Analysts examine the noteworthy aspects of China’s nuclear submarine fleet in light of recent reports that the country has installed new intercontinental ballistic missiles on its submarines.
The US fleet in the Pacific informed the public last month that China has added additional long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles to its ballistic missile submarines.
After learning that China had installed the JL-3 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a solid-fuel missile, on a Type 094 submarine (what NATO refers to as a class submarine), the US military specifically expressed alarm. The estimated range of this missile is 10,000–12,000 km, which means that it can travel from China to any significant city on the American West Coast.
Admiral Sam Paparo of the US Pacific Fleet stated that “these weapons are intended to threaten the United States.” “These submarines are under close observation by us.”
The US Department of Defense stated that China will be able to nearly triple the size of its warehouses in a report last week titled “Military and Security Developments Related to the People’s Republic of China in 2022.” In less than ten years, there will be more than 1,000 nuclear warheads, up from 350 today.
What number of nuclear submarines does China possess?
Our researchers estimate that China possesses six Type 094 nuclear-tipped ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) in its arsenal and is currently developing another two. The submarine has an indefinite range due to the nuclear reactors on board, weighs 11,000 tonnes, is 135 metres long, and has a beam of 12.5 metres. The ship is capable of transporting 12 ballistic missiles.
The Type 094 submarines carry the JL-2s, which have a range of 7,200 km and a warhead of no more than one megaton, in addition to the new JL-3s, which include five to seven multi-target killing vehicles (MIRVs). Less potent than 3 MIRV. The JL-3’s payload is still a mystery.
The Chinese military withheld the operational range of its nuclear marine deterrent. However, in order to be able to attack the US east coast, Type 094 missile ships armed with JL-2 must travel to regions north or east of Hawaii, according to the US Department of Defense.
China has six Type 093 nuclear-powered attack submarines (known by NATO as Shang class submarines) that are equipped with torpedoes Yu-3, Yu-4, Yu-6, and YJ-82 subsonic anti-ship missiles in addition to nuclear missile submarines. The Shang’s modernised Type 093B surface attack cruise missile variant is being developed by China, according to the report, and is scheduled to go into service in 2025.
In addition, China is working on the Type 096, a submarine that will replace the Type 094. According to the US military, construction on the ships, which can transport a specific kind of long-range missile, is expected to start in this decade. Much more novel than JL-3. By 2030, the Pentagon projects that China will have eight ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs).
Chinese nuclear submarines as opposed to US counterparts
China is one of the few nations with a nuclear triad. The country’s nuclear weapons stockpile is still significantly smaller than that of the United States (which has 5,550 nuclear weapons and nuclear ammunition), according to experts, despite its growing economic power, technological prowess, and international stature.
Aside from India, China is the only other nuclear country with a no-first-use policy, which forbids the use of nuclear weapons unless they have already been attacked. Deterrence is how China is dealing with nuclear weapons in this respect.
The US has a very large SSBN fleet compared to China, consisting of 14 Ohio-class nuclear missile submarines, each of which is capable of transporting up to 24 Trident II missiles. The nuclear firepower of a few Ohio-class submarines is comparable to that of China’s entire strategic arsenal.
The Columbia class, which will succeed the Ohio class, will start construction in 2020 with a goal of building 12 submarines. The first ship in the fleet is anticipated to go into service in 2031.
Additionally, the US has more than 50 Los Angeles, Seawolf, and Virginia class nuclear-powered rapid attack submarines. Each one is capable of transporting cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.