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While there was much fanfare and attentiongiven to the July 3rd launch of two Type 055 guided missile destroyers at theDalian Shipbuilding Industry Co. (DISC) shipyard in Dalian, very little mentionhas been made of the many other warships that the People's Liberation Army Navy(PLAN) has launched or commissioned since the beginning of the year. Althoughthe Type 055 DDG is the PLAN’s most powerful surface combatant, and the largestsuch vessel constructed by an Asian nation since World War II, they are onecomponent in a steadily growing naval force structure. While the addition ofthree Type 055 DDGs this year, added to the first vessel in class which rolledinto the water from Dalian just over a year ago in June of 2017, showcaseChina’s growing capabilities not only in producing powerful and modernwarships, they also illustrate the maturity and stunning capacity of the Chinese ship building industry. This industryhas launched and/or commissioned 15 modern warships in just the first sevenmonths of 2018.


Three More Type 055 Destroyers


This year is proving to be a big year forthe PLAN. Of the fifteen vessels built so far in 2018, three have been thenewest and most powerful surface warfare vessel in the Chinese arsenal, theType 055 DDG. The world was stunned when China was able to complete the firstof this new class in June of 2017. Sections of a second in this class wereclearly visible in satellite imagery at the time. That vessel was launched inMay of this year, but two more Type 055 destroyers were launched simultaneouslyon July 3rd, just two months later. The 5th and 6th vessels in class arealready in varying stages of construction.



Type 052D DDG Continued Growth


A number of photos that appeared bothonline and in the print media exhibiting the two newest Type 055 DDGs to belaunched at the DISC shipyard in Dalian failed to mention that three brand newType 052D destroyers also appeared in these same images. The Type 052D is apowerful guided missile destroyer in its own right, rivaling the U.S. NavyArleigh Burke Class DDG. China launched the first Type 052D, the KunmingDDG-172 in 2014. There are currently 9 ships of the class in service, 2 undergoingsea trials, and a further two being fitted out. Three Type 052D DDGs have beencommissioned in the first half of this year.


Although original rumors had hinted at 16vessels being ordered, some inside sources now claim that the number has beenincreased significantly. It would seem reasonable that a total of 18 to 26 vesselsmay end up being built, dependent upon how ambitious the PLAN aircraft carrierprogram becomes. IHS Janes Defense Weekly reported on May 2nd of this year thatsatellite imagery appeared to show a Type 052D under construction at theJiangnan Changxingdao shipyard in Shanghai that had approximately 4 meters(13.1ft) added to its LOA. The after flight deck may have been lengthened toaccommodate larger helicopters which would aid the vessel in its ASW role.


It remains to be seen if the abovementioned modification will enter serial production under a differentdesignation, or will prove to be a concept testbed for fielding larger rotarywing assets at sea. It is important to note that China produced six Type052CClass DDGs from 2004 to 2015, and has produced thirteen of the much improvedType 052D Class DDGs in just four years, a six fold increase in annualproduction.


More Frigates and Corvettes


While smaller warships do not enjoy thelimelight of their larger peers, they can teach the observer a great deal abouta nation’s maritime defense posture and priorities. While the Chineseshipbuilding industry has constructed and launched nineteen Type 052 DDGs ofboth variants, and four Type 055 DDGs from 2014 to the present, they have alsoturned out fourteen Type 054A Class guided missile frigates (total of 32 of allvariants) and a no less than twenty Type 056A Class corvettes (total of 42 inclass of all variants) over the same period of time.


The smaller warships traditionally performa number of different roles in naval warfare. Firstly, they serve as coastalpatrol craft. They are nimble and fast, heavily armed for their diminutivesize, and are outfitted to be flexible enough to perform a multitude ofdifferent missions. Their small size equates to limited firepower and shorterrange, but they are well suited to serve as picket ships and screening forcesto task forces fielding larger and more powerful vessels when those fleets areoperating within close range of home ports and naval facilities.


The Type 056A Class corvette is ideallysuited to patrol China’s coasts, the maritime territories within China’s EEZ,as well as the island archipelagos of the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Theywill most likely begin patrol operations from the key island bases at FieryCross Reef, Subi Reef, and Mischief Reef as the maritime logistics facilitieson these islands are improved.


The Type 054A frigate is a well balance andpowerful naval surface combatant for its size, and carries an ample arsenal ofanti-aircraft, anti-ship, and anti-submarine weapons. It is an ideal escortvessel with a range of over 8,000 nautical miles. It is a traditionalmulti-purpose frigate, possessing the inherent ability to attack other surfaceships, engage aircraft, and track and destroy submarines. It is this class ofwarship that the PLAN first sent to the Gulf of Aden in 2009 to serve ininternational anti-piracy duties. Eleven Type
05A frigates have served onanti-piracy duties in this region since that time.


The Type 054A Class Frigate is a flexible,yet powerful surface warfare asset that possesses significant range and theability to engage in a multitude of operations. It is equipped with an afthangar and flight deck, and carries either a Ka-28 or Harbin Z-9 helicopterdepending on mission requirements. Type 054A FFGs will likely be deployed aspart of naval flotillas stationed on a rotational basis at the PLAN naval basein Djibouti, and eventually at Gwadar, Pakistan. They will also be used topolice the long maritime supply lines to and from China to strategic waterwaysnear the Horn of Africa and the Straits of Hormuz, as well as continuingpatrols in the South China and East China Seas.


New Nuclear Submarines


Without a doubt one of the segments ofChinese defense strategy most shrouded in mystery are the attack submarines andballistic missile submarines of the PLAN. They are very rarely a topic ofdiscussion by government officials, either on or off the record. What is knownis that the PLAN has a newer SSN and SSBN in service. China’s submarinetechnology has run behind that of both the United States and Russia fordecades, but China has been rapidly closing the gap in recent years. It is nosecret that Chinese espionage efforts to acquire U.S. submarine warfaretechnology have been very active, and quite successful over the past decade inparticular.


The most capable nuclear attack submarine(SSN) in service with the PLAN is the Type 093B. A notable improvement over theType 093, it has the capability to fire submarine launched cruise missiles(SLCM) while submerged via a dorsal mounted VLS. Like its predecessor, the Type093, it retains the ability to fire SLCMs from its bow torpedo tubes. This isaccomplished by using a specifically designed torpedo tube missile canister. Itis not known how many Type 093B SSNs are currently in service, but mostanalysts, including those at the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, put thenumber at six. Of greater interest is the newer SSN that is either currentlybeing fitted out or is undergoing sea trials later this year, the Type 095.


The Type 095 is an SSN, but reportedly hasa sizeable VLS (12-16 cells) which can fire a multitude of PLAN missilesincluding anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) and land attack cruise missiles(LACM). The U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence has classified the Type 095 as anuclear attack guided missile submarine (SSGN) due to its large missilecapacity. The Type 095 is thought to utilize pump-jet propulsion, make use ofnoise reducing technologies, and a hybrid pressure hull design.


The Type 094 Jin Class nuclear ballisticmissile submarine has also undergone a noticeable transformation, resulting inwhat has been renamed the Type 094A. Improvements to the new variant include alarger VLS aft of the conning tower, a more streamlined shape which producesless noise and cavitation while submerged, likely greater speed submerged (lesshydrodynamic drag), and a new ballistic missile armament. The Type 094A is mostlikely equipped with the next generation JL-2A submarine launched ballisticmissile (SLBM). The JL-2A is based on the DF-31, and has an estimated maximumrange of 11,200 kilometers (6,960 miles). The JL-2A is likely equipped with amultiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) warhead. The PLANlikely has between four and six Type 094/094A class SSBNs in service. TheseSSBNs serve as the third leg of the nuclear deterrent triad that China lackedfor so many years, and the 094A offers China a viable second strike capability.The Type 096 SSBN currently being designed will
offer notable improvements overthe 094A SSBN, yet little is known about the project.

094型弹道导弹核潜艇也经过了明显的改进,命名为094A,改进包括龟背后部更大的垂直发射系统,外形更加流线型,这能降低噪声。在水中潜航时,速度会更快。094A型最有可能配备下一代巨浪-2A潜射弹道导弹。巨浪-2A是由东风31衍生出来的,估计最大射程为11200公里。巨浪-2A很可能装备有多弹头。中国海军目前可能有4到6艘094 /094A在服役。这些弹道导弹核潜艇是中国多年来缺乏的三位一体核威慑能力的第三个支柱,094A为中国提供了可靠的二次打击能力。目前正在设计的096将比094A更加先进,但对该项目消息很少。

The Sixth and Final Type 071 LPD?


The final Type 071 Class LPD of theoriginal order of six vessels was launched at the Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard onJanuary 20th of this year. The fifth vessel was launched just 7 months prior.It remains unknown if the PLAN will decide to order additional LPDs of thisclass, or will concentrate instead on the larger Type 075 LHDs currently underconstruction at the same shipyard which constructed all six Type 071 LPDs.

今年1月20日, 6艘071级两栖登陆舰中的最后一艘在沪东船厂下水,第5艘是在7个月前下水的。中国是将追加建造071,或者是集中精力于正在建造中的075级,目前还不清楚。沪东中华造船厂建造了全部6艘071.

It is logical to conclude that China maydecide to build additional Type 071 LPDs, but this will depend perhaps on howlong it takes to construct, launch and commission the first of the new class ofLHDs. With six LPDs in service, after the final two vessels are finallycommissioned, the PLAN will always have at least two of them ready to deploy asthe backbone of a small Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). A PLAN ARG would likelyconsist of at least one Type 071 LPD, 2 Type 072 LSTs and a surface warfareescort of a mix of DDGs and FFGs.



The All Important Support Vessels


China signaled to the world that it fullyintended to field aircraft carrier battle groups (CBG) in the near future whenit launched the first Type 901 Fast Combat Support Ship in December of 2015.Built by Guangzhou Shipyard International Company Ltd. (GSI), the first vesselin this class Hulun Hu (hull # 965), commissioned in September of 2017 aftersuccessful sea trials and UNREP trails, bears the distinction of being the onlyfast combat support ship fielded by a nation other than the United States,which operates the Sacramento and Supply Class vessels. These massive underwayreplenishment ships are designed to be able to meet the logistics needs of fastmoving carrier battle/strike groups.


The Type 901 is a massive vessel, with afully loaded displacement of 48,000 tons. The disclosed cruising speed is inexcess of 25 knots, which is likely understated. It is equipped with a largeaircraft hangar and flight deck that can accommodate large Z-8 heavy transporthelicopters which are well suited to aerial replenishment duties. A second Type901 is currently in an advanced state of construction.


The PLAN also operates the Type 903 andType 903A Class fleet replenishment vessels. The Type 903 was greatly improvedand took on the designation Type 903A with the first two examples commissionedin the summer of 2013. There are six Type 903A replenishment ships on activeservice, and a seventh currently in an advanced state of construction. Thesevessels have a fully loaded displacement of approximately 24,000 tons and cancarry 10,500 tons of bunkers (fuel), 250 tons of potable water, and roughly 700tons of dry cargo.


By 2025, the PLAN will have a robust navallogistics arm available to support naval operations across the length andbreadth of the Maritime Silk Road. Two Type 901 fast combat supports ships, and9 Type 903A replenishment ships will be available at a minimum. Four Type 904general stores issue vessels are currently in service to resupply islandgarrisons and offshore bases. This number may be increased in the interveningyears.


Fleet replenishment vessels are a vitalcomponent of a blue water navy. They allow fleet task forces, carrier battlegroups and amphibious ready groups to engage in complex missions thousands ofmiles from home ports and over extended periods of duration. They replenishfuel, food stores, fresh water and munitions to warships while underway, andcan provide a rapid logistics solution to both naval and land forces deployedto far flung bases and garrisons. These vessels are indispensable to aircraftcarrier battle groups engaged in long deployments.


The rapid pace of warship construction byChina is impressive from an engineering and manufacturing standpoint, but ofgreater interest is in understanding the motivation behind such an ambitiousprogram. Why has the Chinese leadership decided that the PLAN must expand andacquire a full spectrum of naval warfare capabilities that it has previouslylacked, and in such a short space of time? The answer to this question becomesclear after a short analysis of China’s geopolitical, economic and nationalsecurity goals in the twenty-first century.



Of equal interest is the question of justhow the U.S. Navy will look in 2025. It will still be the largest and mostpowerful navy in terms of global reach and power projection; however, it is amilitary branch that seems to be without focus or direction. The PLAN hasincreasingly invested in high tech, powerful and flexible conventional warshipsthat are also cost effective when compared to the new designs pursued by theU.S. Navy. Even the Type 002 aircraft carrier is a conservative design, with alimited mission foreseen for it, one which will minimize its weaknesses andmake use of its strengths. It is telling that China has built the largestsurface warfare ship since the U.S. commissioned the last Ticonderoga Classcruiser Port Royal CG-73 in 1994. The U.S. has no plans to replace the 22Ticonderoga Class cruisers anytime soon, nor is there a replacement design toconsider. The Gerald R. Ford Class CVN-78 has proven to be a costly anddisappointing investment so far. It will use the F-35 JSF and F-18 Super Hornetwhich lack the range to be a threat to peer adversaries. The Zumwalt Class DDGis a dead end failure and the troubled LCS program has proven to be lesscapable than the traditional multi-purpose frigate designs of other majornavies.


While the U.S. has wasted its great wealthon failed designs, whose sole aim is to earn profits for a defense industrymore interested in profit-generating waste than in producing weapons systemsthat balance capability, efficiency and cost effectiveness, China has donesomething quite different. China has produced cutting edge warships andaircraft for its navy that are largely improvements upon proven designs andtechnology. China has made major progress in missile technology, surpassing theU.S. in many respects. It has also reaped rewards from years of investment inresearch and development of advanced radar and even photon detectiontechnologies. There is no doubt that China has gotten far more return on itsinvestments in terms of its defense industry in comparison to the UnitedStates. For the military defense complex that rules the United States the goalis profit, not the defense and security of the nation.


From 2001 to the present, the United Statesmilitary has morphed into a force obsessed with counterinsurgency andoccupation, leaving it woefully unprepared for a conventional conflict withpeer adversaries, such as Russia or China. The U.S. Navy has transformed into aglobal police force meant to be used as a stick to bludgeon any small nationthat dares to disobey the diktats of Washington. Its powerful aircraft carrierstrike groups (CSG) lack the air wing capable of striking the shores ofpowerful adversaries, rendering these great symbols of U.S. power impotentagainst any capable foe in a major conflict. The U.S. Navy is powerless tochange the strategic situation in the South China Sea through military means,as China has already “crossed the Rubicon”. Imperial hubris, corruption andarrogance have done greater damage to the U.S. military than any foreignadversary has over the past 17 years.


The year 2025 will witness a PLAN in ascentand a U.S. Navy in decline. This is not to say that the U.S. Navy will notstill be the preeminent naval power globally, but it will continue to be miredin a lack of strategic direction, focus and budgetary crisis. The PLAN will beguided by a clear strategic focus, increasing capabilities, and a robustshipbuilding and weapons acquisition program. There is no doubt that the PLANwill emerge as the second most powerful navy in the world, and will exertsignificant influence in both military and geostrategic terms.