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China’s Naval Expansion

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No slowdown for China’s Navy aspirations | Defense news

--- Quote ---Melbourne, Australia — China’s carrier aviation programs continue apace with the focus starting to shift toward the development and introduction of training and specialized aircraft as China’s first domestically built carrier approaches the start of sea trials.

The reported decision to proceed with China’s version of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System will also have an impact on these programs, and will allow China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN, to operate a wider variety of aircraft from onboard its carriers, allowing it to have better-rounded carrier air wings and enhance its capabilities.

Flying Shark growth

Currently, the PLAN only has a single type of fixed-wing carrierborne aircraft in service. This is the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark multirole fighter. The J-15 is one of several Chinese-developed derivatives of Russia’s Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker family. Like the land-based J-11 and J-16, the J-15s are equipped with indigenous avionics and weapons, although the engines are still the Russian Saturn AL-31 turbofans.

Approximately two dozen J-15s have been produced so far in two production batches, and these are currently only able to operate from the ski jump-equipped Liaoning aircraft carrier and the Type 002 carrier being fitted out in the city of Dalian.
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Related topics:
* J-15 Flying Shark
* Indigenous carrier

China signals intent to build nuclear-powered aircraft carriers | Janes - 05 March 2018

--- Quote ---China intends to build nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, a report published on 28 February in the Global Times newspaper suggests.

The state-owned paper quoted an article posted on the website of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) referring to the country’s need to “speed up the process of making technological breakthroughs in nuclear-powered aircraft carriers”.
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China’s Naval Buildup Is a Real Challenge to the U.S. Navy’s Dominance | WPR - July 30, 2018

--- Quote ---While the United States Navy struggles to figure out if, how and when it can expand the size of its combat fleet by 47 ships—a 15 percent increase—China continues to crank out around a dozen new large warships a year. In May, the busy shipyard in the port city Dalian put to sea China’s second aircraft carrier, following up on that milestone two months later by simultaneously launching two Type 055-class cruisers. With the U.S. Navy being the only other fleet to operate a large number of vessels of such size and capability, the pace and scale of production at Chinese shipyards is a sign of Beijing’s desire for a fleet commensurate with its perceived status as a great power.

Although the Chinese navy attracts considerable international attention when it launches a new aircraft carrier, smaller-scale vessels generate almost no interest. As a result, much of China’s naval buildup occurs under the radar. In a sense, this is understandable. Chinese state media rarely gloats about the lower-profile naval developments, and the speed of new naval construction makes it impractical for both the Chinese and international media to report on each completed warship. That can obscure just how comprehensive and expansive China’s naval buildup has been.

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Until the early 2000s, China was incapable of designing and building technologically competitive warships, which meant that China’s naval construction primarily posed a quantitative challenge to its rivals. Today, Chinese warships increasingly feature world-class designs and equipment, adding a strong qualitative dynamic to its naval expansion. The Type 055-class cruiser, for example, features 112 large multirole missile launchers that can carry everything from ballistic missile defense interceptors to cruise missiles capable of striking both land and maritime targets located over 1,000 kilometers away. For targeting, the ship relies on several powerful radars. The Type 055-class cruiser could serve as the flagship of a highly capable escort squadron for China’s new fleet of aircraft carriers.

Training standards for Chinese naval personnel were once questioned in the past, but China has made considerable strides here as well in recent years. The Chinese navy increasingly conducts more realistic combat exercises that improve its ability to make the most of its new equipment. Altogether, across various metrics, the Chinese navy has addressed qualitative gaps as well as vital, if somewhat unglamorous, areas such as logistics to improve its capabilities.

China’s naval buildup may no longer be a new phenomenon, but even seasoned observers struggle to keep pace with its dramatic advances. The U.S. Navy, for one, has long kept a close eye on China’s naval expansion, publishing useful reports in 2009 and 2015. As a testament to the pace of change, the most recent report is already outdated, and the Chinese navy continues to pass new milestones. China recently became the first country to test an electro-magnetic railgun at sea, which may provide future Chinese warships with a definitive edge.
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Predicting the Chinese Navy of 2030 | The Diplomat - February 15, 2019

--- Quote ---Predictions for the Chinese Navy’s (People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN) growth have often focused on the quantitative number of ships or submarines. Even recent commentary surrounding the PLAN describes it as the “world’s largest navy” in terms of the number of ships fielded, rather than using more sensible metrics such as tonnage. A 22 class fast missile boat and an 052D class destroyer are both counted as “one” ship, but the difference between a 220 ton craft and a 7,000 ton surface combatant is significant.

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Destroyers and Frigates

The growth of Chinese surface combatants in recent years has greatly enhanced the PLAN’s overall profile. The emergence of the 055 class destroyer and high production rates of 055 and 052D class destroyers at two major shipyards have greatly changed the projections of future PLAN surface combatant composition from as a recently as a couple of years ago.

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Overall, the growth of PLAN destroyer production has made various past numerical projections obsolete. In the book Chinese Naval Shipbuilding – an Ambitious and Uncertain Course, a “maximal scenario” 2030 forecast for the PLAN predicted 34 destroyers, 68 frigates, and 26 corvettes in service. Needless to say, the destroyer projections appear to have been somewhat underestimated, and corvette prediction completely off the mark, while frigates were exaggerated. Considering the book was published in late 2015 – at a time when 052D production at two shipyards had only begun, as well as a year and a half before the first 055 was launched, and when 056 production was difficult to track – such numbers were not unreasonable for the time.


The situation for PLAN submarines, both nuclear (SSNs, SSBNs) and diesel electric (SSKs) are somewhat more uncertain. It is virtually confirmed that new types of each category are due to emerge in coming years, namely the 09V SSN, the 09VI SSBN, and the 039C SSK.

However the exact number of boats currently in service is unknown. It is thought that anywhere between six to nine 09III SSNs of different variants may exist, as well as two to three older 091 SSNs. Up to five 09IV SSBNs may also exist. The status of the original 092 SSBN is unknown. Over 12 of the newest 039A/B class SSKs are in service, as well as 13 039 class SSKs, 12 Kilo class SSKs, and anywhere up to 16 035 class SSKs which are very much obsolete and likely in the process of being retired.

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The very opaque nature of Chinese submarine production means it is difficult to make even a medium term projection; however a very cautious estimate of the new facility producing one SSN per year and one SSBN every two years introduces an additional eight SSNs in service and three to four SSBNs in service by 2030. But it should be cautioned that if the technological maturity and capability of upcoming nuclear submarines are deemed satisfactory, a ramp up of production may occur to take advantage of the new facility’s overall potential. In such a situation, by 2030 anywhere up to 30-40 new SSNs might be launched for three to four per year, though it is not currently judged to be imminent.


Whichever option is taken, it is likely that the PLAN will have four carriers in service by 2030, made up of CV-16, 002, and 003, with the fourth being either a second 003 pattern carrier or perhaps a nuclear carrier. Depending on PLAN confidence in key technologies and their overall carrier experience, it is also possible for additional carriers to be ordered more quickly, with a most high end ceiling of five to six carriers in service by 2030.

Amphibious Assault

It is difficult to predict the size of the PLAN’s future combined LPD and LHD fleet because PLAN procurement of 071 class ships has been somewhat irregular, with multiyear gaps between batches. It is unknown if such procurement practice will continue into the 2020s; however Hudong’s production of the last three 071 hulls has shown that a one ship per year launch rate can be comfortably sustained. Assuming that the larger 075 class LPD takes correspondingly longer (let’s say overall 1.5 years) to launch one ship, and assuming that production capacity is not expanded, a reasonable LPD and LHD fleet by 2030 would consist of eight 071 class LPDs and three 075 LHDs in service. In other words, such a fleet would consist of the present number of 071s and 075s confirmed or rumored to have been ordered. This could be achieved by 2026, with the eight 071 LPDs commissioned by 2020-2021. However, if additional orders are placed – a very reasonable notion considering the overall trajectory of PLAN procurement – anywhere up to 12 LPDs and five to six LHDs may be achievable by 2030. If the PLAN “only” achieves the conservative estimate, the combined amphibious assault capability would rank second largest in the world after the U.S. Navy, even disregarding the PLAN’s 25-30 strong fleet of the 072 family of landing ships which displace approximately 5,000 tons each.

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In summary, an early 2019 prediction for PLAN ships in service by 2030 are broken down as such:

* 16-20 055/A destroyers (12,000 ton category)
* 36-40 052D/E destroyers (7,000 ton category)
* 40-50 054A/B frigates (4,000-5,000 ton category)
* Approximately 60 SSKs
* Anywhere from 16 or more SSNs (including six to eight existing SSNs)
* Anywhere from eight or more SSBNs (including four to five existing SSBNs)
* At least four aircraft carriers (two ski jump, two catapult)
* At least eight 071 LPDs (25,000 ton category)
* At least three 075 LHDs (36,000 ton category)

Of the above, frigates, SSNs, SSBNs, and carriers are currently the most difficult to predict, with the most margin for error.
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--- Quote ---Analysis: China seeks to dominate the seas
12th August 2019 - 01:00 GMT

With a fast-growing compound annual growth rate of 5.3%, China has 29 ongoing and forecast procurement programmes covering at least 250 vessels as it looks to increase influence abroad. A high priority has been placed on the development of aircraft carriers and the modernisation of its submarine force, while Beijing is also procuring a number of destroyers and shorter-range fast-patrol craft.

One of China’s major strategic priorities is the development of its aircraft carrier capability from a long-held ambition to manufacture a fleet of carriers that will rival the US Navy and increase overseas influence.

To this end, China developed its first indigenously built aircraft carrier, the Type 001A, built in Dalian and launched in April 2017. The ship is due to enter service in 2020 and is a milestone for China’s military extending its capability far beyond its shores. The development of the next-generation aircraft carriers, the Type 002 and Type 003, which began construction at Jiangnan by China State Shipbuilding Corporation in February 2017 and December 2017 respectively, are expected to be the country’s largest programme with a total spend of around US$11 billion.

Another significant focus area for China is in the development of nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), with as many as four programmes expected to result in cumulative spending of over $27.6 billion until 2029. These include four Type 094 Jin class, which provided the PLAN with its first basic but effective sea-based nuclear deterrent capability.

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The first of China’s new Type 055 Renhai-class destroyers, dubbed a cruiser by the US for its multi-mission capabilities, entered service this year. As one of the largest class of ships in the PLAN, its main role is to escort the PLAN's future carriers as China establishes a full carrier battle group. The full initial batch is estimated at eight. China is also currently building 21 Type 052D Luyang III class destroyers with 10 currently in service, five launched and a further six under construction. These form the bulk of the PLAN modern destroyer fleet.

While these add to China’s blue-water capability, the Type 056 corvette, which acts as a patrol platform, first entered service in 2013, with 41 now delivered out of 60. These have asserted Beijing’s interests in the South China and East China Seas.

As China continues its rapid naval power expansion and modernisation of its fleet, the nation is still a long way off being able to deploy a working carrier in operations. That said, the considerable effort being put into development of the ships does mean a credible blue-water force will become reality in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, the corvettes offer China maritime superiority in the waters closest to its coast.
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