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.
“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.