China's Undewater Nukes: The Most Dangerous Nuclear Threat No One Is Talking About? | World Defense

China's Undewater Nukes: The Most Dangerous Nuclear Threat No One Is Talking About?

JINGYI

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China's Undewater Nukes: The Most Dangerous Nuclear Threat No One Is Talking About?



Deployed appropriately, any of the more modern submarines can strike the United States with nuclear missiles. The Type 096 can strike the U.S. from secure areas near China’s coast. The Pentagon currently believes that China will build around eight SSBNs in total, giving the PLAN the capacity to maintain multiple boats on continuous patrol. Much depends, however, on whether China shifts its overall nuclear posture from minimal deterrence to active pursuit of secure second strike capability.

China’s nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs, or “boomers”) are soon to become a major worry for the United States. How does this change the balance of power in the Pacific?


History of Program:

China completed its first SSBN, the Type 092 “Xia” boat, in 1981. The sub did not enter service until 1987, however, and has reportedly never conducted a deterrence patrol. The sub (various rumors over the years have asserted that a sister ship was built, and lost) represented a triumph of China’s limited submarine building industry, but did not constitute a meaningful deterrent.



China’s second effort, the Type 094 class, has resulted in a much more effective group of boats. The Type 094s displace about 11,000 tons submerged, and carry 12 JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), capable of launching a nuclear warhead some 7,500 kilometers.

Reports vary on whether the missiles can carry MIRVs, but given Chinese advances in this area it is likely that these and future boats will carry them in the future. Thus far China has constructed around four Type 094 class subs, the minimum necessary for conducting continuous deterrent patrols.



(This first appeared towards the end of 2015.)

The next step is the Type 096 “Tang” SSBN. Reports vary widely on the design parameters and expected deployment dates, but it will undoubtedly be larger, quieter, and carry more missiles with more warheads. The Type 096 is expected to carry up to 24 JL-3 SLBMs, with a range of 10,000 kilometers.



Deployed appropriately, any of the more modern submarines can strike the United States with nuclear missiles. The Type 096 can strike the U.S. from secure areas near China’s coast. The Pentagon currently believes that China will build around eight SSBNs in total, giving the PLAN the capacity to maintain multiple boats on continuous patrol. Much depends, however, on whether China shifts its overall nuclear posture from minimal deterrence to active pursuit of secure second strike capability.

Strategies:

The Type 092 boat is practically undeployable, and has effectively been retired. The PLAN has been conducting extensive exercises with the Type 094 boats, presumably in preparation for their first deterrent patrols. The PLAN has developed an extensive infrastructure for servicing these boats. However, the Type 094 class cannot operate independently in conditions of high intensity conflict. The boats are reputedly noisier than 1970s era Soviet SSBNs, making them easy prey for American attack subs.

In light of this disadvantage, it seems likely that China will adopt the “bastion” concept that guided Soviet SSBN deployment during the Cold War. The Soviets adopted the bastion strategy because of concern about the survivability of its SSBNs, and because of paranoia about a decapitating American first strike. If anything, China’s boats remain less survivable than the Soviet subs of the late Cold War, and China is considerably more vulnerable to pre-emptive nuclear attack than the Soviet Union. Consequently, a bastion strategy might make sense. However, the PLAN needs to accelerate the development of its anti-submarine warfare capabilities in order to pose a genuine threat to American attack submarines.

On the one hand, the noisiness of China’s boomers make them easy for U.S. attack boats to find. On the other hand, and insecure nuclear deterrent does not bode well for crisis stability. As Brendan Thomas-Noone and Rory Medcalf have suggested, noisy SSBNs present tempting targets for nuclear attack submarines. In a war, the United States (or Japan, or India) might press this advantage by engaging in a concerted effort to destroy China’s boomers. This was precisely the strategy the U.S. Navy envisioned in the 1970s and 1980s; attacking the “bastions” in which Soviet SSBNs patrolled.

While sinking the SSBNs seems attractive, a concerted campaign might produce a “use it or lose it” mentality in the Chinese Communist Party, and would undoubtedly heighten concerns about U.S. escalatory intentions. In short, the vulnerability of Chinese SSBNs is both an opportunity and a problem for the United States.
 
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Arjun

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The U.S doesn't worry about China stock of nuclear weapons as the article suggests. US vs China = 1 to 0 and we all know that.
 

Lieutenant

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Who can talk against China?
The U.S doesn't worry about China stock of nuclear weapons as the article suggests. US vs China = 1 to 0 and we all know that.
Are you by any means underestimating China's capability in confronting the U.S! In case of real confrontation no one is a winner. Both will be destroyed. Nucks are not toys my friend stop the chest beating.
 

Arjun

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Who can talk against China?


Are you by any means underestimating China's capability in confronting the U.S! In case of real confrontation no one is a winner. Both will be destroyed. Nucks are not toys my friend stop the chest beating.
The U.S can intercept China missiles using its everywhere missile shield.
 

JINGYI

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You missed the point and by the way why are you alarmed when China is just trying to have what US had for almost 60 years?
 

Arjun

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You missed the point and by the way why are you alarmed when China is just trying to have what US had for almost 60 years?
Rather in Indian ocean destabilizer. You think India will setback and watch, think twice.
 

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