Submarine Matters provides an expanding database on submarines worldwide. Australia should contract in 2016 to only buy a batch of 6 Shortfins - then, in the 2030s, decide whether to buy: 6 more Shortfins or 6 Barracuda SSNs or 4 Virginia SSNs. With increasing numbers of Chinese, Russian and Indian SSNs in Australia's region Australia's Shortfins cannot attain any 2016 Defence White Paper goal of being "regionally superior". Australia would need to buy SSNs to be "superior".
January 2, 2014
Chinese SLBMs and DF-21D carrier killers, 2013
The area in yellow is the maximum claimed range of 3,000 km for the DF-21D anti-ship (and ASW?) "carrier killer" ballistic missile. A shorter claimed range of 1,450 km may be for a heavy warheads - see my final comments below. The outer perimeter of the yellow zone may be from launch points from coastal China, particularly Hainan Island. The physics of the DF-21D may mean it can't hit a target that is less than 100 km from launch point - see http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?id=20131213000003&cid=1101
This diagram of the DF-21D Guidance System includes remote radar on land, aircraft, drones, sea and satellite and sensors on the warhead itself. I maintain that the same sensor platforms and undersea sensors placed by China would also provide nuclear and conventional warhead DF-21Ds with an anti-submarine capability.
China's JL-2 (CSSNX-14) SLBM. Though it is China's main SLBM it was still under development in 2013.
terrorism and Iran and Pakistan's nuclear status US civilian and military intelligence are most interested in the
growth in capabilities of China’s military forces. This is because China’s
forces might pass US forces in size as China’s economy grows larger than the US
economy. China’s transition to becoming No.1 in military and economic size may
occur in the late 2020s or early 2030s. Whether China will be No.1 in military
capability during that period is also dependent on the quality of China’s
military personnel and technology. The degree of politically imposed
limitations will also influence capability as the red bolded section of the report
Below are excerpts from Hans M.
Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, Chinese nuclear forces, 2013, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists2013, Vol. 69, No. 6, pp. 79-85, http://bos.sagepub.com/content/69/6/79.full.pdf
They include some interesting comments regarding Chinese SSBNs, SLBMs, Chinese
area or sea denial DF-21D missiles that perform some of the anti-surface ship and ASW
functions of submarines. The red bolded section provides comments on the high degree of Communist Party Central Military Commission caution and political control concerning China's nuclear forces. This degree of control may handicap the capability of these forces during threats and actual nuclear war.
SSBNs and SLBMs
[p. 82] China has two types of
submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) developed for two types of
nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines: the JL-1 and JL-2. Neither missile
The 1,700-km-range, two-stage
JL-1 (CSS-NX-3) SLBM developed for a single old Xia-class (Type 092) submarine first
entered service in 1986 and is not considered operational. The Xia is based at
the North Fleet Base near Qingdao in the Shandong province. The submarine underwent
a lengthy shipyard overhaul in 2005-2006 but appears to have stayed in port
since then. The Xia/JL-1 weapon system is expected to be retired soon.
Development of the new JL-2
(CSSNX-14) SLBM for the second-generation Jin-class (Type 094) submarine is
nearing completion. After several setbacks,China appears to have overcome
[p. 83] technical difficulties
and successfully test-launched the JL-2 in 2012-2013. The US intelligence
community expects the JL-2 may reach initial operational capability in 2013 or
2014. [Endnote 5. The Pentagon predicts initial operational capability in 2013
(Defense Department, 2013), while the Defense Intelligence Agency (2013)
predicts initial operational capability in 2014.]
The JL-2 is a modified version of
the DF-31. Equipped with a single warhead and, possibly, penetration aids, the
JL-2 has never been flight-tested to its full range but is estimated to have a
range of 7,000-plus km. Such a range is sufficient to target Alaska, Guam,
Russia, and India from waters near China but unless the submarine sails
significantly eastward, not the continental United States.
Jin-class submarines are in service (without missiles), and the US
intelligence community speculates that China may build a total of five before proceeding
to develop a third-generation (Type 096) over the next decade.
With 12 missile-launch tubes per
submarine, three Jin-class boats could carry 36 missiles with an equal number
of warheads - a significant increase from the 12 SLBMs that the sole Xia-class
The Pentagon asserts that the
Jin/JL-2 weapon system “will give the PLA Navy its first credible sea-based
nuclear deterrent” (Defense Department, 2013: 6). While that may be true in
theory, a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine fleet faces several doctrinal,
technical, and operational constraints in practice. Under current doctrine, China’s Central Military Commission does not
allow the military services to have warheads deployed on missiles under normal
circumstances. Handing over custody of nuclear warheads to deployed submarines in
peacetime would constitute a significant change of Chinese doctrine.
no Chinese ballistic missile submarine has ever sailed on a deterrent patrol,
so China’s navy and the Central Military Commission have essentially no
experience in operating a submarine force during realistic military operations. Developing this
capability will require development of new command-and control technologies and
But even if China deployed
warheads on submarines and sent them to sea in a crisis, where would they sail?
For a JL-2 to reach the continental United States, a Jin-class submarine would
have to sail through the East China Sea and well into the Pacific Ocean,
through dangerous choke points where it would be vulnerable to hostile
antisubmarine warfare. [Endnote 6: Chinese nuclear submarines are apparently very
noisy (Kristensen, 2009b).]
China’s main concern is the
survivability of its minimum nuclear deterrent, and it spends considerable
resources on dispersing and hiding its land-based missiles. This makes its submarine
program puzzling, for it is much riskier to deploy nuclear weapons at sea,
where submarines can be sunk by unfriendly forces, than to deploy them on land.”
Anti-ship (and anti-submarine?) Missile
Comment - Chinese
area or sea denial MRBMs missiles perform some of the anti-surface ship and ASW
functions usually performed by submarines.
[p. 81] “China’s primary regional
nuclear missile is the two-stage, solid-fuel, road-mobile DF-21 (CSS-5) medium range
ballistic missile (MRBM). The DF-21 exists in two nuclear versions: the DF-21
(CSS-5 Mod 1) and the newer DF-21A (CSS-5 Mod2)… the new version probably has a
longer range of about 2,150 km.
China has also started deploying conventionally
armed versions of the DF-21 (the DF-21C, and the DF-21D which is an anti-ship
missile), a potentially dangerous mix of nuclear and conventional missiles that
creates risks of misunderstanding, miscalculation, and mistaken nuclear
escalation in a crisis. [Endnote 4: The Second Artillery's organization of DF-21s
is unclear, but it is thought that nuclear and conventional units are kept
separate. For insightful studies of China's missile force, see Stokes (2010)
and Stokes (2012).]”
The existence of the DF-21D MRBM may
reduce the need for rapid development of China’s conventional and nuclear
submarine forces (forces that are believed to be evolving slowly). The disparity of estimates of the DF-21D's range - from 1,450 km to 3,000 km may reflect Chinese political objectives or may be physical facts. 1,450 km may be the range with a heavy warhead (typically 1,500 kg) or for a "bus" of 3 MIRVed warheads. 3,000 km may the range for a light (typically 500 kg) warhead.