China Will Soon Have More Submarines Than America. That’s Alarming.


But one U.S. advantage can shift back the balance of power.

BY KYLE MIZOKAMI

DEC 14, 2020

china military politicsMARK SCHIEFELBEINGETTY IMAGES

China’s submarine fleet is on track to surpass America’s by 2030.

The problem is exacerbated by the U.S. Navy’s global mission set, requiring it to send submarines everywhere.

While this stat is alarming, including the sub fleets of allies like Japan and South Korea shifts the balance of power back away to an America-led coalition. (This reblogger’s note: Why not take into account of the submarines of China’s de facto ally Russia?)

In the next 10 years, China will have more submarines than the U.S. Navy, as that country continues to both grow and upgrade its undersea fighting force. The U.S. will have 66 subs of all types by 2030, compared to China’s projected 76. But while the Navy’s submarine fleet will be the third largest in the world, after China and North Korea, raw numbers don’t quite tell the whole story.

China’s ongoing naval expansion is the largest since World War II. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has amassed a large force of cruisers, destroyers, and amphibious ships, and built the country’s first two aircraft carriers, with a third on the way.

In 1993, China counted 47 submarines, including one marginally useful Xia-class ballistic missile submarine, just five noisy Han-class nuclear powered attack submarines, 34 1950s-era Romeo-class diesel electric submarines, and six older Ming-class submarines. Simply put, China’s submarine force wasn’t terribly useful and was, at best, a coastal defense force.

Now, after 27 years of double-digit defense spending increases, China’s sub fleet is a different beast altogether.

According to a Congressional Research Service report, by 2019, the PLAN consisted of four ballistic missile submarines, six nuclear-powered attack submarines, and 50 diesel electric attack submarines. All four ballistic missile submarines and all six nuclear attack submarines are new types, while 42 of the 50 diesel electric submarines are also new—the Type 39A, Russian Kilo class, and Yuan-class submarines.

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The PLAN, Naval News reports, isn’t done expanding. The U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence projects China’s submarine fleet will grow to 76 submarines by 2030, bringing its total to 76. This includes a net increase of 16 boats, plus the replacement of the approximately eight remaining Ming-class submarines. It could also represent replacing one of two Kilo-class diesel electric attack submarines China purchased from Russia in the late 1990s.

Two of the subs will be equipped with long-range nuclear missiles; the Pentagon’s 2020 China Military report states a pair of Type 094 missile subs are in the process of fitting out, bringing China’s sea-based nuclear deterrent to six submarines.

The U.S. submarine fleet will be pretty much static during the 2020-30 period, dropping slightly from 68 subs of all types to 66.

The U.S. Navy has fewer classes of submarines, including the older, improved Los Angeles-class attack submarines built in the 1980s and 1990s, the trio of Seawolf-class attack submarines, 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, and the newer Virginia-class attack submarines. All American submarines are nuclear-powered.

China’s submarine fleet has made dramatic advances, but it also faces problems. On one hand, most of the fleet is fairly modern and new. On the other, most of it still consists of diesel electric submarines with limited range, and Chinese subs aren’t as quiet as American subs.

Only six out of China’s 56 attack submarines could cross the Pacific to threaten naval bases in Hawaii or the continental U.S. All of America’s submarines, however, could cross the Pacific to operate off the coast of the Asian mainland. Another problem? China has few real allies with submarine fleets of their own, with the exception of Pakistan and its fleet of five aging submarines.

The U.S. Navy is in for a slight dip in overall numbers, but things get better after the 2030 timeframe. The Navy’s new 30-year shipbuilding plan sees the service increasing the number of submarines built from two a year to generally three a year by 2025. The number of nuclear-powered attack submarines reaches a bottom of 50 in 2025, but gradually rebounds, reaching 61 by 2035 and 80 by 2051. The total number of all U.S. submarines will reach 93 by 2051 … if the Navy is able to afford them.

Meanwhile, the 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines are replaced by 12 new Columbia-class submarines, and the four Ohio-class cruise missile submarines fade from the force entirely. But there are hints they could be replaced by new boats based on the Columbia submarine hull.

The U.S. Navy has another, often invisible advantage over China: the submarine fleets of its allies. Japan has 22 diesel electric attack submarines, including 12 of the excellent Soryu class, while South Korea operates 18 smaller diesel electric attack submarines. Taiwan operates just two aging submarines, but is embarking on an effort to build eight new subs.

A future conflict in tthe Pacific would involve at least some, if not all, of these fleets, bolstering the Navy’s numbers.

Source: Popular Mechanics “China Will Soon Have More Submarines Than America. That’s Alarming”

Note: This is Popular Mechanics’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean whether I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


China Winning Arms Race with the US


Since the beginning of Deng Xiaoping’s reform in late 1970s, China has been modernizing its military and believed that it had made substantial progress until the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Chinese military was shocked by US advanced military technology and began to make real efforts to modernize. However, it takes time to modernize a very backward military.

Anyway, there was no urgency as China had been US faithful follower and believe that the US would not hurt it in spite of the gap of strength. For example, as US faithful follower, China voted for the West’s UN Security Council resolution for regime change in Libya though it might suffer huge losses due to the regime change. Due to China’s support of the resolution, Russia was isolated and dared not veto the resolution.

US-China confrontation began in the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis when the US sent two aircraft battle groups in response to PRC’s missile tests around Taiwan. Finding itself no match to US forces, China began to step up its military buildup. It purchased from Russia Sovremenny-class destroyers, Kilo-class attack submarines and Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2 fighter jets.

Still, there were no urgency. At that time China had no intention to take Taiwan by force as, I believe, with US involvement, Taiwan might suffer great damage in the war so that China might not be benefited by taking a Taiwan in ruin.

China remained US faithful follower until 2010 when the then Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton denied China’s rights and interests in the South China Sea in her speech. As the South China Sea locates far away from the US, the US has no right of claim whatever there. Moreover, the US always does not take side in other countries’ territorial disputes. Why would the US suddenly deny China’s rights and interests there? It would not have gained in any way by so doing. China began to realize that the US feared that China’s rise might threaten its world hegemony and wanted to create trouble to deter China’s rise. As there are great fish and energy resources in the South China Sea, China regard its right and interest there as its core interest. China regard Clinton’s speech as serious provocation.

China’s concerns were confirmed by Obama’s unprecedented participation in ASEAN summit meeting on November 11, 2011 and announcement of America’s return and pivot to Asia including increase in US military deployment in Asia to 60% of US forces.

In order to defend China’s interests and rights in the South China Sea, China began its unilateral arms race with the US. What China did in countering US containment is described in my previous posts.

China found that the weapons it had imported from Russia were far from enough to deter US aircraft carrier battle groups. However, there is nowhere to buy weapons powerful enough to counter the US as the US is the most advanced country militarily. No country is able to make weapons good enough to rival US ones. Even if they have, they may not be willing to sell their top weapons. As a result, China began to invest lots of financial and human resources in developing advanced weapons on its own.

China’s Tremendous Success in Developing Advanced Weapons

China’s military budget has merely been a fraction of US one and China was slow in its military modernization before US provocation, but since China began its arms race with the US, it has made tremendous progress.

Second Strike

It has achieved nuclear second strike capabilities. On land it now has deployed DF-31 and DF-41 ICBMs carried on mobile launchers that can hide in its 5,000km tunnels. With a range of 12,000 to15,000 km, DF-41 is one of ICBMs with the longest range in the world, able to hit anywhere in the United States. It carries 10 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MITV) warheads difficult to intercept.

At sea, before the arms race China’s strategic nuclear submarines (SSBNs) were very noisy and regarded as other navies’ laughing stokes. Due to China’s efforts in arms race, China has developed very quiet nuclear submarines as silent as US SSBNs. Its advanced SSBNs carry JL-2 SLBMs with a range exceeding 7,000 km. Since late 2010, it has been testing JL-3 SLBMs with a range greater than 12,000 km that carries 10 MITVs. China is now building its most advanced Type 096 SSBN to be armed with JL-3s.

SSNs and Conventional Submarines

Under US military pressure, China has also improved its nuclear attack submarines (SSNs) with technology similar to its SSBNs. Its Type 093G SSN is as silent as US improved Los Angeles-class submarines. It is now building its quieter more advanced Type 095 SSNs. China has expanded its submarine shipyard in Huludao to be able to build 5 nuclear submarines at the same time. With such capacity, China may have more SSBNs and SSNs than the US in the future.

In addition, China is now able to make conventional submarines with air independent propulsion (AIP) the Yuan-class (Type 039A). It has developed submarine launched missiles to attack ship and submarine. Such missiles leave water to fly in the air and are therefore much faster to hit its target than a torpedo.

Anti-aircraft Carrier Missiles

To deal with US aircraft carriers, China has developed and deployed DF-21D and DF-26 anti-ship ballistic missiles. The missiles are so powerful as to be regarded as carrier killers.

Hypersonic Missiles

China even leads the US in hypersonic technology. It has developed and deployed DF-17 hypersonic missiles when the US has been trying hard to develop one.

Air Force

China has made great progress in modernizing its air force to be rival to the US. Its J-20 stealth fighter is said better than US F-22 and F-35. Compared with F-22, J-20 is developed later with quite some new technologies F-22 is unable to apply. Compared with F-35, J-20 is powered by two engines. It is heavier to carry more weapons and faster and better maneuverable. It is to be powered by very powerful WS-15 engines. Some media speculated that the engine is still not mature enough to use but others say that new J-20s have already been equipped with WS-15s.

Anyway, unlike before the arms race, China’s air force is now able to deal with US one.

As for further development, both China and the US are developing new long-range strategic bombers and 6th-generation fighters. The US has announced its success in test flight of its 6th-generation fighter but keep details about it in secret. There has been Chinese domestic report that China has tested its Mach 4.5 aircraft, details of which have also been kept secret.

Navy

Chinese navy has also developed new warships. Its Type 055 destroyer is better than US one. China is catching up with the US in building aircraft carriers. China has built and commissioned a homegrown carrier the Shandong, but it is a ski jump one without any catapults. According to report, China is now building a new aircraft carrier with electromagnetic catapult. There is speculation that China’s next aircraft carrier will be nuclear powered, but this blogger doubts that.

If China is able to build a carrier with electromagnetic catapult, it should be regarded as China has caught up with the US in carrier construction. China has no need to build a nuclear one as it does not need one. An aircraft carrier has to be accompanied with a group of warships to operate safely and efficiently. It does not make sense that only one ship in the group is nuclear powered while all others are conventional. Only when a carrier is to be used for world hegemony to deal with countries with no sufficiently powerful navy or air force does an aircraft carrier need to be nuclear powered to stay near its enemy for a long time with nuclear power without the need of refueling or the protection of enough number of conventional warships in its battle group.

As China does not pursue world hegemony, it needs no nuclear aircraft carrier that is too complicated and costly to maintain.

Anti-satellite and Anti-ASAT Capabilities

China has developed satellites to catch or blind enemy satellites. To counter other’s anti-satellite capabilities, China has developed Quaizhou series satellites to be on standby on their mobile launchers hidden in tunnels. Those satellites have already been adjusted to be able to replace the satellites shot down by the enemy. They will satesfy China’s needs for the satellites destroyed.

China’s above mentioned achievements in its arms race with the US proves that China has been winning in its arms race with the US.

Article by Chan Kai Yee


U.S. submarines must dive deeper in the future to preserve stealth and remain undetected by enemy sensors


U.S. Navy is rethinking the way it deploys its submarines, all to help them avoid detection by increasingly sophisticated Chinese sensors.

Nov 20th, 2019

Submarine 20 Nov 2019

ARLINGTON, Va. – The U.S. submarine community wants to preserve its ability to operate undetected as a silent service under the seas while also contributing to the wider fleet and joint fight, the commander of the Submarine Force said earlier this month. USNI News reports. Continue reading original article

The Military & Aerospace Electronics take:

20 Nov. 2019 — Speaking at the Naval Submarine League annual symposium, Vice Adm. Chas Richard said his team is putting together a new Vision to outline the role of submarines in a future fight.

“It starts with something as simple as, we are never going to periscope depth again unless we want to; we are simply going to make that obsolete,” Richard said. “And more fundamentally, you can describe it as, get deeper.”

Another key idea is “our ability to avoid detection, our stealth, is our greatest asset. But when we think about what that means moving into the future, this becomes more than simply controlling our radiated signatures in the acoustic spectrum,” Richard said.

Source: militaryaerospace.com “U.S. submarines must dive deeper in the future to preserve stealth and remain undetected by enemy sensors”

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


This secret facility is helping China’s navy become a submarine superpower


The PLAN’s Submarine Academy is located in Qingdao, and seems 
equipped to train sailors for whatever situation crops up in 
submarine warfare.
 26 April, 2019 2:21 pm IST

Satellite image of Underwater Battlefield Environment School | Col. Vinayak Bhat (retd) | ThePrint

New Delhi: China celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) on 23 April. On the occasion, it organised an international fleet review at Qingdao, which was also attended by the Indian Navy’s lead ship INS Kolkata and the tanker INS Shakti.

As The Economist wrote about the event, the PLAN has come a long way from its days as a brown-water navy (riverine warfare) to a green-water navy (which can operate in its own region), and is now on its way to fulfilling its goal of becoming a blue-water navy, which can operate anywhere in the world.

In the last two decades, the PLAN has modernised rapidly. Today’s PLAN is a modern force with at least one foreign base in Djibouti, and is well on its way to becoming a submarine superpower. ThePrint takes a closer look at China’s naval submarine training infrastructure through commercial satellite imagery.


Expanding submarine force

The submarine environment is an immense challenge for sailors, both physically and mentally. It demands advanced and specialised training to overcome the claustrophobic confines of submarines, especially nuclear submarines, which remain under water for months together without surfacing.

The large submarine production facility at Huludao is capable of producing six to eight submarines every year.
Col. Vinayak Bhat (retd) | ThePrint

The new subs expected to be produced at Huludao with advanced technology and high efficiency nuclear and conventional technology would require well-trained manpower. The huge need is met by training sailors for specialised sub-surface warfare at the PLAN’s Submarine Academy (NSA).

The academy in Qingdao

The NSA, which China claims is the only submarine academy in Asia, was established in 1953 at Qingdao by expanding the Lvshun Submarine School.

Col. Vinayak Bhat (retd) | ThePrint

China’s sudden strategic policy shift from coastal defence to sea denial greatly increased the requirement of highly trained submariners to man the hardware.

The NSA decided to expand the academy to a new location with the most modern buildings, equipment and facilities.

Col. Vinayak Bhat (retd) | ThePrint

A large number of sports fields and tracks permit the sailors to relieve stress and build team spirit.

The NSA’s training syllabus has been restructured and reorganised into seven branches of learning in an endeavour to produce a higher quality of submariners:

· Electronic information engineering

· Hydroacoustics engineering

· Navigation and transportation technology

· Salvage and rescue

· Marine engineering

· Weapons systems technology

· Anti-submarine warfare

The training includes intelligence gathering, target identification and launch of appropriate weapons systems.

Col. Vinayak Bhat (retd) | ThePrint

The laying and clearing of mines and defence against ASW aircraft and ships are subjects that are delved into deeply.

Underwater Battlefield Environment School

The advanced training of submariners is to be carried out at the Underwater Battlefield Environment School complex presently under construction.

Col. Vinayak Bhat (retd) | ThePrint

Satellite images indicate that mock submarines are built with simulators and controls for the training of cadets.

Diving tanks and escape from damaged ship equipment like torpedo tubes are later covered with external building-like structures to keep all training equipment under cover from the prying eyes of satellites.

To provide realistic training, many pieces of equipment and facilities are fused together to simulate real combat environments and situations.

Various complex situations — like escape from damaged submarines, plugging a submarine damaged by a torpedo hit, preparing to surface, delivery of special operations forces etc. — are also simulated.

These simulations provide sailors the experience to face adversities.

Source: The Print “This secret facility is helping China’s navy become a submarine superpower”

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


The U.S. Navy Doesn’t Operate the Most ‘Stealth’ Submarines (Think Sweden)


Image: Reuters

The Blekinge-class is even resistant to mines and depth charges for greatly improved survivability.

by Caleb Larson June 30, 2020

Here’s What You Need To Remember: Thanks to the high level of thought given to the class’ design, the Blekinge-class could be one of the quietest submarine class ever built once they’re finished.

Saab’s Gotland-class recently enjoyed a refit, and is very quiet—the U.S. Navy even leased the first of the class, the HMS Gotland for two years in order to evaluate the sub’s capabilities and to improve their own anti-submarine techniques against a peer adversary. The Gotland-class is very stealthy, but pales in comparison to Sweden’s upcoming Blekinge-class, represented by two hulls, the HMS Blekinge and HMS Skåne.

Ghost

Saab’s Ghost stealth technology, which stands for Genuine HOlistic STealth, is Saab’s quietest technology ever—and even quieter than their upgraded Gotland-class submarine. This incredibly low acoustic signature is achieved through a variety of means. The Blekinge-class makes use of rubberized mounts and baffles inside the submarine to reduce noise cause by on-board machinery or crew. Additionally, frames within the sub are filled with “acoustic damping plates” that absorb ambient sound from within the submarine.

Additionally, Saab claims that all interior surfaces are optimized to minimize noise, including “flexible hoses and compensators; and specifying maximum flow speed in air ducts, minimum bending radius on cables and pipes, and the design of out-board holes and cavities.”

The submarine’s exterior is also optimized for reduced noise. Saab says that the Blekinge-class uses a new hull shape and fin design that reduces hydrodynamic noise caused by water flowing along the hull surface and fins. Amazingly, the sub’s radar cross-section has also been taken into consideration and reduced through a careful mast design.

Air-Independent Power

In addition to above mentioned silencing features, perhaps the most significant is the Blekinge-class’ air-independent power technology. While the Blekinge-class is non-nuclear, it leverages a Stirling engine to remain submerged for longer than would otherwise be possible with conventional diesel generators.

Though complex, the Saab explains how the Stirling engine works, “in a Stirling engine, the necessary heat is produced in a separate combustion chamber and transferred to the engine’s working gas, operating in a completely closed system. The working gas forces the pistons in the engine to move, thus producing mechanical energy.” The Stirling engine is both more efficient, and has a very low acoustic and infrared signature.

It burns a mixture of liquified oxygen and diesel—the same diesel that onboard diesel generators use. These generators are used just for “long distance transit at medium speed in either a surfaced or snorting condition.”

Shocking

Saab says the Blekinge-class is resistant to mines and depth charges for greatly improved survivability. Full-scale shock tests were conducted using depth charges just feet away from the hull—with a full crew aboard—to ensure both onboard electronics and the hull’s resistance to shocks.

Postscript

Thanks to the high level of thought given to the class’ design, the Blekinge-class could be one of the quietest submarine class ever built once they’re finished.

Caleb Larson holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics, and culture.

This article originally appeared May 2020 and is being republished due to reader interest.

Source: National Interest “The U.S. Navy Doesn’t Operate the Most ‘Stealth’ Submarines (Think Sweden)”

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.


US: Company provided subpar steel for Navy submarine hulls


By GENE JOHNSON

yesterday

FILE – This Oct. 29, 2016 file photo shows the commissioning of the attack submarine USS Illinois as sailors stand atop the sub in Groton, Conn. For decades, the Navy’s leading supplier of high-strength steel for submarines provided subpar metal because one of the company’s longtime employees falsified lab results, putting sailors at greater risk in the event of collisions or other impacts, federal prosecutors said in court filings Monday, June 15, 2020. The supplier, Kansas City-based Bradken Inc., paid $10.9 million as part of a deferred prosecution agreement, the Justice Department said. The company provides steel castings that Navy contractors Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding use to make submarine hulls. The government did not disclose which subs were affected. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

SEATTLE (AP) — For decades, the Navy’s leading supplier of high-strength steel for submarines provided subpar metal because one of the company’s longtime employees falsified lab results — putting sailors at greater risk in the event of collisions or other impacts, federal prosecutors said in court filings Monday.

The supplier, Kansas City-based Bradken Inc., paid $10.9 million as part of a deferred prosecution agreement, the Justice Department said. The company provides steel castings that Navy contractors Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding use to make submarine hulls.

Bradken in 2008 acquired a foundry in Tacoma, Washington, that produced steel castings for the Navy. According to federal prosecutors, Bradken learned in 2017 that the foundry’s director of metallurgy had been falsifying the results of strength tests, indicating that the steel was strong enough to meet the Navy’s requirements when in fact it was not.

Prosecutors say the company initially disclosed its findings to the Navy but then wrongfully suggested that the discrepancies were not the result of fraud. That hindered the Navy’s investigation into the scope of the problem as well as its efforts to remediate the risks to its sailors, prosecutors said.

Bradken placed the Navy’s sailors and its operations at risk,” Seattle U.S. Attorney Brian Moran said in a news release. “Government contractors must not tolerate fraud within their organizations, and they must be fully forthcoming with the government when they discover it.”

There is no allegation in the court documents that any submarine parts failed, but Moran said the Navy had incurred increased costs and maintenance to ensure the subs remain seaworthy. The government did not disclose which subs were affected.

The foundry’s director of metallurgy, Elaine Thomas, 66, of Auburn, Washington, was charged criminally with one count of major fraud against the United States. Thomas, who worked in various capacities at the lab for 40 years, was due to make an initial appearance in federal court June 30. Her attorney, John Carpenter, declined to comment.

The criminal complaint said investigators were able to compare internal company records with test results that Thomas certified. The analysis showed that she fabricated the results of 240 productions of steel, representing nearly half of the high-yield steel Bradken produced for Navy submarines — often toughness tests conducted at negative-100 degrees Fahrenheit, the complaint said.

When a special agent with the Department of Defense’s Criminal Investigative Service confronted her with falsified results dating back to 1990, she eventually conceded that the results were altered — “Yeah, that looks bad,” the complaint quoted her as saying. She said she may have done it because she believed it was “a stupid requirement” that the test be conducted at such a cold temperature, the complaint said.

Investigators said the fraud came to light when a metallurgist being groomed to replace Thomas upon her planned 2017 retirement noticed some suspicious results. The company said it immediately fired Thomas.

While the company acknowledges that it failed to discover and disclose the full scope of the issue during the initial stages of the investigation, the government has recognized Bradken’s cooperation over the last eighteen months to be exceptional,” the company said in an emailed statement. “Bradken has a long history of proudly serving its clients, and this incident is not representative of our organization. We deeply regret that a trusted employee engaged in this conduct.”

Bradken agreed to take steps that include increased oversight over the lab, fraud protections and changes to the foundry’s management team. If Bradken complies with the requirements outlined in the deferred prosecution agreement, the government will dismiss the criminal fraud charge against it after three years.

Source: AP “US: Company provided subpar steel for Navy submarine hulls”

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


Chinese Navy Submarines Are Protected By Underground Tunnels


H I Sutton, 

China is a maritime nation with over 9,000 miles of coastline, dotted with ports. Compared to most other countries, it has a large number of naval bases. By dispersing its forces across many bases the Chinese Navy, formally known as the PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy), is protecting them against surprise attack. But some of it bases go further, offering underground tunnels to protect key warships and submarines.

In the age of precision strike cruise missiles and bunker buster bombs, tunnels may seem an outdated idea. But they still provide cover against some air attack and, perhaps more importantly, prying eyes. And they can also protect against nuclear attack, provided it is not a direct hit.

China’s tend to be built directly into rocky outcrops which may provide many feet of overhead protection. The entrance is usually facing inland (but with water access) so that it is harder to hit from offshore.

The best known of these tunnels are two which protect the 
strategic submarine force. One built at 
Jianggezhuang Naval Base (36° 6'20.76"N, 120°35'2.39"E) near 
Qingdao provides a hiding place for ballistic missile 
submarines based there. And more recently one has been built 
at Yulin (18°12'8.97"N, 109°41'39.34"E). This is where a 
new base for nuclear submarines was constructed around 12 
years ago. Yulin allows Chinese submarines (and aircraft 
carriers) easy access to the South China Sea, an important 
operating area.

Some other PLAN bases also have tunnels which are less well known. The submarine base on Xiachuan Dao has a small tunnel just inside the harbor wall (21°35’45.08″N, 112°33’5.14″E). And a shipyard where large warships and submarines are repaired, near the submarine base at Xiangshan, also has a tunnel (29°31’41.09″N, 121°41’16.98″E).

dispersed protection, although it is also possible that some are not Navy related. For example there is quite a large tunnel in a mountain on an island south of Shipuzhen (29°11’2.75″N, 121°56’35.68″E). There is a missile boat squadron nearby, but the tunnel appears separate from any PLAN naval base. Other less obvious tunnels include some near Daishan (30°15’40.61″N, 122°19’1.43″E), and along the coast from of Yalin (18°15’42.67″N, 109°43’41.13″E).

China’s tunnels are an interesting difference from U.S. Navy doctrine. They may provide some degree of protection against an unexpected attack. And they likely increase the survival of PLAN submarines in longer wars.

The PLAN is not alone in valuing the defensive strength of rock. The Swedish Navy recently announced that it would reopen its Cold War super-base at Muskö outside Stockholm. That site can house several submarines or warships and has maintenance facilities. Other countries which appear to have submarine tunnels include Taiwan, North Korea and Iran.

Source: Forbes “Chinese Navy Submarines Are Protected By Underground Tunnels”

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


The U.S. Navy Should Watch Out: China’s Submarine Force Is On the Rise


“Not only would China likely be able to deploy more submarines to the western Pacific than the United States, but the Chinese boats also might be better-suited than the American vessels are to operations in the region’s shallow, crowded littoral zones.”

by David Axe  May 6, 2019

The Chinese navy is close to building up one of the world’s most powerful submarine fleet, according to the 2019 edition of the U.S. Defense Department’s annual report on Chinese military developments.

The U.S. Navy is struggling to stay ahead.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy is “the region’s largest navy, with more than 300 surface combatants, submarines, amphibious ships, patrol craft and specialized types,” the report explains. “It is also an increasingly modern and flexible force.”

Beijing deploys its submarines in order to “achieve maritime superiority within the first island chain” that runs from Japan to The Philippines “as well as to deter and counter any potential third party intervention in a Taiwan conflict.”

To that end, China by mid-2019 has acquired six nuclear-powered attack submarine, or SSNs, and 50 conventional attack submarines, or SSs. “The speed of growth of the submarine force has slowed and will likely grow to between 65 and 70 submarines by 2020,” according to the report.

The Chinese undersea fleet includes 12 Russian-built Kilo-class SS units, eight capable of launching anti-ship cruise missiles, plus 13 Song-class/Type 039 SS units and 17 Yuan-class/Type 039A diesel-electric air-independent power attack submarines. The Pentagon expects three more Yuans to join the fleet by 2020.

Beijing’s SSN feet includes two Shang I-class/Type 093 SSNs and four Shang II-class/Type 093A SSNs. “By the mid-2020s, China will likely build the Type 093B guided-missile nuclear attack submarine,” the Pentagon report notes. “This new Shang-class variant will enhance the PLAN’s anti-surface warfare capability and could provide a more clandestine land-attack option.

The Chinese undersea build-up is part of a wider, regional submarine expansion. “Potential adversary submarine activity has tripled from 2008 levels, which requires at least a corresponding increase on the part of the United States to maintain superiority,” U.S. Navy admiral Philip Davidson said in a March 2019 Congressional testimony.

“There are 400 foreign submarines in the world, of which roughly 75 percent reside in the Indo-Pacific region,” Davidson testified. “One-hundred and sixty of these submarines belong to China, Russia and North Korea. While these three countries increase their capacity, the United States retires attack submarines faster than they are replaced.”

In December 2016, the U.S. Navy announced it needed 66 attack submarines in order to meet regional commanders’ needs. But in early 2019 the fleet had just 51 attack boats. And that number is set to fall.

Owing to a glut of sub production during the 1980s and a years-long gap in submarine production in the 1990s, the Navy possesses large numbers of old submarines, very few middle-age boats and lots of newer ones. A new Virginia-class SSN costs more than $2 billion to build.

Once a sub’s nuclear reactor core wears out, usually after around 30 years of operation, the Navy must either decommission the boat or undertake an expensive refueling. Dozens of three-decade-old Los Angeles-class attack subs are likely to decommission in the next few years, shrinking the overall SSN fleet to just 42 boats in 2028.

“Numerically, SSNs remain the furthest from the inventory objective,” the Navy stated in its shipbuilding plan for 2020.

Not only would China likely be able to deploy more submarines to the western Pacific than the United States, but the Chinese boats also might be better-suited than the American vessels are to operations in the region’s shallow, crowded littoral zones.

The shallow Taiwan Strait, in particular, is inhospitable to big, deep-diving American subs. “While SSNs have enormous advantages over [diesel-powered] SSKs, shallow terrain partially limits the SSNs’ primary advantage: diving deep at high speeds after firing and thereby evade detection,” Henry Holst explained in an essay for the U.S. Naval Institute.

In order partially to compensate for its growing disadvantage in submarines compared to the Chinese fleet, the U.S. Navy is experimenting with new, more efficient ways of supporting its subs, and also is buying robotic submarines that could reinforce manned boats on certain missions.

David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad.

Source: National Interest “The U.S. Navy Should Watch Out: China’s Submarine Force Is On the Rise”

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.


See This Russian ‘Stealth’ Submarine? It Terrifies the U.S. Navy For Lots of Reasons


An underwater terror?

by Sebastien Roblin September 2, 2019

After an expensive round of repairs, the Nerpa was ready to go—and promptly transferred on a ten-year lease to India for $950 million. Redubbed the INS Chakra, it served as India’s only nuclear powered submarine for years, armed with the short-range Klub cruise missile due to the restrictions of the Missile Technology Control Regime. In October 2016, Moscow and New Delhi agreed on the leasing of a second Akula-class submarine, although it’s unclear whether it will be the older Akula I Kashalot or never-completed Akula II Iribis—though the steep $2 billion price tag leads some to believe it may be the latter. This year, the Chakra will also be joined by the domestically-produced Arihant class, which is based on the Akula but reoriented to serve as a ballistic-missile sub.

The Soviet Union produced hot-rod submarines that could swim faster, take more damage, and dive deeper than their American counterparts—but the U.S. Navy remained fairly confident it had the Soviet submarines outmatched because they were all extremely noisy. Should the superpowers clash, the quieter American subs had better odds of detecting their Soviet counterparts first, and greeting them with a homing torpedo. However, that confidence was dented in the mid-1980s, when the Soviet Navy launched its Akula-class nuclear-powered attack submarines. Thirty years later they remain the mainstay of the Russian nuclear attack submarine fleet—and are quieter than the majority of their American counterparts.

(This first appeared in 2017.)

Intelligence provided by the spies John Walker and Jerry Whitworth in the 1970s convinced the Soviet Navy that it needed to seriously pursue acoustic stealth in its next attack submarine. After the prolific Victor class and expensive titanium-hulled Sierra class, construction of the first Project 971 submarine, Akula (“Shark”), began in 1983. The new design benefited from advanced milling tools and computer controls imported from Japan and Sweden, respectively, allowing Soviet engineers to fashion quiet seven-bladed propellers.

The large Akula, which displaced nearly thirteen thousand tons submerged, featured a steel double hull typical to Soviet submarines, allowing the vessel to take on more ballast water and survive more damage. The attack submarine’s propulsion plant was rafted to dampen sound, and anechoic tiles coated its outer and inner surface. Even the limber holes which allowed water to pass inside the Akula’s outer hull had retractable covers to minimize acoustic returns. The 111-meter-long vessel was distinguished by its elegant, aquadynamic conning tower and the teardrop-shaped pod atop the tail fin which could deploy a towed passive sonar array. A crew of around seventy could operate the ship for one hundred days at sea.

Powered by a single 190-megawatt pressurized water nuclear reactor with a high-density core, the Akula could swim a fast thirty-three knots (thirty-eight miles per hour) and operate 480 meters deep, two hundred meters deeper than the contemporary Los Angeles–class submarine. More troubling for the U.S. Navy, though, the Akula was nearly as stealthy as the Los Angeles class. American submariners could no longer take their acoustic superiority for granted. On the other hand, the Akula’s own sensors were believed to be inferior.

The Akula I submarines—designated Shchuka (“Pike”) in Russian service—were foremost intended to hunt U.S. Navy submarines, particularly ballistic-missile submarines. Four 533-millimeter torpedo tubes and four large 650-millimeter tubes could deploy up to forty wire-guided torpedoes, mines, or long-range SS-N-15 Starfish and SS-N-16 Stallion antiship missiles. The Akula could also carry up to twelve Granat cruise missiles capable of hitting targets on land up to three thousand kilometers away.

Soviet shipyards pumped out seven Akula Is while the U.S. Navy pressed ahead to build the even stealthier Seawolf-class submarine to compete. However, even as the Soviet Union collapsed, it launched the first of five Project 971U Improved Akula I boats. This was followed by the heavier and slightly longer 971A Akula II class in the form of the Vepr in 1995, which featured a double-layer silencing system for the power train, dampened propulsion systems and a new sonar. Both variants had six additional external tubes that could launch missiles or decoy torpedoes, and a new Strela-3 surface-to-air missile system.

However, the most important improvement was to stealth—the new Akulas were now significantly quieter than even the Improved Los Angeles–class submarines, although some analysts argue that the latter remain stealthier at higher speeds. You can check out an Office of Naval Intelligence comparison chart of submarine acoustic stealth here. The U.S. Navy still operates forty-three Los Angeles–class boats, though fourteen newer Seawolf- and Virginia-class submarines still beat out the Akula in discretion.

However, Russian shipyards have struggled to complete new Akula IIs, which are not cheap—one figure claims a cost of $1.55 billion each in 1996, or $2.4 billion in today’s dollars. The struggling Russian economy can barely afford to keep the already completed vessels operational. Two Akula IIs were scrapped before finishing construction and three were converted into Borei-class ballistic-missile submarines. As for the Akula II Vepr, it was beset by tragedy in 1998 when a mentally unstable teenage seaman killed eight fellow crewmembers while at dock, and threatened to blow up the torpedo room in a standoff before committing suicide.

After lingering a decade in construction, the Gepard, the only completed Akula III boat, was deployed in 2001, reportedly boasting what was then the pinnacle of Russian stealth technology. Seven years later, Moscow finally pushed through funding to complete the Akula II Nerpa after fifteen years of bungled construction. However, during sea trials in November 2008, a fire alarm was triggered inadvertently, flooding the sub with freon firefighting gas that suffocated twenty onboard, mostly civilians—the most serious recent incident in a long and eventful history of submarine disasters.

After an expensive round of repairs, the Nerpa was ready to go—and promptly transferred on a ten-year lease to India for $950 million. Redubbed the INS Chakra, it served as India’s only nuclear powered submarine for years, armed with the short-range Klub cruise missile due to the restrictions of the Missile Technology Control Regime. In October 2016, Moscow and New Delhi agreed on the leasing of a second Akula-class submarine, although it’s unclear whether it will be the older Akula I Kashalot or never-completed Akula II Iribis—though the steep $2 billion price tag leads some to believe it may be the latter. This year, the Chakra will also be joined by the domestically-produced Arihant class, which is based on the Akula but reoriented to serve as a ballistic-missile sub.

Today the Russian Navy maintains ten to eleven Akulas, according to Jane’s accounting in 2016, but only three or four are in operational condition, while the rest await repairs. Nonetheless, the Russian Navy has kept its boats busy. In 2009, two Akulas were detected off the East Coast of the United States—supposedly the closest Russia submarines had been seen since the end of the Cold War. Three years later, there was an unconfirmed claim (this time denied by the U.S. Navy) that another Akula had spent a month prowling in the Gulf of Mexico without being caught. The older Kashalot even has been honored for “tailing a foreign submarine for fourteen days.” All of these incidents have highlighted concerns that the U.S. Navy needs to refocus on antisubmarine warfare. In the last several years, Russia has also been upgrading the Akula fleet to fire deadly Kalibr cruise missiles, which were launched at targets in Syria in 2015 by the Kilo-class submarine Rostov-on-Don.

Despite the Akula’s poor readiness rate, they continue to make up the larger part of Russia’s nuclear attack submarine force, and will remain in service into the next decade until production of the succeeding Yasen class truly kicks into gear. Until then, the Akula’s strong acoustic stealth characteristics will continue to make it a formidable challenge for antisubmarine warfare specialists.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

Source: National Interest “See This Russian ‘Stealth’ Submarine? It Terrifies the U.S. Navy For Lots of Reasons”

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.


The U.S. Navy’s New Attack Submarine: The Most ‘Stealth’ Sub Ever?


We have an idea of what is to come.

by Kris Osborn June 3, 2019

The technical elements of undersea command and control, quite naturally, are being engineered with a mind to an expected increased use of underwater drones. The Navy is now moving quickly with efforts to build an entire new fleet of UUVs able to destroy mines, conduct lower risk forward surveillance, deliver supplies or even fire weapons with a “human-in-the-loop.” Capt. Pete Small, the Program Manager for Unmanned Maritime Systems, addressed this phenomenon at Sea Air Space and said the service’s now in development Orca XLUUV – Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle – is being configured to fire torpedoes.

The Navy has begun work on a new generation of attack submarines with never-before-seen weapons, quieting technology, undersea attack drones, sonar and communications networking… to emerge at some point over the next 10 years or more.

The U.S. Navy’s New Attack Submarine: The Most ‘Stealth’ Sub Ever

Will it be the stealthiest, most lethal attack submarine ever to exist? That ….is the Navy plan.

Plans for the new boats, referred to as a new fleet of Block VI Virginia Class-Attack Attack-class submarines, include launching long-range precision strikes, delivering Special Operations Forces on secret high-risk attack missions, conducting ISR missions, networking with platforms and — perhaps of greatest significance – operating undetected in high-threat waters.

Block VI will start in 2024. We are currently in the phase of looking at concepts and capabilities and determining their feasibility. Next year we will go through the decision points in terms of requirements of what we want to have in that block,” Capt. Christopher Hanson, Program Manager, Virginia Class Submarines, said at the Navy League’s 2019 Sea Air Space Symposium.

Speaking at a Naval Sea Systems Command location, Hanson specified that the new submarines will incorporate a specific emphasis upon Special Operations Forces (SOF), new weapons’ interfaces and payloads for undersea drones, Unmanned Undersea Vessels.

As part of the Block VI development, the Navy is now conducting a “SOF Optimization” Analysis of Alternatives to, among other things, find ways to engineer an attack submarine well suited for clandestine undersea SOF missions. These can include targeted attack operations, forward intelligence gathering or high-risk surveillance missions, among other things.

Hanson was clear to point out that it is not possible, at the moment, to know everything that a new submarine might include 10 years into the future. With this in mind, the service wants to architect the boats, with established standards and interfaces, so that they can easily integrate new weapons, undersea drones or networking technologies as they emerge.

Capability comes in two ways. One is the inherent design and how we build the submarine and the other piece is how we design the submarine with interface requirements for future payloads…that maybe right now are only in the power-point stage…. that can be accommodated in the future?” Hanson added.

This conceptual framework, focused on engineering “upgradeable” platforms, was anticipated in earliest days of the Virginia-class program more than 15 years ago. A 2005 Naval War College Review essay cites Virginia-class submarines as a platform benefiting from a modular, or “open architecture” approach. Since its inception, the Virginia-class was built with a mind to prepare for future upgrades, as evidenced in the essay.

One example referenced in the essay is a modernization effort called the Acoustic Rapid COTS Insertion (ARCI) program which, among other things, pushed “toward modularity for the Virginia-class, the SSGN and subsequent classes,” the essay states. The success of the ARCI program has continued for more than a decade since its beginning; the program’s success was cited in a 2015 DOT&E report. The DOT&E report recommend that the program begin to emphasize countermine missions, due to its track record of successful upgrades.

From a technical or engineering perspective, modularity means building a boat with a software and hardware foundation able to adjust as needed. For instance, while attack submarines currently fire Torpedoes and Tomahawks, it is entirely feasible, if not likely, that new submarine-launched weapons will exist 10 years from now. This kind of scenario is exactly what Hanson seemed to be getting at.

The Naval War College Review essay, interestingly, aligns with Hanson’s comment about the need to engineer for future technologies to permit quick integration of new systems. The essay describes it as “yet-unenvisioned equipment to be installed to counter unimagined threats, and an insistence that core enabling characteristics such as stealth never be compromised.” (From”The Submarine as a Case Study in Transformation: Implications for Future Investment,” James H. Patton Jr, 2005)

With this essay in mind, there is substantial precedent for of this kind of modular approach, looking at the multi-year trajectory of Virginia-class development; each Block has incorporated several impactful new technologies not yet present when the previous boats were built. For example, unlike Blocks I and II, Virginia-class Block III boats significantly increase firepower with the introduction of what’s called Virginia Payload Tubes adding new missile tubes able to fire 6 Tomahawks each. Block III also includes a new Large Aperture Bow “horseshoe-shaped” sonar, which switches from an “air-backed’ spherical sonar to a “water-backed” array, making it easier to maintain pressure, according to a 2014 report in “NavSource Online.”

The LAB sonar, which is both more precise and longer range than its predecessor, also advances the curve in that it introduces both a passive and “active” sonar system. Passive systems are used to essential track or “listen” for acoustic pings to identify enemy movements. This can help conceal a submarines position by not emitting a signal, yet can lack the specificity of an “active” sonar system which sends an acoustic “ping” forward. The submarine’s technology then analyzes the return signal to deliver a “rendering” of an enemy object to include its contours, speed and distance. In concept, sonar works similar to radar except that it sends acoustic signals instead of electronic ones.

When it comes to tailoring submarines for SOF missions, it would not be surprising if elements of Block IIIs “Lock Out Trunk” were built-upon or expanded for Block VI; the Lock Out Trunk introduces a new specialized area which fills up with water for departure, enabling SOF forces to more easily and quietly exit the submarine while remaining submerged.

BLOCK VI Technologies

So….. given that both future threats and future technologies are not yet known, as Hanson indicated, what might Block VI look like?

While particular technical details are often unavailable given the secret nature of these kinds of platforms, over the years senior Navy weapons developers have talked to Warrior about some of the key areas of modernization focus; these include new coating materials to make the submarines stealthier, new antennas for longer-range, more accurate undersea surveillance missions and new “quieting” engine propulsion technology, among other things.

All of these technologies, in fact, already exist in the USS South Dakota attack submarine — the most advanced submarine ever to be delivered to the Navy. The new boat, which is now operational, began as a prototype, test-bed platform to evolve these new technologies. What all of these USS South Dakota innovations amount to is that, Hanson said, they are informing current conceptual discussions now underway regarding Block VI.

Also, according to Congressional testimony in 2016, cited in a report from SeaPower magazine, former PEO Submarines Rear Adm. Michael E. Jabaley Jr., the USS South Dakota includes a DARPA-engineered Hybrid Propulsor “which brings new acoustic advantages.”

Yet another area of innovation quite likely to lay a foundation for Block VI includes Block IIIs “Fly-by-Wire” navigational controls; instead of using mechanically operated hydraulic controls, the Fly-by-Wire system uses a joystick, digital moving maps and various adaptations of computer automation to navigate the boat. This means that computer systems can control the depth and speed of the submarine, while a human remains in a command and control role. It seems almost self-evident, given rapid advances in AI and computer automation, that Block VI will include a new generation of these kinds of technologies.

The technical elements of undersea command and control, quite naturally, are being engineered with a mind to an expected increased use of underwater drones. The Navy is now moving quickly with efforts to build an entire new fleet of UUVs able to destroy mines, conduct lower risk forward surveillance, deliver supplies or even fire weapons with a “human-in-the-loop.” Capt. Pete Small, the Program Manager for Unmanned Maritime Systems, addressed this phenomenon at Sea Air Space and said the service’s now in development Orca XLUUV – Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle – is being configured to fire torpedoes.

From essentially a “lone wolf ” a decade ago, the submarine is now nearly universally accepted as a key node within network-centric warfare, the purveyor of “undersea dominance,” and an essential element of Sea Power 21 (a previously articulated Navy attack vision emphasizing information dominance),” the 2005 Naval War College Review essay writes.

Finally, the now underway Block V Virginia-class boats, known for its fire-power enhancing Virginia Payload Modules (VPM), are also contributing to Block V conversations. VPM, which increases the boats’ firepower from 12 to 40 Tomahawk missiles, changes the attack envelope.

Block 5 has some additional equipment we are developing, which will be added to the USS South Dakota. Our expectation is that that equipment is going to continue on into Block VI,” Hanson said.

Most of all, it seems apparent, plans for Block VI want to both remain flexible and explore a wide range of options.

We have a CONOPS *Concept of Operations” ground that brings in operators of other vehicles on a periodic basis so we can show them what we are looking at,” Hanson said.

Kris Osborn is a Senior Fellow at The Lexington Institute. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Source: National Interest “The U.S. Navy’s New Attack Submarine: The Most ‘Stealth’ Sub Ever?”

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.