When will China’s navy be a threat?

Via BI:

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is one of the largest naval forces in the world, and it continues to grow. More importantly, though, China is rapidly building and fielding increasingly capable naval vessels, weapons that could tip the scales in the US-dominated Pacific.

The Chinese PLAN has probably benefited the most from the country’s major military-modernisation plan, the goal of which is to transform the Chinese armed services into a world-class fighting force capable of defeating another great power.

…Here is what China has been and is adding to its naval arsenal, according to the Pentagon and Reuters, citing analysts.

Conventional and nuclear submarines.

The Pentagon expects China’s submarine force to grow to 78 by 2020, according to the Department of Defence’s (DOD) 2018 China-military-power report. Modernising the submarine force remains a priority for the PLAN.

Type 022 Houbei missile boats.

The Chinese PLAN has at least 60 of these stealthy guided-missile fast-attack ships, according to the Pentagon.

 Type 056 Jiangdao corvettes.

“The PLAN is augmenting its littoral warfare capabilities, especially in the South China Sea and East China Sea, with high-rate production of the Jiangdao-class corvettes,” DOD said. Reuters reported that the PLAN has already taken delivery of more than 40 of these ships, with as many as 60 expected to join the fleet.

Type 054 Jiangkai frigates.

China has commissioned more than two dozen of the advanced Type 054A frigates, Reuters reported, and the country is believed to be working on an even more capable variant.

 Type 052 Luyang destroyers.

The Chinese navy is believed to have anywhere between seven and 10 of these vessels in service with more on the way. Western analysts suspect that China could have as many as 20 of these ships in service by 2020, Reuters reported.

Type 055 Renhai destroyers.

China showed off the first of the new Renhai-class destroyers – large, heavily-armed vessels considered cruisers by Western standards – at its recent naval parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PLAN. Reuters reported that at least 12 of these ships could be in service within the next decade.

Type 901 support ship.

The PLAN’s relatively new supply ship is the largest in Asia and designed to strengthen China’s carrier capabilities. A retired admiral previously toldChinese media that this ship could double the combat radius of a carrier group.

China launched its second Type 901 vessel in 2017, according to Reuters. Other support ships include the Type 903 replenishment ship and the Type 904 general-stores ship.

Type 075 helicopter-landing ship.

China is building new helicopter carriers loosely based on the US Navy’s amphibious assault ships, which launch helicopters and vertical takeoff and landing jets. China is expected to eventually add at least three of these ships to its naval forces.

Type 071 Yuzhao amphibious transport ship.

China has five of these ships in service with more believed to be in the works. The fifth one was commissioned last year. The Pentagon believes production of this ship will complement efforts to produce the Type 075.

Type 001 aircraft carrier.

China has one operational aircraft carrier, the Type 001 Liaoning. Another carrier, the Type 001A, has completed sea trials and is expected to be commissioned this year. A third carrier believed to be a significant advancement over its predecessors is in the works.

This is pretty paltry stuff versus the US’s 19 aircraft carrier battle groups. And they are still technologically behind as well.

The only area of numerical superiority is in submarines (83 vs 75) and there is a reason for that. The Chinese navy is still developing as more of a defensive military than it is a power projection force. So many submarines are designed to swarm US battle groups to keep them at bay.

Let’s be thankful for small mercies.


  1. bskerr2MEMBER

    Usually nationalism rises during elections that have nothing of substance to offer or when a major global shock is on its way and countries need to deflect blame for many years of bad governance. I don’t think any of these super powers will do much except project power because the only other option is most likely a end game for everyone. It’s often government projecting fear to deflect.

  2. Does look more and more like pre WW1 doesn’t it? Like Germany building dreadnoughts. China needs light carriers for convoy duty to keep the sea lanes open. Those carrier battle groups are overkill for interdicting Chinese merchant ships, attacking the Chinese mainland means nuclear war…….Yanks need a 600 ship navy not what they have now.

    Once they have a blue water navy they will have to blood it……that is the rub

    • Once they have a blue water navy they will have to blood it
      Yep that’s the rub, Once you have something you have to use it, if only to validate your design assumptions.
      If you don’t use Offensive weapons than how will you ever know if they really work properly and more to the point are the humans involved in the exercise capable of working with the available technology.
      Furthermore we live in a big data world where lots of information can can be inferred from the lack of (or increase in) data.
      When Japan attacked Pearl Harbour they left all of their Radio Operators in port so that they could continue to broadcast regular day-to-day traffic back and forth between themselves. however what they didn’t count on was that their ship antennas would create a passive re-radiator (backscatter) of this (were at home ruse traffic)
      In today’s world it’s expected that every sailor would have a cell phone and be accessing social media sites at least several times each day. So how do you hide the fact that they’re not in port?
      The Absence of data is always valuable data

      • kodiakMEMBER

        Sweet suffering Jesus. Pearl Harbour (sic) is in Hawaii. It’s therefore called Pearl Harbor. Errors like this detract from your post.

    • macrofishMEMBER

      How did the German fleet go against the world leader at that time? This will go the same way.

  3. Like they even need to be a threat to us, our pollies will sell us out for payment of a phone bill and a succulent chinese meal.

    Hi Sam!

  4. The difference between USN and Chinese PLAN remains very substantial – but is not quite as large as your figures suggest, and is currently narrowing rapidly.

    The USN has 11 carriers – 10 Nimitz class and the Gerald Ford which is the 1st carrier in a new class.
    Of these 11, it is usual that 4-5 are in various stages of maintenance at any one time.
    So the US (in theory anyway) can deploy 6-7 carrier strike groups at any one time. This is a stretch however, and the real figure is likely lower than this.
    Significantly less than this are usually deployed however – average 15-25% deployment (i.e. average 3-4 CSGs deployed) at any one time. Current CSG deployment is the lowest it has been for 25 years.

    The balance of the “19 aircraft carriers” you refer to are amphibious assault ships. They can carry helicopters, the tilt rotor and the new F35-B. They pack a punch, but not the same as the heavy carriers.

    Currently China has a small nuclear deterrent (they have stated a “no first use” policy for whatever that is worth). But enough to deter an attack by another nuclear power.
    China has a very large fleet of submarines – defence rather than offence.
    China has invested heavily in new missile technology (forward deployed on those new islands) that could deny the US Navy carriers the ability to get close enough to China – certainly the US would think very carefully about getting their carriers too close to China.
    China has also established large “buffer zones” with the South China Sea and East China Sea.
    All this suggests that (at present anyway), their Navy is focused on defence rather than offence. 1 or 2 carries doesn’t change this.

    China does have a massive army – perhaps 2.5 million, with another million reservists.
    It has a thirst for oil and gas and other resources.

    Consider Siberia
    Just north of China.
    Huge energy and mineral reserves
    Sparsely populated

    My guess is that Chinese eyes are really on Siberia.
    It would be very difficult for Russia to defend this. The Russian Army is much smaller (and possibly worse equipped) than the Chinese PLA. Logistics from west Russia into Siberia are very difficult. And the PLAN would have (and possibly already has) enough defensive capability to deter any international force from the south.
    Russia does not have a lot of international friends, and has lost a lot of goodwill over the years. While the international community would be uneasy about the implications of such a move, I can’t see western nations coming to Russia’s aid (Europe would be quite happy to have Putin looking east rather than west).

    What does expansion south really offer China?
    Some overcrowded SE Asian countries with inadequate natural resources?
    Some impoverished Pacific Islands that really only serve to split USA and Australia?
    Indonesia? – this would be a significant force to be reckoned with.
    Australia would be a prize of course, but we are currently happy to sell the country to China anyway.

    • You could be right about Siberia. But I would put more weight on China’s strategic interests and needs rather than its stated agreements.

    • The Chinese are well on their way of replacing the US as a global hegemon. Not only has China convinced the West to outsource its heavy industries and manufacturing to them, they’re also exporting their surplus population to US’ allies in the Pacific Ocean so as to demographically replace Europeans in the strategic coastal cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland and Vancouver. Once the aforementioned cities are colonised, the Chinese majority population will implement policies to deny these ports to the US Navy. Further to this, China is now realising that its huge land army is no longer required as its agents have successfully driven a wedge between Russia and the West and thereby securing their northern border from a Russian attack and also securing vital war material from the Russian’s such as metals, oil and grain, which will be required when the inevitable US Navy blockade is implemented if a shooting war was ever to break out. Furthermore, China will implement a policy to rapidly expand the size of its Navy so as to rival and eventually overtake the US Navy. This will achieve two things, deter the US from launching an attack on China and secondly, challenge US global hegemony.

  5. “And they are still technologically behind as well.”

    And they lack the experience of operating as a battle group. Doesn’t matter what you have if you don’t have the experience to utilise your assets to their full capability.

  6. I see Americas main problem being that their military acquisition is as corrupted as the rest of their government. Therefore, the weapons that get built are the ones that their manufacturers have bribed the politicians to buy, not necessarily the ones that are the most effective. The horrifically expensive and poor quality F35 appears to attest to that.

    • The F35 will likely end up doing it’s intended job pretty well. Despite being called a fighter, it is not intended to be a fighter and the F designation has caused a degree of misunderstanding. Although it seems to perform well in air to air (kill ratio of 15 or 20:1) if unlucky enough to fall into a dogfight, the F35 should not be getting into old fashioned dogfights.

      Sure it has had delays and cost overruns. That is pretty much inevitable when developing new technology. The number of compromises required significantly complicated matters. Plus the fact that defence contractors pretty much have to underquote in order to win the contract – and then claw back $ with overruns.

      From the information in the public domain, the F35 did pretty well at Red Flag 19-1. https://theaviationist.com/2019/02/16/the-first-reports-of-how-the-f-35-strutted-its-stuff-in-dogfights-against-aggressors-at-red-flag-are-starting-to-emerge/

  7. China had no allies, and is surrounded by threats. Having Taiwan just off the coast is a massive issue.
    Then there is the 20 million of muslim minorities that would love the CIA to supply them with guns.
    The biggest issue for china though is that they cannot afford casualties because of their one child policy and the expectation that the child supports the elderly parents.

    • Think back to all the “one children” murdered in Tiananmen Square. So I seriously doubt the welfare of the elderly parents of a deceased soldier would ever occur to China.

  8. kodiakMEMBER

    It’s amazing how many strayans are experts about US culture and military affairs.