HomeWorldChina Making Progress with Nuclear-Armed Submarine Development, Reveals Report

China Making Progress with Nuclear-Armed Submarine Development, Reveals Report

China’s Nuclear-Armed Submarines Pose Challenge to U.S. Tracking Efforts

The Growing Submarine Arms Race

A submarine arms race is heating up as China enters the production phase of a new generation of nuclear-armed submarines. These submarines are expected to pose a significant challenge to the United States and its allies in their efforts to track them. Analysts and defense attaches in the region have gathered mounting evidence that China is on track to deploy its Type 096 ballistic missile submarine by the end of the decade. These submarines are anticipated to be much quieter, thanks in part to Russian technology, making them difficult to detect.

Challenges in Tracking China’s Submarines

Research presented at the U.S. Naval War College in May and published by the China Maritime Studies Institute highlights the increased difficulty in tracking China’s submarines. Seven analysts and three military attaches based in Asia find this conclusion credible. Retired submariner and naval technical intelligence analyst Christopher Carlson states that the Type 096 submarines will be “a nightmare” to detect. As a result, the U.S. Navy and other Indo-Pacific militaries are intensifying deployments and contingency planning to counter this threat.

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China’s Advancements and Implications

The Chinese navy currently operates Type 094 submarines armed with JL-3 missiles, but these submarines are considered relatively noisy. However, the new Type 096 submarines are expected to rival state-of-the-art Russian submarines in terms of stealth, sensors, and weapons. This increase in capabilities will have profound implications for the United States and its Indo-Pacific allies. Satellite imagery taken at China’s Huludao shipyard indicates that construction is on schedule, with the submarines expected to be operational by 2030.

Breakthroughs and Potential Enhancements

The research describes potential breakthroughs in areas such as pump-jet propulsion and internal quieting devices, drawing on imitative innovation of Russian technology. While it is unlikely that China has obtained the newest-generation Russian systems, the submarines are expected to be stealthy enough to rival Moscow’s Improved Akula boats. Singapore-based defense scholar Collin Koh suggests that China is trying to play catch-up by improving its anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

International Efforts and Complexities

Tracking Chinese submarines is becoming an international effort, with the Japanese and Indian militaries assisting the United States, Australia, and Britain. Anti-submarine warfare drills are increasing, along with deployments of sub-hunting P-8 Poseidon aircraft in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. The United States is also overhauling its undersea surveillance network to counter China’s growing presence. These efforts are driven, in part, by the anticipation of quieter Chinese submarines. The recent AUKUS deal among Australia, Britain, and the U.S. aims to address this challenge by increasing submarine deployments in Western Australia.

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China’s Progress and Implications

China’s progress in developing a new generation of submarines ahead of the AUKUS partners is highly significant. However, even if China achieves technological parity, it will need to train extensively over the next decade to match AUKUS capabilities. Moscow-based Chinese military scholar Vasily Kashin believes that China may have made progress through adaptations of Russian designs and other sources, including espionage. He emphasizes that China is not an adversary of Russia in the naval field but poses problems for the United States.

China’s advancements in nuclear-armed submarines present a significant challenge for the United States and its allies in tracking these stealthy vessels. The ongoing submarine arms race underscores the need for increased deployments and planning to counter the evolving threat. As China continues to invest in advanced submarine technology, international collaboration and efforts to develop countermeasures are crucial to maintaining regional stability and security.

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