Bluffer's Guide: China

Kunal Biswas

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2. Nuclear deterrence

The mainstay of Chinese nuclear deterrence is land based mobile ICBMs, but the PLAN has long harbored the desire to carry its load of the burden. The first ballistic missile submarine was a sole Golf class diesel boat built with Russian assistance. The boat never became operational, instead being a testing boat for subsequent designs.



The Golf class boat was widely reported inactive but has recently be refitted, probably to assist in the JL-2 ballistic missile program. Due to its limited endurance and stealth the boat is unsuitable for operational employment except from Chinese waters from where, with JL-2s, it could hit Australia, Japan, Taiwan and some Russian and US overseas/Alaskan targets, but not mainland US. Compared to modern SSBNs to golf only carries two missiles verses a more typical load of 16.

The Golf was superseded by the altogether more modern Type-092 Xia class, with nuclear power and a hull form not unlike contemporary British and French SSBNs. The Xia class was comparatively unreliable and rarely ventured out of Chinese waters, it's relatively short ranged JL-1 missiles not posing a serious threat relative to other SSBNs of the 1980s. Two boats were launched but one was lost and only one remains. This was reported out of service but has recently been refitted, repainted and as far as we can tell, returned to service possibly with upgraded missiles. The remaining Xia Class boat is ported near Qingdao:

 

Kunal Biswas

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Reports that the Xia class boat has been converted to a cruise missile carrier are interesting but unconfirmed.

The follow-on to the Xia class is the Type-094 Jin class SSBN. Compared to the Xia class these are of a similar design but significantly longer with the missiles placed further aft, and general improvements. The boats are overall comparable to Western SSBNs such as the French Le Triomphant class, although a notable characteristic is the older-generation conventional screw propulsion rather than the increasingly common pump-jet arrangement.






At least two boats have been commissioned with a total of 5 expected. Armed with just 12 SLBMs the Jin's continue to carry fewer missiles than their western and Russian contemporaries, but the reported 8,000km range of the JL-2 is very formidable. It is unconfirmed as to whether they have MIRVs.

8,000km is not far enough however to hit mainland US from Chinese waters.



In order to threaten mainland US targets the Jin would have to make it past the formidable submarine tracking assets of US forces in the region (we can speculate bases in Guam, the tip of Alaska and Hawaii) and other 'western' allies such as Japan, South Korea, Australia and Taiwan. In essence the Chinese naval bases are every bit as 'encircled' by Western forces as the Soviets were, however unlike the Russians they cannot escape under the ice of the North Pole. China's natural "bastion" is the Bohai Gulf to the west of Dalian, where we can reason that Chinese subs are relatively safe, but this does not offer the range advantage inherent of ocean-going submarine operations.

Perhaps a more likely operational patrol might be sailing south into the deep water of the South China Sea, or carefully sneaking into the Gulf of Thailand or Java Sea to target India from another less predictable angle, perhaps circumventing India's growing anti-ballistic missile defences. There are reports of Type-094 SSBNs porting at the new submarine base on Hainan in southern China which lends itself to this latter scenario.
 

Kunal Biswas

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3. Submarines

As well as the modest force of SSBNs described above, PLAN has a relatively large and increasingly modern submarine fleet of both nuclear and conventional attack boats. These are of both Chinese and Russian designs and all could be modified to carry land attack cruise missiles, which China almost certainly has the technology for, if desired. Since around 2000 China has built several new submarine bases to accommodate the enhanced fleet.
 

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3.1 Nuclear Attack Submarines (SSN)

5 x Type-091 'Han' Class
2 + (est 5) x Type-093 'Shang' class

The primary SSNs of the PLAN are the Type-093 Shang Class boats. These are generally thought to be equivalent of early Los Angeles class American SSNs and pose a serious threat to even the most modern adversary, especially with recent years of neglect in ASW circles. The PLAN has been using its submarines more aggressively, or rather more confidently, lately with high-profile incidents such as trailing US carrier battle groups. In this game, the Shang's are China's most potent submarines. Specifications and armament are not known but probably includes supercavitating torpedoes(Russian VA-111 Shkval-E) and anti-ship missiles, and possibly land attack cruise missiles. All torpedo tubes are mounted in the bow.



The Shangs are supported by 4 aging Han class. These were China's first generation SSNs and share much in common with the Type-092 Xia class SSBN. A 5th Han has been retired as the newer Shangs join the line. The Hans are 1970s designs but remain a credible threat and satellite imagery confirms at least one boat undergoing refit recently which may include unknown upgrades.

 

Kunal Biswas

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3.2 Conventional attack submarines (SSK)

4+ x Type-041A/B Yuan class
10 x Type 636 'Kilo' class
2 x Type 877-EKM 'Kilo' class
16 x Type-039/G/G1 Song class
10-15 Type-035 Ming class (retiring/reserve?)
5-8 Type-033 'Romeo' class (retiring)

The most formidable SSK in Chinese service is the indigenous Type-041 Yuan class boat, which is clearly based on the Russian Kilo class but with extensive modifications similar to Russia's own Kilo follow-on, the Lada class. The Yuan differs most noticeably in sail-mount hydroplanes and more conventional tail. The Yuan is also reported to have an air-independent propulsion system similar to those on the latest western SSKs for quieter running. There are two distinct models, -A & -B, with future boats expected to feature pump-jet propulsion.



The Yuans serve along side a large fleet of Russian designed Kilo class submarines.



The Kilos are known to carry Shkval rocket-torpedoes and Club anti-ship cruise missiles, and represent a very potent striking force within the confines of Chinese littorals. The main base for PLAN Kilos is near the town of Qiangtouzhen south of Shanghai.

 

Kunal Biswas

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The other modern SSKs of the PLAN are the Type-039 and Type-039G/G1 Song Class. These were built in the mid 1990s to present and show French influence, but also some characteristics of the older Romeo and Ming class boats.



The original Songs featured a stepped sail similar to the Mings, but more recent boats of the 'G' and 'G1' variants have a more conventional sail to reduce noise.





China also operates a number of increasingly obsolete Ming and Romeo class diesel boats. The Mings are improved Romeo class produced in China but from a modern perspective are virtually inseparable. Most of the Romeos have now been retired and the Mings may be following suit.

 

Kunal Biswas

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China is not reported to employ any midget submarines but they cannot be ruled out. There were some midget submarines in the past, possibly prototypes, and one sub may be visible in Google Earth.

 

Kunal Biswas

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4. Missile Boat Menace

4.1 Type-022 stealth


China maintains the world's largest fleet of missile boats, rivaled numerically only by Iran. The backbone of the PLAN missile boat flotillas is the extremely modern, and potent, Type-022 'Houbei' class stealth catamaran.



he biggest deal about the Type-022 is not its stealth, or its innovative wave-piercing catamaran hull, or its powerful anti-ship punch; it's that there are around 70 of these boats in service!

The Type-022 has program has maintained relative secrecy with no official figures of the number of boats ordered, and most observer's estimates are around 40 hulls. My analysis suggests a figure higher still. The Type-022s rarely have hull numbers painted on them, but the Chinese have inadvertently assisted the most dedicated amateur analysts by painting each in a unique camouflage scheme – no two boats are painted the same! So someone with a enough patience could filter through the masses of photos of these boats and catalogue the 'signature' camouflage, thus allowing a reasoned estimate of force strength. I am that sad, although I gave up after the first few hundred photos! I've identified 64 distinct profiles.

The boats were also produced in Guangzhou starting in 2005/6.



Each Type-022 boat carries 8 x JY-83 anti-ship missiles. These have a range of about 200km with external targeting, or about 18-25km when relying on the boat's onboard radar for targeting (depending on size of target. Calculation using http://radarproblems.com/calculators/horizon.htm)
External targeting is more probable, certainly in optimal employment, and the Type-022 has various sensors including a stealthy fold-down datalink antenna. Variants of this missile are generally claimed to have been responsible for the striking of Israel's corvette Ahi Hanit off the Lebanese coast in July 2006, although that was possibly a much smaller missile.



Operationally the Type-022 appears to operate using pack tactics with four or more boats. With each boat carrying 8 missiles, that equates to up to 32 anti-ship missiles per attack. Saturation attacks have long been discussed but are obviously hard to pull-off and have never been employed in a real war. Type-022 appears to be built and operated with such attacks in mind. A typical Type-022 base has at least 8 boats based there, such as this one:

 

Kunal Biswas

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The Type-022 compares favorably to other missile boats in many respects. Of particular relevance is the new Kuang Hua IV class of the Taiwanese navy. On paper these are also stealthy, though less so than the Type-022. Stealth is such a large part of Type-022's design that even small details like the windows have RCS reducing saw-tooth edges.The Kuang Hua is significantly smaller, particularly in internal volume, and less well armed in both anti-ship missiles (4 x HF-II) and guns (1-2 crewed 20mm guns or more commonly 2 crewed .50cal machine guns).


Although the 30mm AK-630 CIWS is reasonably effective against aircraft and missiles at point range, it has a limited arc of fire the Type-022 lacks any air-defences at the rear:



Generally there is a school of thought that missile boats are not a serious threat to 'real' navies. One popular theory propagated by the Royal Navy is that the missile boats would be easily sunk by shipboard helicopters before they could get within range of launching their missiles. This is a valid argument for a RN frigate operating in the Arabian Sea, approached by Iranian boats. Indeed RN Lynx helicopters armed with Sea Skua missiles proved very effective in both the Falklands and Gulf wars. But this argument appears less convincing when the Type-022 is taken as the adversary. It is relatively stealthy, operating in littorals, employing data links to achieve long range targeting and deployed in huge quantities. It's also worth remembering that in a scenario where China was facing a major navy (even Taiwan's) the opposing helicopter force would be subject to distraction of submarine hunting, and quite possibly air-supremacy. Most countries do not equip their shipboard helicopters with anti-ship missiles anyway.

Regardless of the above assessment, many observers regard the Type-022 as a doctrinal dinosaur, a hang-over from the PLAN's Soviet influenced strategies of the past and that PLAN should only be spending on blue-water assets. An interesting perspective worth thinking about.

I created a model of Type-022 missile boat for Google Earth, it's far from perfect but if you are curious you can Download it HERE
 

Kunal Biswas

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4.2 Other missile boats

In the 1990s many observers expected the Type 520T HOUJIAN class (aka Type-037-II) missile boats to be the next major production FAC (Fast Attack Craft) of the PLAN. Only 5 were eventually built, of which one was nearly sunk in a collision and had to be extensively rebuilt. These boats are larger than previous PLAN missile boats and carried 6 YJ-8 series anti-ship missiles (probably YJ-82). The vessels also have heavier anti-air weaponry than previous designs with two twin 30mm AAA and one twin 37mm gun.



One vessel was fitted with a Russian AK-176 76mm gun, and another tested the FL-2000 SAM system. The vessels are based in Hong Kong and Guangzhou on rotation.





The PLAN also operates a large fleet of Type 037-IG (Houxin Class) Missile Corvettes which are essentially Type-037I (Haijiu class) sub-chasers with YJ-8 series anti-ship missiles bolted onto the stern. The Type-037I was produced in much larger quantities than the more advanced but contemporary Type-037-II described above, with 18 in service with the PLAN. All are serving with the Southern fleet.




The PLAN also has a large number of obsolete Soviet-era Osa class missile boats (locally produced as Type 021 Huangfeng) and Type-024 Houku class boats (based on Soviet Komar class). All are retired or in reserve and do not pose a credible threat in today's battlefield.
 

Maharana

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Good Lord, have they made anything which is not a spin-off. I mean, c'mon this is unbelieveable, they claim to be a superpower in the making....
 

Kunal Biswas

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Good Lord, have they made anything which is not a spin-off. I mean, c'mon this is unbelieveable, they claim to be a superpower in the making....
Have you gone through the thread..
 

RedDragon

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Do you have any informantion about Indian's air defence of the big cities?
 

Kunal Biswas

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That is not about Indian SAM network rather IAF SAM Network..
 

shiphone

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protecting the city is the mission of point air defense, of course it is the IAF's resposibility. and as I said , indian city lost the SAM field when the IAF SA-2 retired. we will see how it changed when the new LR-SAM introduced.

the AD Force in IA is field air defense force...
 

Kunal Biswas

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protecting the city is the mission of point air defense, of course it is the IAF's resposibility. and as I said , indian city lost the SAM field when the IAF SA-2 retired. we will see how it changed when the new LR-SAM introduced.

the AD Force in IA is field air defense force...
Where from this information you have about IAF is responsible for Cities ?

IAF also Army both are responsible for such defense as per reqirments....
 

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