The Chinese are preparing to deploy submarines armed with nuclear missiles that will patrol the northern Pacific Ocean and come within range of at least two US states, according to a new report from the US Navy.
The US Naval Institute (USNI) reported that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has tapped the Jin-class nuclear ballistic submarines to begin patrols in 2014. The subs will carry intercontinental range missiles that are thought to have a range of no less than 14,000 kilometers (8,699 miles) and can deliver a single or multiple warheads.
“With a range in excess of 4,000 [nautical miles], the JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM), will enable the JIN to strike Hawaii, Alaska and possibly western portions of CONUS from East Asian waters,” Office of Naval Intelligence Officer Jesse Karotkin wrote in his testimony last month to the US China Economic Security Review Commission.
The new Jin-class Type 094 submarines are a technological marvel when compared to the Type 092 class that the PLAN has traditionally relied upon. Weighing 11,000 tons when fully submerged, the Navy sees this development as proof that the Chinese “want to get more on par with Western countries.”
“The three JIN [ballistic missile submarines] currently in service would be insufficient to maintain a constant at-sea presence for extended periods of time, but if the PLA Navy builds five units as some sources suggest, a continuous peacetime presence may become a viable option for the PLAN,” Karotkin noted.
Karotkin explained in his report that a number of factors have forced China to modernize its Navy, which now has more than 60 submarines, 55 medium and large amphibious ships, roughly 77 principal surface ships, and nearly 100 other small craft.
“At the dawn of the 21st Century, the People’s Liberation Army Navy remained a largely littoral force. Though China’s maritime interests were rapidly changing, the vast majority of its naval platforms offered very limited capability and endurance, particularly in blue water. Over the past 15 years the PLAN has carried out an ambitious modernization effort, resulting in a more technologically advanced and flexible force,” he wrote, as quoted by USNI.org.
“This transformation is evident not only in the PLAN’s gulf of Aden counter-piracy presence, which is now in its sixth year, but also in the navy’s more advanced regional operations and exercises. In contrast to its narrow focus a decade ago, the PLAN is evolving to meet a wide range of missions including conflict with Taiwan, enforcement of maritime claims, protection of economic interests, as well as counter-piracy and humanitarian missions.”
China also proved it has updated other military forces last month when, according to the Pentagon, the PLAN flight-tested a hypersonic missile delivery vehicle capable of penetrating any existing defense system with nuclear warheads. The weapon is one that experts have hailed as a game-changer for its ability to hit a target with a nuclear warhead before defense systems can react.
The Pentagon confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon that the test flight had taken place but offered no further explanation. The US is the only country in the world known to have such a weapon in its arsenal.
“We routinely monitor foreign defense activities and we are aware of the test,” a spokesman said.