A report issued by the US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) sees the growth of the Chinese submarine fleet as a serious threat.
Currently standing at some 62 boats, the Chinese submarine fleet includes four nuclear ballistic missile boats, five nuclear attack boats and 53 diesel attack submarines. The emergence of the Jin class nuclear ballistic missile submarines, which will begin fulfilling their role on deterrent patrols this year, gives China what ONI identifies as a “first credible at-sea-second-strike nuclear capability.”
The report, which was created as part of ONI’s testimony on Chinese naval developments to the US China Economic and Security Review, points to substantive changes in ‘blue-water’ naval capabilities over the last ten years. Compared with the situation a decade ago, when only a small number of Chinese submarines were capable of launching cruise missiles, over half the fleet now has such a capability. The JL-2 ballistic missile carried by the Jin class boats has a range of over 4,000 miles, meaning that the western seabord of the United States, as well as Hawaii and Alaska, could be hit from Chinese waters.
“Over the next decade, China will complete its transition from a coastal navy to a navy capable of missions around the world,” the report concluded.