Here’s What You Need To Remember: Chinese submarine technology has progressed in leaps and bounds, and the Kilo-class may be to thank. Even though China does seem to be more intent on projecting force farther and farther away from the Chinese mainland, the Kilo-class is nevertheless the backbone of China’s anti-access/area denial strategy at sea—especially close to home. It would be wise for surface ships in China’s backyard to be wary.
These Soviet-designed submarines are the backbone of China’s non-nuclear submarine fleet—and are very hard to detect. Here’s how they may give China an edge in the South China Sea.
Soviet Union Surplus
The Kilo-class was originally a Soviet-designed boat that entered service in 1980. They are relatively small diesel-electric attack submarines intended for both anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare. What makes them special is that they have reduced acoustic signatures that are hard to track, known colloquially as “black holes.”
The Kilo-class is outfitted with anechoic tiles that adhere to the outside of the submarine’s hull. Anechoic tiles are essentially rubberized tiles that have been impregnated with air bubbles of varying size. The air bubbles are optimized for absorbing enemy sonar at different depths and can distort the returning sonar signal from enemy ships or submarines in order to make the sub harder to track.
Because the Kilo-class uses diesel-electric propulsion, they have shorter range and endurance than nuclear powered submarines. Naval expert H. I. Sutton explained that the Kilo-class “uses heavy-duty lead-acid batteries to power the propeller. These are occasionally recharged using diesel generators, an arrangement known as diesel-electric.”
Recharging the Kilo’s batteries takes time away from missions, and requires surfacing or raising a snorkel near the surface which is risky because the sub might be detected. In addition to oxygen, other mission limitations include the crew’s food and water supplies, as well as diesel fuel for the on-board diesel generators used in battery recharging.
Kilo-class submarines have a crew complement of fifty-two and can be out on patrol for over a month—up to forty-five days. It’s maximum dive depth is about 300 meters, or a thousand feet, and reportedly the subs have a range of 12,000 kilometers, or about 7,500 miles.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy ordered the first Kilos from Russia in 1994 and has bought up more quite readily since, purchasing two upgraded Kilo variants in 1996, and eight more upgraded Kilos in 2002.
China’s Kilo-class are optimized for the defense of China’s coasts and for military actions against Taiwan due to both their size and stealth.
Because of the Kilo’s relatively small size, it can operate and maneuver in the shallow coastal waters near China, or in the South China Sea more easily than large nuclear submarines, which can struggle to maneuver at low depths. Despite having significantly less endurance than other nuclear submarines, diesel-electric submarines, especially compact hulls, can be more capable than nuclear submarines in some circumstances.
The latest Kilo variants are among the quietest submarines in the Chinese and Russian navies. Upgraded Kilos are “slightly longer in length—the sub’s submerged displacement is around 4,000 tons—and features improved engines, an improved combat system, as well as new noise reduction technology.” Coupled with sonar-absorbent anechoic tiles, Kilos are deadly silent.
Chinese submarine technology has progressed in leaps and bounds, and the Kilo-class may be to thank. Even though China does seem to be more intent on projecting force farther and farther away from the Chinese mainland, the Kilo-class is nevertheless the backbone of China’s anti-access/area denial strategy at sea—especially close to home. It would be wise for surface ships in China’s backyard to be wary.
Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer with The National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture. This article first appeared earlier this year.
Source: National Interest “China’s (from Russia) Kilo-Class Submarines Can Sink Just About Anything”
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.
A new type of vertical take off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was allegedly spotted last week aboard one of the two Type 075 LHD currently fitting out in China. Henri Kenhmann from East Pendulum has the story.
Xavier Vavasseur 02 Jul 2020
This article was first published in French language
by East Pendulum
What if Type 075 LHDs, the new vectors of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN or Chinese Navy)’s amphibious forces, were designed from the beginning to operate with unmanned systems ?
Following the integration tests of the Austrian Camcopter S-100 on the Type 054A anti-submarine frigates, photographed at least twice in June 2011 and then in May 2012 by the Japanese maritime self-defense force (JMSDF), and the tests in 2016 of a fixed-wing Wind Shadow, by Chinese manufacturer AVIC, on the electromagnetic catapult at the naval pilot training center in Xincheng, there is no doubt that the PLAN has been looking for some time to equip its ships with UAVs.
But it is neither on a frigate, nor on an aircraft carrier with skijump (and yet studies are underway), that the first UAVs of the Chinese navy will be operational, at least if we believe the photos recently taken by a netizen in Shanghai.
Launched on September 25, 2019 at the Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard, the fitting out of the first ship in class Type 075 is progressing rapidly, despite the fire incident which started in its well deck in April this year.
And as with all Chinese warships under construction, especially those with a deck and / or hangar, embarking full-scale models to test the aviation facilities of said warship is an integral part of factory testing before delivery.
While we are used to seeing models of helicopters and carrier-borne fighter aircraft such as the Z-8J, Z-9D and J-15 on surface vessels and aircraft carriers, or more recently Z-20 models aboard the stretched Type 052D and Type 055 destroyers, the appearance of what strongly resembles a VTOL UAV, with rotary wing, is rather new.
Indeed, on the deck of this first Type 075 we can clearly distinguish, next to a model of Z-8J helicopter, the silhouette of a UAV with angular shapes, with what seems tail and main rotors. Based on the well-known size of the Z-8J, we can extrapolate and estimate that the device in question would measure about 9.55 meters in length (some speak of 8.23 meters) and would be more than 2.5 meters tall. Meaning a little smaller than a Z-9 (MTOW of 4,100 kg) or smaller than a Z-11 (MTOW of 2,250 kg).
As no light military helicopter program smaller than the Z-11 is known today (except probably the EC120 Colibri used by the aviation school of the Chinese army) we can then suppose that the new device is in fact a drone, a VTOL UAV which size exceeds practically all the projects made public so far.
If the hypothesis of the VTOL UAV is proven, the question to know what is the model and the manufacturer of this craft, which measures nearly 10 meters long and which could weight at least 1,200 kg at takeoff, remains unanswered.
Today, there are several Chinese entities capable of designing, or who already have work in progress, in terms of naval VTOL UAVs. We can cite for example a few national institutions such as the 601 Chengdu Institute and the 602 CHRDI Institute of the AVIC group, the aerospace groups CASC and CASIC, the specialist in target drones NRIST, the Chinese Academy of Sciences as well as several aeronautics universities, or even the private sector such as ZHZ Tech, Ziyan UAV, Sunward Technology…
NRIST, better known as the Institute 60 of the Chinese General Staff, made a good start in the matter at the 5th UAV Show China in September 2014, by presenting several rotary wing UAVs specially designed to be embarked on surface vessels. One of these drones exposed in the form of a model, the WZ-6B, weighs 1,600 kg at takeoff and has an endurance of 8 flight hours.
But while the take-off weight could correspond in the case of the WZ-6B, the shape of the airframe clearly diverges from the craft spotted on the Type 075 LHD. On the other hand, the physical appearance of the drone on the Chinese amphibious vessel is close to that of the AR-500C, an unmanned helicopter developed by the 602 CHRDI Institute of the AVIC group, which made its first flight on May 20 this year.
Although the physical resemblance can never be a tangible proof of the kinship of industrial projects, this gave a reason to look for what this R&D office of AVIC achieved in terms of naval UAVs. The company specializes in the design of helicopters and has already designed several unmanned helicopters like the famous AV-500W.
And we just learned that the CHRDI won an important tender from the Chinese navy, on September 8, 2016, on the development of a drone. The project is described as having “historic significance in the development of naval equipment for China” (该 项目 非同凡响 ， 对于 促进 我国 海军 武器 装备 发展 具有 划时代 意义。).
Few details are disclosed on the invitation to tender and the project, but an in-depth search in the articles published between 2015 and 2018 still allows us to extract several interesting points:
The CHRDI “won hands down” this invitation to tender, facing several private companies and institutions in the field.
One of the requirement is that the drone be operated in a “highly complex” environment.
One of the key characteristics required in the specifications is to have significant autonomy in flight.
The fuel tanks of the craft were enlarged during the design, the thickness of the tank hull is reduced and goes from 1mm to 0.4mm.
The person responsible for the design of these tanks is also working on the AC352 project (the local version of Airbus H175) and on a heavy helicopter project.
The drone’s embedded systems went into the testing phase in May 2018.
It is still premature to confirm with certainty that the device spotted on the first Type 075 LHD is indeed an unmanned helicopter, and that it is the one developed by CHRDI.
But while waiting for new open sources elements, it will be useful to focus on scenarios for the use of a VTOL UAV in the Chinese navy. Because 10 years after their first qualification tests, the operational deployment of UAVs on Chinese warships is just a matter of time.
To be continued
Source: Naval News “Was a VTOL UAV Spotted Aboard China’s Type 075 LHD ?”
Note: This is Naval News’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
17 years after the start of the program, the construction of the 20,000 tons Type 071 landing platform dock (LPD) seems to be reaching its end after two lots of orders, 8 units in total. Construction of the Type 075 landing helicopter dock (LHD) and the design of a larger version (known as Type 075A), however, are just starting.
This article was first published in French language by East Pendulum
End of the Type 071 LPD program ?
There was a time when observers thought that the Chinese army could only rely on thousands of fishing boats to cross the strait and land on the island of Taiwan, which is almost true. With less than twenty rather small landing craft (LST type) in the early 2000s, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN or Chinese navy) was unlikely to be able to conduct a large amphibious operation to reach this “separated province”. But the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, followed by the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, has radically changed the situation, especially in the minds of policy makers.
Thus was born the Type 071 in 2002, the first Chinese LPD displacing more than 20,000 tons. Three ships of this class were put in service between 2007 and 2012, all assigned to the PLAN South Sea Fleet (which, however, does not include Taiwan in its area of responsibility).
But being able to transport a whole battalion reinforced with marines, twenty amphibious tanks and up to sixteen 13 ton helicopters per ship does not seem to be a sufficient capacity for the PLAN. That’s despite the fact Type 071 are not the only type of amphibious vessels in the Chinese fleet today and that the LPDs would typically be accompanied by nearly 60 landing ship tanks (LST) of all kinds, 3 times more than just 20 years ago.
It remains a mystery why five more Type 071 LPDs were added to the order book during the 12th five-year plan (2011-2015), whereas the program had planned for only 3 hulls initially.
Things have been moving fast since, with the commissioning of the 4th vessel in the class, Yimeng Shan (pennant number 988) in February 2016, Longhu Shan (980) in September 2018 and Wuzhi Shan (987) in January this year.
The 7th Type 071, Wudang Shan, as well as the 8th one (name yet to be revealed), are currently undergoing fitting out in Shanghai. The latter, launched at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard on June 6, 2019, is expected to be the last, at least for the second batch of orders.
With 8 Type 071 LPDs alone, the PLAN would already be able to project a force of more than 2 marine brigades on the island of Taiwan, not to mention the troops that can be transported by the 60 or so LSTs displacing between 1,000 and 5,000 tons.
Start of the Type 075 LHD program
Is this “enough”? Difficult to say without knowing the exact intervention scenarios of the Chinese military for the island of Taiwan and many others.
Still, the Chinese Navy officially started in 2011 development work on the Type 075, a helicopter carrier project displacing more than 30,000 tonnes. Its aim is likely to increase the “vertical” amphibious assault capability with the very mountainous East Coast of Taiwan in mind.
As for its specifications, rumors speak of “36,000 tons of displacement”, “capacity of 28 helicopters”, “diesel engine with the 9,000 kW 16PC2-6B” and “four CIWS including two HQ-10 and two H/PJ-11” (see our article “Some rumors about the characteristics of LHD Type 075” in French language).
Note that the launching of the first vessel of the class was mentioned in 2014, but several unofficial sources spoke of a change in the design that would have drove down the size (displacement) of the vessel and therefore its transport capabilities. While a capability for 36 helicopters was expected initially, the figure would only be 28 today, but that remains to be confirmed.
A larger variant: Type 075A LHD
If a source close to the Chinese naval sector is to be believed, the PLAN would have planned several batches of construction for the Type 075 program. The first batch would involve three vessels and a single unit of a larger version, presumably the Type 075A, which would be at the design stage by the 708 Institute of the CSSC group.
Anyway, the aerial and satellite images show a rather fast construction inside a dock. Since the first steel cut at the end of 2017, the lead Type 075 ship has already taken shape this summer according to a series of photos leaked on Chinese social media by a technician from the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard. The technician was laid off immediately and sent home according to posts on his Weibo account.
These photos and other (more legal) shots suggest that the Type 075 features a well deck similar to the Type 071, and two vehicle decks (on two levels) under the aviation hangar. The vessel is fitted with two aircraft elevators: One in front of the island and the other one at the stern.
Source: Naval News “China: End of the Type 071 LPD Program, Start of the Type 075 LHD One?”
Note: This is Naval News’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
In recent years, China has been building ships rapidly across the waterfront. Chinese sources liken this to “dumping dumplings into soup broth.” Now, Beijing is really getting its ships together in both quantity and quality. The world’s largest commercial shipbuilder, it also constructs increasingly sophisticated models of all types of naval ships and weapons systems. What made this possible, and what does it mean?
History and Drivers
China’s shipbuilding industry enjoyed early and inherent advantages that its aircraft industry, for example, notably lacked. Unlike most other sectors, its infrastructure could not be physically relocated far inland as part of Mao’s disastrously inefficient Third Front campaign. When Deng began reforms at the end of the 1970s, he prioritized shipbuilding to support the shipping industry, which helped carry foreign trade, underwriting several decades of rapid growth that has changed China, the United States, and the world significantly.
In 1982, China State Shipbuilding Corporation was formed from the Sixth Ministry of Machine Building. That same year, the Middle Kingdom made its first delivery to the international ship market. Abundant cheap labor and domestic demand buoyed Chinese shipwrights despite a ruthlessly competitive international market.
Shipbuilding’s commercial dual-use nature has long facilitated transfer and absorption of much foreign technology, standards, and design and production techniques. China’s shipbuilding industry has leapfrogged key steps, focusing less on research and more on development, thereby saving time and resources and enjoying the most rapid growth in modern history.
China’s current naval buildout dates to the mid-1990s, catalyzed and accelerated in part by a series of events that impressed its leaders with their inability to counter American military dominance. These include Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1995-96, and the Belgrade Embassy Bombing in 1999.
Ships are the physical embodiment of naval strategy—the most essential element through which a nation pursues its goals at sea. China has parlayed the world’s second-largest economy and second-largest defense budget into the world’s largest ongoing comprehensive naval buildup, which has already yielded the world’s largest navy by number of ships. It is making big waves, ever-farther from its shores.
After shrinking to replace many obsolescent vessels with fewer but more modern vessels in the 1990s and 2000s, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is now improving in both numbers and sophistication. As China’s maritime strategy has evolved, so have PLAN requirements. In response to this major growth in perceived needs, the PLAN has taken on more warfare areas, with significant improvements across the board. In the 1990s, the PLAN did not have significant strike or air defense capabilities; now it does. To meet high-end, multirole requirements—such as area and point defense in layers—with more missions and greater capabilities, PLAN vessels have grown more sophisticated, and generally expanded. The larger vessels of China’s navy increasingly resemble those of its American counterpart.
Regarding Chinese shipbuilding advantages, it is difficult to obtain specific data. Numbers related to budgeting and process efficiency in China’s relatively opaque defense industry unfortunately remain very difficult to investigate precisely using open sources. The official statistics Beijing releases still do not even include a reliable breakdown for China’s service budgets—such as that of the PLAN—within the overall official PLA budget (itself highly controversial). Because of the lack of precise information available, estimating Chinese ship production expenses logically involves making assumptions about relative costs in comparison to those known for other countries—not an exact science.
Still, the larger dynamics are clear. China has the world’s largest shipbuilding infrastructure, and its development enjoys top-level leadership support, starting with Xi Jinping himself. Commercial production is price-capped in part by China’s relatively stable business and vendor base. It helps subsidize military production, an option closed to the United States given its paucity of commercial shipbuilding. Chinese shipbuilding is greatly facilitated by an unparalleled organizational structure for collecting and disseminating technology, and integrating it into development and production processes at an industrial scale. Moving forward, an important variable is the extent to which China can use its familiar approach of moving up the value chain and parlaying exceptional cost-competitiveness into exceptional quantity at sufficient quality.
China’s effort to exploit civil-military synergies offers both opportunities and challenges. This was vigorously debated by the contributors to the Naval War College China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI)’s Naval Institute Press volume on Chinese Naval Shipbuilding. “Not a good mix operationally—colocation and coproduction are challenging if not counterproductive” was one of the more pointed critiques. Potential civil-military incompatibilities cited include culture, security, standards, design, engineering, propulsion, construction, and timescales.
Nevertheless, dual-use construction is undeniably emphasized in many authoritative Chinese industry policies and publications, and also in the form of a central commission for integrated military and civilian development headed by none other than Xi himself. There is certainly some intermingling in practice, with the greatest manifestation visible in shipyard infrastructure. High-tech, high-value-added, and high reliability commercial shipbuilding—for example, of liquid natural gas (LNG) and liquid propane gas (LPG) tankers, very large crude carriers (VLCCs), high-capacity container ships carrying more than 10,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), and even cruise ships—can be directly relevant to warship production in a way that building simple ships like bulk carriers is not.
Beijing’s prioritized military sector generally enjoys better funding, infrastructure, and human capital in the form of advanced personnel—such as engineers with long-term experience, as opposed to rapid turnover. The proof is in the pudding: the PLAN is “not receiving junk” from China’s shipbuilding industry but rather increasingly sophisticated, capable vessels. Its growing satisfaction with them is indicated in part by longer production runs of fewer classes.
A more specific question remains: what limitations on high-end capabilities plague Chinese-produced warships? For now, China faces substantial difficulties in fielding the largest, most sophisticated surface combatants and submarines, as well as remaining weaknesses in propulsion and electronics. These all involve complex systems-of-systems in which China’s preferred second-mover piecemeal integration of foreign and domestic technologies cannot offer a “good enough” result. China’s aircraft carrier program offers a prime example.
Deck Aviation Challenges
With regard to aircraft carrier development, China has come a long way but has still has further to go. The appeal is clear: these apex predators of the sea are also the most modularized naval system, one of the few ships that are relatively easy to upgrade over a considerable lifespan. But given difficulties inherent in improving marine and aviation propulsion, power, and launch technologies, an evolutionary “crawl, walk, run” trajectory seems likely for China’s aircraft carrier program.
This remains very much a work in progress: the PLAN is still “crawling” and not even “walking” yet. China has already shown that it can build decent carrier hulls. But deck aviation platforms are primarily a conveyance for aircraft-delivered payloads. And there is “no such thing as a free launch.” Payload delivery is essential to a fleet’s performance; so too is having infrastructure sufficient to support and sustain it. China’s first carrier, Liaoning, is designed for air defense, not strike. It offers a very modest extension of air defense: getting a Flanker-type aircraft like the J-15 beyond its unrefueled range from a land-based airfield.
The PLAN faces formidable challenges in such areas as electronics, maritime monitoring, and command; control; communications; computers; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR). All are often underappreciated due to their subtlety and ubiquity of employment, but are nonetheless essential for robust deck aviation operations. They may be less amenable to China’s preferred approach of copying and emulation than are simpler structural systems. Chinese personnel are improving markedly in their training, but need to become still more proficient in the hard-to-steal “tribal knowledge” of coordinating operations and using equipment, including shipboard electronics.
With far greater launching power than Liaoning’s ski jump, catapults will enable larger aircraft and payloads, delivering the PLAN to deck aviation’s “walking” stage. Deploying heavier airborne early warning aircraft will improve situational awareness. “Running,” as China perceives it, would require a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with an electromagnetic launch system—the latter of which the United States is still struggling to perfect.
Carrier Group Assembly
China is gradually strengthening its ability to project significant power into distant waters by increasingly fielding the components of an aircraft carrier group. Sustaining a carrier group at sea requires replenishment vessels. Protecting a carrier group requires surface combatants with robust air defenses and offensive missiles as well as nuclear-powered submarines with potent anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs).
To improve at-sea replenishment, China is currently building theType 901 integrated supply ship, which can furnish fuel, food, and some spare parts. It remains limited in ability to transfer ordnance, its biggest difference from the U.S. Supply class. It is already more than adequate for furnishing air-to-air missiles for Liaoning. It could be refitted with more dry transfer stations to increase ordnance transfer capability—a useful indicator to watch for, which would suggest intent to emulate the United States in long-distance power projection.
As for protection and coordination, the Type 055 cruiser, if it has the command and control facilities described in open sources, will be the centerpiece of future Chinese carrier groups —able to organize other ships somewhat like a U.S. Aegis cruiser does. With 112 vertical launch cells (VLS), this large multi-mission vessel has more than double the missile capacity of any previous PLAN surface combatant. Its VLS loadouts of HHQ-9 surface-to-air missiles suggest great capacity for area air defense, its loadouts of YJ-18 ASCMs offer a significant anti-surface warfare capability, its loadouts of CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles suggest a nascent potential for projecting power ashore, and its Yu-8 rocket-assisted torpedoes offer an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) capability.
Most navies with aircraft carriers do not protect them with robust submarines, but if China is to approach the American gold standard that it so clearly admires, and to which it apparently aspires, it will have to improve its nuclear-powered submarines, which are needed to allow for a full range of long-distance undersea operations. Even with a towed sonar array, China’s 093A nuclear-powered attack submarine remains at a significant disadvantage in being able to detect, and if necessary, attack enemy submarines while remaining undetected itself. It is still primarily an anti-surface ship platform with torpedo-tube-fireable YJ-18 ASCMs and a relatively noisy reactor, particularly in the secondary loop. Major work remains for China to project distant undersea power.
Near Seas Operational Scenarios
Closer to China’s shores, there is limited value for Chinese carrier operations, given their relative vulnerability and the potential for a highly-contested environment. But China’s shipbuilding industry has already produced a fleet of several hundred increasingly advanced warships capable of “flooding the zone” along the contested East Asian littoral, including increasingly large amphibious vessels well-suited to landing on disputed features, if they can be protected sufficiently. This is also where China’s large, conventionally-powered submarine fleet can be particularly deadly. When several hundred easy-and-cheap-to-build ships from China’s coast guard and its most advanced maritime militia units are factored in, Beijing’s numerical preponderance becomes formidable for the “home game” scenarios it cares about most. And that does not even include the land-based “anti-navy” of aircraft and missiles that backstops them. In this way, Beijing is already able to pose aformidable military-maritime challenge to the regional interests and security of the United States and its East Asian allies and partners.
Trends and Implications
China’s naval buildup is only part of an extraordinary maritime transformation—modern history’s sole example of a land power becoming a hybrid land-sea power and sustaining such an exceptional status. Underwriting this transition are a vast network of ports, shipping lines and financial systems, and—of course—increasingly advanced ships. All told, this raises the rare prospect of a top-tier non-Western sea power in peacetime, one of the few instances to occur since the Ming Dynasty developed cutting-edge nautical technologies and briefly projected unrivaled maritime power across the Indian Ocean. Now, for the first time in six centuries, commercial sea power development has flowed away from the Euro-Atlantic shipyards of the West, back toward an Asian land power that is going seaward to stay. Military sea power may be poised to follow.
Beijing is pursuing a requirements-based approach:
developing a strategy
applying that strategy
and building and deploying a fleet accordingly
The PLAN’s transition from a “Near Seas” to a “Near and Far Seas” navy is dispersing its fleet over greater distances, making it more difficult to protect and support, as well as requiring enhanced logistics and facilities access.
Some of the most important and challenging requirements include:
– long endurance propulsion—especially nuclear power, the ultimate “gold standard”
– area air defenses for surface combatants and emerging carrier groups
– land-attack and strike warfare, including from deck aviation assets
– acoustic quieting for submarines, to help them both survive being targeted in deeper blue-water environments, and search more effectively without limitation by self-generated noise
– and, finally, broad-coverage C4ISR
China has started to pursue all these objectives, but it will take years before it fully accomplishes them.
Already, however, Chinese ship-design and shipbuilding advances are increasing the PLAN’s ability to contest sea control in a widening arc of the Western Pacific. China is producing two to three surface combatants for every one the United States produces. If current trends continue, China will be able to deploy a combat fleet that in overall order of battle (meaning, hardware-specific terms) is quantitatively larger and qualitatively on par with that of the U.S. Navy by 2030.
Whether China can stay on this trajectory, given looming maintenance costs and downside risks to its economy as it faces an S-curved growth slowdown, is another question. It is a question that is linked to many other uncertainties about China’s future. China under Xi is becoming increasingly statist and militarized, thereby suggesting that naval shipbuilding will not suffer for lack of resources even as debt continues to spiral upward in state-owned enterprises. China’s very capable shipbuilding industry is closing remaining gaps with its Japanese and Korean rivals, even as Korean shipbuilders suffer unprofitability and rapidly-declining order books. However, China faces continued challenges in overcapacity and an aging workforce.
Moreover, a major mid-life maintenance bill for the overhauls of all new PLAN vessels will start coming due in the next 5-10 years. This will demand considerable resources—in money and shipyard space, with production and maintenance in potential competition. By then, China’s aging society may reorient resource allocation by stimulating “guns vs. butter,” and even “guns vs. canes” debates. The true long-term cost of sustaining top-tier sea power tends to eventually outpace economic growth by a substantial margin. For all its rapid rise at sea thus far, China is unlikely to avoid such challenging currents.
Dr. Andrew S. Erickson is a Professor of Strategy in the China Maritime Studies Institute and the recipient of the inaugural Civilian Faculty Research Excellence Award at the Naval War College. He serves on the Naval War College Review’s Editorial Board and is an Associate in Research at Harvard University’s John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. Erickson blogs at http://www.andrewerickson.com.
The views expressed here are his alone and do not represent the policies or estimates of the U.S. Navy or any other organization of the U.S. government.
This editorial appears courtesy of CIMSEC and may be found in its original form here.
The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.
Source; Maritime Executive “Chinese Naval Shipbuilding: Full Steam Ahead”
Note: This is Maritime Executive’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
The following is the May 21, 2020 Congressional Research Service Report, China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress.
In an era of renewed great power competition, China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, has become the top focus of U.S. defense planning and budgeting. China’s navy, which China has been steadily modernizing for more than 25 years, since the early to mid-1990s, has become a formidable military force within China’s near-seas region, and it is conducting a growing number of operations in more-distant waters, including the broader waters of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and waters around Europe. China’s navy is viewed as posing a major challenge to the U.S. Navy’s ability to achieve and maintain wartime control of blue-water ocean areas in the Western Pacific—the first such challenge the U.S. Navy has faced since the end of the Cold War—and forms a key element of a Chinese challenge to the long-standing status of the United States as the leading military power in the Western Pacific.
China’s naval modernization effort encompasses a wide array of platform and weapon acquisition programs, including anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), submarines, surface ships, aircraft, unmanned vehicles (UVs), and supporting C4ISR (command and control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) systems. China’s naval modernization effort also includes improvements in maintenance and logistics, doctrine, personnel quality, education and training, and exercises.
China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is assessed as being aimed at developing capabilities for addressing the situation with Taiwan militarily, if need be; for achieving a greater degree of control or domination over China’s near-seas region, particularly the South China Sea; for enforcing China’s view that it has the right to regulate foreign military activities in its 200-mile maritime exclusive economic zone (EEZ); for defending China’s commercial sea lines of communication (SLOCs), particularly those linking China to the Persian Gulf; for displacing U.S. influence in the Western Pacific; and for asserting China’s status as the leading regional power and a major world power.
Consistent with these goals, observers believe China wants its navy to be capable of acting as part of a Chinese anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) force—a force that can deter U.S. intervention in a conflict in China’s near-seas region over Taiwan or some other issue, or failing that, delay the arrival or reduce the effectiveness of intervening U.S. forces. Additional missions for China’s navy include conducting maritime security (including antipiracy) operations, evacuating Chinese nationals from foreign countries when necessary, and conducting humanitarian assistance/disaster response (HA/DR) operations.
The U.S. Navy in recent years has taken a number of actions to counter China’s naval modernization effort. Among other things, the U.S. Navy has shifted a greater percentage of its fleet to the Pacific; assigned its most-capable new ships and aircraft and its best personnel to the Pacific; maintained or increased general presence operations, training and developmental exercises, and engagement and cooperation with allied and other navies in the Indo-Pacific; increased the planned future size of the Navy; initiated, increased, or accelerated numerous programs for developing new military technologies and acquiring new ships, aircraft, unmanned vehicles, and weapons; begun development of new operational concepts (i.e., new ways to employ Navy and Marine Corps forces) for countering Chinese maritime A2/AD forces; and signaled that the Navy in coming years will shift to a more-distributed fleet architecture that will feature a smaller portion of larger ships, a larger portion of smaller ships, and a substantially greater use of unmanned vehicles. The issue for Congress is whether the U.S. Navy is responding appropriately to China’s naval modernization effort.
May News 2020 Navy Naval Maritime Defense Industry
Posted On Tuesday, 19 May 2020 16:17
These last days, Chinese social media accounts have released pictures of China’s next-generation frigate. The Type 054A’s successor is referred to asType 054X..
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Rendering of China’s next-generation frigate Type 054X (Picture source: Chinese Internet)
As seen from the pictures, Type 054X has been fitted with new radars, one of which was seen on the Type 909A weapon trials ship recently and one eight-tube HQ-10 CIWS missile launcher on top of the hangars.
Compared to the Type 054A frigates, it has an H/PJ-12(Type 730 30mm gun) CIWS at the bow and an additional VLS located amidships. It has an extra 16 VLS cells and hangars for 2 helicopters as opposed to one in the 054A.
The 054X is also likely to have improvements in speed, range, subsystems and endurance compared to the 054A.
Rendering of China’s next-generation frigate Type 054X (Picture source: Chinese Internet)
About the Type 054A frigate
The Type 054A frigate is a class of Chinese multi-role frigates, the first of which entered service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy Surface Force in 2007. It is a development of the Type 054 frigate, using the same hull but with improved sensors and weapons. This ship has a crew of 165 sailors including officers.
The Type 54A is equipped with 32 vertical launcher systems able to fire the HQ-16 medium-range air defence missiles and anti-submarine missiles, 2×4 C-803 anti-ship/land-attack cruise missiles and two Type 730 seven-barrel 30 mm Close-in Weapon Systems (CIWS) guns, 2×3 324mm Yu-7ASW torpedo launchers, 2×6 Type 97 240mm anti-submarine rocket launchers and 2 Type 726-4 18-tube decoy rocket launchers.
The stern helicopter deck features a single landing spot for supporting the missions of a medium-size helicopter. The helideck is fitted with helicopter handling system and can accommodate a Kamov Ka-28 Helix or a Harbin Z-9C helicopter.
Source: Navy Recognition “Pictures of Chinese next-generation frigate Type 054X are circulating in Chinese social media”
Note: This is Navy Recognition’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
Technical review by Navy Recognition editorial team about the new Chinese Navy Type 055 stealth guided missile destroyer Nanchang (101) launched in January 2020. This ship is designed to perform long-range air defense, anti-surface warfare (ASuW), anti-air warfare (AAW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), electronic warfare (EW), land and maritime strike, escort, long-range patrol and surveillance missions.
The Type 055 missile destroyer Nanchang, the first ship of this class, began construction in 2014 at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, and was commissioned on 12 January 2020. It was officially unveiled to the public during the multinational naval parade in celebration of the Chinese navy’s 70th founding anniversary on April 23, 2019.
Type 055 adopts a conventional flared hull with distinctive stealthy features including an enclosed bulbous bow that hides mooring points, anchor chains and other equipment. It has a length of 180, a beam of 20 m, and it displaces over 12,000 tones at full load. It is a development of the Type 052D Luyang III-class guided-missile destroyer but is about a third bigger than the latter.
According to naval military sources, the Type 055 can carry more weapons and equipment than any other Chinese navy destroyer. The future Type 055 variants could carry China’s futuristic electromagnetic railgun, which can shoot hypersonic projectiles at Mach 7. It could be also upgraded to be used as an antiballistic missile platform according to Chinese military sources.
The power system of Type 55 is based on the latest domestic-made gas turbine, pushing forward the way towards all-electric propulsion. It is powered by four 28 MW QC-280 gas turbines in combined gas and gas (COGAG) arrangement with additional power that may be provided by six 5 MW QD-50 gas turbines. The maximum speed of the class is estimated to be 30 knots.
The missile defense systems of the Type 55 combine surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, land-attack cruise missiles and anti-submarine missiles. It has a total of 112 vertical launch systems (VLS) with 8×8 units in the front deck and 6×8 units in the middle. For the air defense, the ship could be equipped with missiles including HHQ-9B long-range air defense missiles and HQ-16B mid-range air defense missiles. According to the Chinese Naval Industry, Type 55 could be also equipped with a type of mid-close-range surface-to-air missile developed from the DK-10 missile. The HHQ-9B is a naval version of the HQ-9, a medium- to long-range, active radar homing surface-to-air missile. The HQ-16 is a Chinese-made medium-range air defense missile system.
Type 055 could be equipped with YJ-18 anti-ship missiles designed for use against ships and large boats. Chinese media claims the missile has an inertial guidance system using BeiDou Navigation Satellite System data and carries a 300 kg high-explosive warhead or an anti-radiation warhead to destroy electronics at short range.
The main gun of Type 55 seems to be an improved version of the 130 millimeters single-barreled H/PJ45A-130-1, which could be found on the Type 052D. The gun can shoot 40 shells a minute, and a normal shell can travel 30 kilometers, while a rocket-propelled guided shell could hit targets even farther and more accurately.
The Type 55 is also equipped with a Type 1130 close-in weapon system that can shoot tens of thousands of bullets per minute to neutralize incoming missiles. It also has a 24-unit HHQ-10 close-range anti-missile system that can effectively intercept supersonic anti-ship missiles, according to the report.
The Type 55 can operate up to two Z-18 anti-submarine warfare helicopters from its deck. The Z-18 is a new generation military transport helicopter from China. It was developed by Changhe Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG) and is reportedly based on the civilian Avicopter AC313 (Harbin Z-8) itself based on the 1960ies Aerospatiale SA321 Super Frelon. The naval variant is designated Z-18F “Sea Eagle” and will be capable of ASW missions (with Yu-7K lightweight torpedoes) as well as anti-surface warfare (ASuW) missions with YJ-9 anti-ship missiles.
Source: Navy Recognition “Technical review Type 55 stealth guided missile destroyer Nanchang of Chinese Navy”
Note: This is Navy Recognition’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
China’s next-generation cruiser will change the nature of military competition in Asia’s disputed waters.
By Zachary Williams
April 29, 2020
The Renhai-class (Type 055) cruiser is the newest addition to the PLAN, with the first hull commissioned in January of this year. Four more are on the docket to be ready by the end of the 2020s. Once these are deployed and patrolling with the rest of the Chinese naval inventory, the balance of force projection will shift in these highly disputed waters. This cruiser will be the linchpin in the Chinese strategy of anti-access and area denial (A2/AD), which they continuously employ within the entirety of the nine-dash line and within the first island chain. It will also be the ship to beat for everyone else asserting their power against the PLAN.
The Renhai brings strategic air defense, anti-surface, and subsurface capability that has the potential to surpass its predecessors like the Luyang-class destroyers. It far outpaces surface combatants of a similar class possessed by any of China’s neighbors, particularly the South Korean Sejong-class destroyer and Japanese Atago-class destroyer.
The Renhai will facilitate improvements in China’s surface warfare capabilities in three key ways. Improved anti-air capability will be capitalized on by using the HHQ-9, which is also in use by the Luyang class. Increased anti-surface capability will be seen with the YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) and CJ-10 land attack cruise missile (LACM). Finally and most importantly, the potential to have a ship-borne anti-ship ballistic missile with ground-breaking ranges will be what distinguishes the Renhai from any other surface vessel.
For A2/AD to be successful, it is necessary to incorporate mutually supportive strategic surface-to-air missile defense. The HHQ-9, the naval variant in this family of surface-to-air missile systems, can engage air assets at 300-plus kilometers. Although the Luyang-class destroyers have the same weapon system for aerial defense, the Renhai has up to 128 vertical launch system (VLS) silos while the Luyang class has only 64. Additionally, these VLS silos are multirole and hold not only anti-air missiles but also ASCMs and LACMs.
In a South China Sea A2/AD scenario, four forward-deployed Renhai-class destroyers will be able to control the air traffic from the Luzon Strait to the western side of Taiwan. If they were to be deployed in strike groups, comparable to how the United States employs its Navy, they would be accompanied by an aircraft carrier such as the Liaoning. By 2030 China is expected to have three more carriers, which would complement the Renhai’s ability to carry out a pivotal A2/AD role. This would put the formidable HHQ-9 into play alongside J-15 air-to-air fighters, complicating a solution to the A2/AD problem set for any potential adversary.
Particularly concerning is the firepower the CJ-10 LACM provides. The assessed range of 1,500 kilometers would mean stand-off strike capability for a Taiwan seizure scenario or even the potential to strike anywhere within the first island chain where adversarial forces could be setting up expeditionary basing operations. Concurrently protecting the strike group with the supersonic YJ-18 ASCM at ranges up to 540 kilometers would provide the capability to strike shore-based coastal defense missile sites. Airfields, destroyers, and other surface combatants well outside of the first island chain would simultaneously also be vulnerable.
China will invariably have the biggest stick in the pond by 2030 unless the United States’ acquisition programs are making calculated efforts to counter these capabilities. Though it is partially a force projection issue versus a technological gap when compared to the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the balance will be tipped in Beijing’s favor, which could increase the potential for a calculated first strike instability problem within the first island chain. China will have the opportunity to expand its list of potential targets as they undermine Beijing’s political goals in the South China Sea. With several of nations laying claim to the territory, the Renhai cruiser should precipitate counterdevelopments by nations with a vested interest in freedom of navigation through these seas.
Source: The Diplomat “The PLAN’s Renhai-Class Cruiser and the Future of Anti-Access and Area Denial”
Note: This is The Diplomat’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
In his reaction to the December 6 Chinese Global Times article quoting experts saying China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) may require five or six aircraft carriers, David Axe wrote an article asking, “Could Beijing really pull it off?” The short answer is that Beijing is just getting started.
For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) one of the most important missions for state media like the Global Times is to ensure that the Chinese people never doubt the increasing power of CCP’s dictatorship and that all others come to accept the inevitability of China’s “benevolent” global leadership. The Global Times and many other outlets daily promote scores of articles touting elements of Chinese power ranging from specific new weapons to China’s grand strategies. From now on, a major goal of China’s state media and its strategic information operations will be acclimating the world to a globally-projected People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
One key characteristic of such articles is that they usually do not convey new information, but can track with what is already reported or mentioned in publicly available information. For example, on December 31, 2008, Kenji Minemura of the Asahi Shimbun, reporting from Beijing and citing “military and shipbuilding sources,” wrote that China would build two “domestically produced” aircraft carriers in addition to the Varyag/Liaoning, purchased from Ukraine. Then on February 13, 2009, he reported China would build two nuclear-powered carriers “in 2020 or later.” So a decade ago Chinese “military and shipbuilding sources” mooted the goal of five carriers, but why should this be viewed as China’s final goal?
Signs abound that China is building or seeking the infrastructure necessary for global maritime projection. China has assembled design teams for non-nuclear (CV) and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVN) and has shipyards in Dalian and Shanghai now producing aircraft carriers. Multiple indications from Chinese sources indicate that after building two 65,000 ton CVs, the Shanghai yard will then start making larger CVNs for generations to come. Dalian could continue to build flattop carriers, or transition to landing helicopter dock (LHD) amphibious assault ships, but these might also follow the production of up to eight Type 071 landing platform dock amphibious assault ships. By 2049, the 100th anniversary of the CCP, the PLA could have over ten CVs and CVNs. In addition, Chinese sources indicate that the PLA Marines will be expanded to a force of 100,000, suggesting an eventual “Gator” navy of thirty to forty large amphibious projection ships.
The bases to support such a fleet is also discernible. In April 2013, the PLA revealed a newly-built naval base for its first aircraft carrier Liaoning in Qingdao, and before that, a new naval base in Yalong Bay on Hainan Island had been completed. Both today could likely accommodate four aircraft carriers. Should the PLA ever succeed in conquering democratic Taiwan, it is conceivable that Taiwan’s naval bases and ports, some newly built, could eventually accommodate at least six to eight nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. From Hainan and Taiwan bases, PLAN nuclear-powered carrier battle groups, including nuclear powered supply ships, could sortie very quickly to isolate Northeast Asia, isolate U.S. Navy forces in Guam and Hawaii, or project power to assert China’s interests in the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean, Africa, and in the Atlantic Ocean.
A global network of military access arrangements and bases is perhaps the second most important secondary product of China’s three to ten trillion-dollar Belt and Road initiative (BRI) and Maritime Silk Road infrastructure building initiatives; additional to the “purchase” of global governing political elites. PLA military network building has long complemented China’s economic and political power projection. Beijing’s economic and political muscle includes the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the pan-African China Africa Defense and Security Forum, and the clear intention to build a similar “forum” covering Latin America and the Caribbean. With the first real PLA foreign base or “logistical facility” in Djibouti, we can monitor Chinese interest in establishing similar military access in Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Maldives, Seychelles, Vanuatu, Fiji, Sao Tome and Principe, Nigeria, Zambia, and Venezuela. If the PLAN goes unchecked, it is reasonable to expect that around 2049, it could be supporting a presence in the Mediterranean, Atlantic Ocean, and the Arctic.
It is important to consider that this is just the tip-of-the-spear of the maritime dimension of China’s global projection of the PLA. There will also be hundreds of C-17 size 60-ton capacity Xian Aircraft Corporation Y-20 transports. Moreover, the help of Ukraine, Xian may also be producing one hundred ton capacity transports similar to the Antonov An-124. The PLA Airborne Corps is now introducing a second generation of light airborne armor and artillery, additional to new medium-weight wheeled armor units in the PLA Ground Forces, already available for airborne projection. There is also the PLA’s space power projection, with the PLA now racing the United States to the Moon where it will build dual-use bases for civil and military use to support military control of the Earth-Moon System.
Before one blanches at the many years of near trillion-dollar a year defense budgets necessary just to ramp up to the level needed to deter a globally-projected PLA, it is useful to consider the alternatives. By the time China has two carriers, a North Korean nuclear crisis could divert U.S. attention to the point of tempting China to initiate its long-planned invasion of Taiwan. In addition to the potential U.S. lives lost in this war, the twenty-one million people of Taiwan could suffer the humanitarian catastrophe of Xinjiang-like concentration camps to eradicate their democratic culture. This could then set a pattern for the coming century, as the United States and the democracies face repeated harsh choices of either opposing or accepting China’s all around aggression from the seas and space, to its imposition of new digital dictatorships.
But this not need not come to pass. The United States and the democracies can avoid spending decades relearning lessons from the last Cold War. It is possible now to start developing policies toward China based on the premise that the CCP constitutes an existential threat to the democracies. Limiting China’s broad access to economic and technical innovation centers in the democracies can be helped with a new global organization similar to the Committee on Export Controls (COCOM). For its part in the near-term, America can beat China to the Moon, and be the first to occupy strategic areas on its poles. Also, smart investments in defense systems with long-term impact can be made, such as considering a new class of 65,000 ton Landing helicopter dock ships armed with scores of vertical launchers for intermediate and medium-range ballistic missiles. Instead of retiring the U.S. Air Force’s B-1 bombers, repurpose them as supersonic maritime control strike platforms, maybe even giving them to the U.S. Navy.
Finally, after withdrawing from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, Washington should not limit itself to only investing heavily in its own short, medium, and intermediate-range missiles. America also should change longstanding policies limiting the missile arsenals of its allies, and then work with them to build new long-range deterrent capabilities. For them, missiles are a far less costly military investment, and they have a greater prospect for deterring the Chinese should America have to move its forces to counter Chinese aggression. Furthermore, only when the United States and its allies are so armed might China change its decades-long refusal to join arms control agreements which actually limit its missile forces.
Source: National Interest “A Chinese Navy with 10 Aircraft Carriers? It Could Happen”
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.
National Interest says in its article “RIP, U.S. Navy? Could China’s Naval ‘Railgun’ Be Ready by 2025?” that China’s railgun will be ready by 2025 according to US intelligence. However, the article points out that the railgun will not be used on a warship as it needs too much electricity. That is why the articles says, “Late last year, Task and Purpose suggested that the Navy (US Navy) was cutting back on funding for naval railgun research, in favor of other technologies such as lasers and hypervelocity projectiles that can be fired from conventional cannon.”
Why does China keep on its efforts in developing railgun then? The article says, “But it seems just as likely that China wants railguns because America wants railguns. As we know from the Cold War, keeping up with the Joneses—or the Wangs—can leave both parties with expensive gear they never really needed.”
The article regards China’s efforts as something out of Cold War mentality. It forgets what it says about the superiority of a railgun as a “true warfighter game-changer.”
Railgun is a formidable weapon that China has to develop whether the US makes or give up its efforts in developing it.
How can the US be so sure that China cannot develop a naval power supply system to supply enough energy for a railgun by 2025?