Pearl Harbor” or the size of the Beltway around Washington, D.C., he said.

Instead of engaging in open conflict, Fanell said China prefers to bully or intimidate over the islands it claims as sovereign territories in the South China Sea and in the East China Sea. With 10,000-foot runways and port facilities for large surface warships and submarines, “fish isn’t really the driver” in this crash building effort, nor is it energy development, he said.

The effort “has a military application,” allowing China “to have the ability to operate with impunity in the South China Sea.” Fanell said. The next move may come in militarizing Scarborough Reef, about 140 miles from Manila, the capital of U.S. ally the Philippines. Doing so, he said, gives Beijing “a vector of attack from the south on Taiwan.”

Freedom of navigation transits through disputed waters are valuable, Fanell said, but the real deterrence and assurance come with presence. “Stepping up our presence” and adding more exercises with allies and partners in the Pacific and Indian oceans sends a signal to China and other nations that the United States and its partners are serious when saying “the global commons are open to everyone.”

Source: USNI “Former Navy Intel Officer: Chinese Navy ‘Very Competent,’ Getting Better”

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

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Pentagon notes Chinese naval global expansion and regional control


Michael Fabey, Washington, DC – Jane’s Navy International

20 August 2018

The Pentagon’s recent annual report on the Chinese military spotlights growing Chinese naval capability, underscoring the narrowing gap between the Asian power’s maritime forces and those of the US Navy (USN), as well as drawing attention to China’s increasing dominance in the Western Pacific.

The report, ‘Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2018’, was released on 16 August and also highlights the global naval ambitions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) – which are far beyond the traditional perimeters of its land-based defence systems.

“The PLAN continues to develop into a global force, gradually extending its operational reach beyond East Asia and the Indo-Pacific into a sustained ability to operate at increasingly longer ranges,” the Pentagon reported. “The PLAN’s latest naval platforms enable combat operations beyond the reach of China’s land-based defences.”

In particular, the Pentagon said, “China’s aircraft carrier and planned follow-on carriers, once operational, will extend air defence coverage beyond the range of coastal and shipboard missile systems, and enable task group operations at increasingly longer ranges.”

The PLAN’s emerging requirement for sea-based land-attack will also enhance China’s ability to project power,” the US Department of Defense said. “Furthermore, the PLAN now has a sizable force of high-capability logistical replenishment ships to support long-distance, long-duration deployments, including two new carrier operations. The expansion of naval operations beyond China’s immediate region will also facilitate non-war uses of military force.”

China continues to learn lessons from operating its first aircraft carrier, Liaoning , the Pentagon pointed out.

“[China’s first domestically produced aircraft carrier was launched in 2017 and is expected to be commissioned in 2019 – the beginning of what the PLA states will be a multicarrier force,” the Pentagon reported. “China’s next generation of carriers will probably have greater endurance and be capable of launching more varied types of fixed-wing aircraft, including EW [electronic warfare], early warning, and ASW [anti-submarine warfare] aircraft.

Source: Jane’s 360 “Pentagon notes Chinese naval global expansion and regional control”

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


Chinese Navy Will Grow Stronger than the US, What for?


In its article “How Does China’s Navy Compare to America’s?”. Newsweek quotes Admiral Phil Davidson, a nominee to lead U.S. Pacific Command and current head of the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command on the East Coast, as saying at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that China “is no longer a rising power but an arrived great power and peer competitor.”

According to retired Rear Admiral Terence Edward McKnight, projecting force is more difficult than fighting close to home, so that Newsweek says, “It may already be too late to challenge China in its home waters. For all its protests, the U.S. has been unable to stop or slow the construction of artificial islands in the sea, which have effectively fortified China’s disputed claims.”

Such fast development of Chinese Navy to safeguard its rights and interests it has claimed for centuries in the South China Sea is indispensable for China and in fact nothing to do for the US, but why does China compete with the US in the development of navy?

If it wants to protect its trade lifelines through the oceans, I said in my book “Space Era Strategy” that development of aerospace bombers is quite enough.

Why shall China have a navy stronger than the US?

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative for China’s economic expansion in the world makes that necessary as China has to protect its growing interests abroad. Historically, Silk Road only provided China with connections with Europe and the Middle East but Xi’s Silk Road now will stretch to the entire world including South America. (See my post “China’s Economic Expansion Welcome in Latin America” yesterday.)

Due to such economic expansion, China needs a navy stronger than the US to protect its interests all over the world as the US will challenge China in the high seas with its navy. Due to the Thucydides Trap mentality, the US will not allow China to grow stronger than it. Certainly it is possible that the US may not fall into the trap, but China has to be prepared. If its navy has grown much stronger than the US, the US simply dare not challenge China.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Newsweek’s article, full text of which can be viewed at http://www.newsweek.com/how-does-chinas-navy-compare-us-897209.


US Worries Chinese Navy Will Grow Stronger Than US Navy


Bloomberg carries the above chart in its article “How China’s Growing Naval Fleet Is Shaping Global Politics” on June 1 to predict that Chinese navy will be comparable in strength with the US by 2030.

The chart assumes that China will follow US footsteps in developing its navy. That will certainly not be the case.

Due to the development of science and technology, new and better weapons will emerge. For example, aircraft carriers will soon be obsolete if China can build only two aerospace bombers each of which can destroy an entire aircraft carrier battle group in minutes (see my book “Space Era Strategy: The Way China Beets The U.S.”)
The two bombers will cost much less than an aircraft carrier.

China is making true efforts to develop such high-tech bomber. I have had a post about Chinese President telling Chinese air force to develop integrated space and air capabilities for both attack and defense and another about China’s progress in developing aerospace aircrafts using jet, scramjet and rocket. China’s combined jet and scramjet engine has reached Mach 4.5. If it reaches Mach 7, the rocket of the aircraft will send the aircraft into space orbit.

I have had a post about the test flight of a very fast Chinese aircraft believed to be China’s Mach 4.5 aircraft.

As for navy, China has built world largest nuclear submarine plant that can build more than 4 nuclear submarines at the same time. I have read a report in Chinese about China’s technology to build world best nuclear submarine. When such submarines are in service US aircraft carriers are but poor large targets for the submarines’ missiles and torpedoes.

I have another piece of news about China’s development of submersible arsenal ships regarded as warships of naval theorists’ dreams as they are stealth and extremely fast with formidable fire power to attack ground and surface targets.

I will give more details of the new weapons in my later posts.

Bloomberg’s article quote Patrick Cronin, director of the Center for a New American Security’s Asia-Pacific security program, as saying,“By 2030, the existence of a global Chinese navy will be an important, influential and fundamental fact of international politics”. Mr. Patrick believes that the U.S. and its allies “need to begin preparing for a ‘risen China,’ rather than a rising China.”

How to prepare?

The U.S. simply is strategy illiterate to know how to spend its huge military budget. It has been wasting its financial resourced in developing the most advanced aircraft carrier that will soon be obsolete when most advanced aerospace bombers and submarines have emerged.

The article is also stupid in publishing the above map of the military bases in the world that China will build for its navy. In fact, instead of dealing with the tricky diplomatic problems in building such bases, China can well build large floating islands in the oceans not only as naval bases but also as fishing and mining bases and tourist resorts.

It is time to exploit sea bottom resources in our space era now but the US still stick to its World War II strategy.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Bloomberg’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-05-31/china-s-growing-naval-might-challenges-u-s-supremacy-in-asia


China’s Homegrown Aircraft Carrier Being Assembled in Shanghai


China’s qianzhan.com says in its report yesterday that according to Canada’s Kanwa Defense Review, China has finished the preparations for the construction of and will soon begin assembling its homegrown aircraft carrier at Changxing Island Shipyard, Shanghai.

Kanwa’s report has been confirmed by a Taiwanese media.

In November, qianzhan.com qianzhan.com quoted Russian military industry news website as saying that in early October, Chinese shipyard at Changxing Island installed radar, electronic system and weapons on the aircraft carrier it is making. The ship is scheduled to be launched before 2017 according to China’s plan to produce two China-made 48,000 to 64,000-ton conventional carriers.

In fact due to secrecy, the precise tonnage of the two aircraft carriers remains unknown. According to speculation both carriers are conventional without catapult to assist takeoff.

Source: qianzhan.com “Kanwa exposes the assembly of China’s second aircraft carrier in Shanghai: Everything is ready” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)


China Building 2 Aircraft Carriers to Be Launched before 2017


China’s qianzhan.com quoted Russian military industry news website as saying that in early October, Chinese shipyard at Changxing Island installed radar, electronic system and weapons on the aircraft carrier it is making. The ship is scheduled to be launched before 2017 according to China’s plan to produce two China-made 48,000 to 64,000-ton conventional carriers.

From 2017 to 2020, China will build two nuclear aircraft carriers of 93,000-ton grade for protection of its trade lifelines on the ocean.

According to the report, the electromagnetic catapult on China’s nuclear aircraft carrier will be more than 100 meters long. It will use straight linear induction motor supported by complicated power supply and command systems. Its vital part is a highly efficient energy storage devise able to store 120MJ energy needed in ejecting an aircraft within 45 seconds. The device on the carrier can store a maximum of 140 MJ. Its power supply needs 3.1 MW for charging the device; therefore, must have the power not exceeding 4 MW. The carrier needs 60 MW of electricity for its engines, four catapults and other systems.

China has to vigorously develop its navy in order to protect its trade lifelines far away from its coast. Development of navy now costs about one third of China’s military budget, but there will be further increase through cutting the funds for its shrinking army.

The Russian media believes that in order to protect China’s trade lifelines, especially the supply of oil from Middle East, China has begun to infiltrate into the Indian Ocean. Not long ago Pakistani defense minister announced Pakistan’s hope that China will set up a naval base at its Gwadar Port that China has been helping it build.

China has taken an active part in Sri Lanka’s commercial projects at Hambantota Port. Another potential base will be at Sittwe Port, Myanmar.

Chinese navy has been intensifying its activities in Indian Ocean. In March 2011, two Chinese warships visited Abu Dhabi.

Source: “Good news about China-made aircraft carriers: Radar, electronic equipment and weapons having been installed” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)


China Building Six Kinds of World-Class Submarine Simultaneously


Recently, the website of US World Politics Review published an article titled “China’s Naval Modernization: The Implications of Seapower”, stating that China is speeding up its navy modernization to build an increasingly strong force on the sea. According to the article, China is building six different classes of submarine with world first-class technologies.

It is worth noticing that China has very advanced noise reduction technology for its conventional submarines to enable its conventional submarine fleet to rank among the best in the world

It is said that China’s 039B submarine is the type of Chinese navy’s submarine commissioned most recently. The submarine is capable of long-distance detection, tracking and attack with integrated control of its various kinds of weapons under centralized command throughout a battle. In addition, that new type of submarine generates much lower noise so that it can remain hidden while detecting and striking its targets.

The article says that at first China reduced the number of its warships to improve their quality. However, now Chinese navy is growing in both size and quality. It is expected that by 2020 there will be tremendous growth in Chinese navy both in number and quality.

According to the article, one of China’s greatest advantages in recent years is its ability to allocate lots of resources to its projects for national security, infrastructure and research and developments of technology. State leaders are facing unprecedented fierce competition for resources. They have to satisfy the demand for the production of missiles and space and electronic products in addition to that for production of most advanced defense products by Chinese shipyards that are making various kinds of modern submarines and warships.

Source: qianzhan.com “US media: PLA is building six classes of submarines with first class technology in the world” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)