March 6, 2015

Misleading advice to US Congress on Chinese Submarine Numbers?

The US Navy has used 13 Chinese MING-class (Type 33 to 35A) training submarines (based on the German Type XXI U-Boat, 1945) to boost the Chinese submarine fleet to a threatening "more than 60" which means 61.
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The US Navy and the Pentagon have always been totally truthful in their advice to Congress or that is the ideal, anyway.   

The latest example are comments of a senior US Admiral in late February 25, 2015 who said  “[China's] submarine force has grown over a tremendous rate. They now have more diesel and nuclear attack submarines than we have so they’ve passed us in total quantity - but in quality they are still not there,”  

"but in quality they are still not there” is correct.  

Admiral M's use of flowery language - particularly China is building some "fairly amazing submarines" - should put any cynical politician on guard. 

So how many submarines does China have? The answer from the Pentagon is "more than 60"

The Pentagon's Annual Report to Congress: China Report 2014 (ever after called China Report 2014) reported on Page 7 "more than 60 submarines" and on Pages 7-8 actual submarines types and quantities were identified - which were less than 60. These were: 

-  3 JIN-class (Type 094) second generation SSBN. The JL-2 SLBM's are still being tested and PLAN doctrine suggests the JL-2s are not usually carried, for security and political reasons. 

-  SHANG-class (Type 093) second generation SSNs are in service,


-  HAN-class (Type 091) "aging" first generation SSNs  . These rely on 1960s technology. China Report 2014 does not specify numbers. However only 5 were built of which at least 1 is considered decommissioned.

-   12 YUAN-class SSP (called Type 039A or Type 041) as the 039A has very little resemblance to the 039 it is commonly referred to as the Type 041. The Type 039A/041 possibly has Stirling Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) sold to China by Sweden

-  13 SONG-class SS (Type 039)


-  12 KILO-class submarines acquired from Russia in the 1990s and 2000s

The China Report 2014 only details 46 submarines. 

Question: So how is "more than 60" derived?

Answer: reach 61 Chinese submarines (presumably) by adding:

-  13 MING-class (Type 033 to 035A). These are 1950's technology that are not mentioned in China Report 2014. They are used by China for training only. These are totally obsolete, being closely based on the 70 year old Russian ROMEO-class which in turn were based on Germany's Type XXI U-Boat of World War Two. Two of them may now be going to the navy of Bangladesh. Figure of 13 here. MINGs may be equivalent to US post-war GUPPY uprades. and

-  2  XIA-class (Type 092) SSBNs. They are 1970s technology and also are not mentioned in China Report 2014. One may be active. The other is considered lost in an accident.

So "more than 60" means 61. One of those 61 (a XIA) may be permanenetly submerged and two MINGs might soon be gifted to Bangladesh - hence 58 on publically known figures - and that is a stretch. 

Meanwhile "A spokeswoman said the U.S. Navy had 71 commissioned U.S. submarines." 

It should be left to the reader to assess whether Admiral M and the China Report 2014 are accurate or misleading.

FURTHER ANALYSIS


There is a vast gulf in quality and also availability of the US’s 52 all nuclear propelled attack submarines (SSNs) verses China’s 6 SSNs and 50 diesel-electric (SSKs). The US has paid a much higher price for nuclear submarines because they are of much higher quality overall than conventionally propelled submarines.

It is hard to measure quality but such measures like generation, displacement and crew size would be indicative.

Within the US submarine service the average US attack sub would be 5th Generation nuclear Los Angeles http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles-class_submarine of:
- 6,000 tons surfaced
- combined Blue/Gold crew size 2 x 130 = 260, giving it at least twice the availability of a one crew Chinese sub.

The average Chinese attack sub is 2nd generation diesel/electric Song Class http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_039_submarine .
- probably 2,000 tons surfaced
- crew of 60.

In terms of number of US attack subs this US Navy Fact File of August 2014  http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4100&tid=100&ct=4
 indicates about 53 SSNs, including:

  3     Seawolf
41-2  Los Angeles (maybe 2 less since Aug 2014?)
11     Virginias (including North Dakota commissioned Oct 2014)
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53 Attack submarines nuclear (SSN)

14 Ohio SSBN
  4 Ohio SSGN
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71 Total US Submarines

This is verses a total of 61 Total Chinese submarines - of which 56 or 57 may be attack subs.

A small number of Chinese submariners would have gained experience on the two 2nd Generation Shang class SSNs.

Some USN submariners may have gained experience on SSKs of US allies.

A good comment on the pattern of US Navy-Pentagon fear mongering is here.

Pete

4 comments:

Vigilis said...

Hi Pete
Another intriguing post with abundant use of facts.

In defense of Vice Admiral Mulloy's telling a Senate hearing China now has more "attack submarines" than the U.S., I would like to clarify the underlying number of U.S. active subs.

From 71 total active subs (if that is still accurate) 14 SSBNs and 4 SSGNs must be deductted. Moreover any recent additions to the eventual SSN recycling program must also be subtracted.

The number of U.S. "attack subs" is currently closer to 49-50 depending upon actual decommissioning and deactivation dates, which events have rarely been reported publicly in a wide or timely fashion.

However, I find fault in the admiral's testimony if he failed to mention the most glaring element of quality in China's submarine corps. Training deficiencies of China's nuclear submariners can only be overcome from sufficient experience and training of known mistakes.

China is hardly on a par with U.S. submariners, none of whom ever had to serve one day on a simple diesel sub nor had the advantage of training based upon the experiences of dozens of now decommissioned and currently active SSNs. Right?

Regards,

Vigilis

Peter Coates said...

Hi Vigilis

Yes there is a vast gulf in quality and also availability.

Hard to measure quality but such measures like generation, displacement and crew size would be indicative.

Within the US all nuclear sub service the average US attack sub would be 5th Generation nuclear Los Angeles http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles-class_submarine. The US has paid the much higher price for nuclear subs for quality reasons.

- 6,000 tons surfaced
- combined Blue/Gold crew size 2 x 130 = 260, giving it at least twice the availability of a one crew Chinese sub.

The averagle Chinese attack sub is 2nd generation conventional Song Class http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_039_submarine sub.
- probably 2,000 tons surfaced,
- crew of 60.

In terms of number of US attack subs this US Navy Fact File of Aug 2014 http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4100&ct=4&tid=100 indicates:

about 52

- 3 Seawolf
- 41 Los Angeles (maybe 2 less since Aug?)
- 11 Virginias (including North Dakota commissioned Oct 2014)

This is verses 57 Chinese attack subs but one could subtract some of the aging Hans and Mings which may well have been retired.

A small number of Chinese would have gained experience on the two 2nd Generation Shang class SSNs.

Some USN sailors may have experience on SSKs of US allies.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Even if Chinese submarine technolgy is inferior to that of US, we shoud never underestimate China or Chinese people. They are really tough and brilliant, and make enormous efforts. In field of science and technology, Chinese people submit huge amount of articles including cutting- edge technologies, predicting their great success in future.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous

Maybe true. Chinese people and their submarines should not be underestimated. But equally the PRC should not underestimate America and Japan.

Japan and South Korea may produce nuclear propelled submarines and other nuclear devices one day.

Regards

Pete