The new advances are part of China’s efforts to bolster its anti-ship weapons to permit strikes at greater ranges from the Chinese coast than its current diesel-powered submarine force offers, the ONI said. China currently is upgrading its current force of about 55 attack submarines - most of them easy-to-track diesel boats - with more-advanced and harder-to-track vessels, including Russian-made Kilos, and its own Song- and Yuan-class submarines.
“Each of these submarine classes, which are quiet platforms with anti-ship cruise missiles, is an integral part of China’s regional anti-access strategy,” ONI said. “The quieting incorporated into these submarines is required for successful operations in the open ocean operating areas which could facilitate the [Chinese navy’s] wartime mission of keeping enemy combatants outside of strike range of the theater of operation.”
A Song-class submarine surfaced undetected within five miles, well within firing range, of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in October.
The ONI stated that China’s maritime strategy is focused on blocking U.S. or Japanese intervention in a future conflict over Taiwan. To that end, Beijing has begun equipping its medium- and short-range ballistic missiles based on shore, hundreds of which are deployed across the Taiwan Strait from the island that the communist regime views as a renegade province, with maneuvering warheads.
These radar-guided or heat-seeking weapons “provide the accuracy necessary to attack a ship at sea,” ONI said.
But China’s rise in international trade and commerce, plus its growing dependence on imported foreign oil, also has expanded Beijing’s maritime strategy from a mostly submarine force to one of building surface ships to “defend sea lines of communication” (SLOCs), because protecting sea-lanes with submarines is difficult.
ONI also said that in addition to new destroyers, “by 2020, China is likely to operate an aircraft carrier, the initial unit of which may be the refurbished ex-Varyag, acquired from Ukraine in 2000, to further support SLOC protection.”