Chinese Nuclear Subs Could Stike the US
China may soon deploy its first nuclear-armed submarines pushing Beijing’s fire power to levels that only the United States and Russia can meet or exceed.
China’s Jin-class subs would be armed with ballistic missiles capable of storing nuclear warheads. The Pentagon designates such titans as SSBNs.
“China will probably conduct its first SSBN nuclear deterrence patrol sometime in 2016,” read the Pentagon’s latest report on the Chinese military.
These vessels would give China the capability to launch nuclear attacks from land, sea and air. This triad of nuclear force would also give it an unprecedented level of deterrence that some of its regional rivals can’t afford.
Jeffery Lewis, an expert on nuclear geopolitics, explained the situation in an interview with The Daily Beast.
“The theory is that a diverse array of delivery systems creates survivability by complicating a first strike,” he said.
So, China’s rivals would be reluctant to launch a first strike in fear that they won’t endure retaliation.
China is currently at odds with several of its neighbors, including US allies, over the disputed South China Sea. Beijing claims most of this strategic waterway, which sees billions of dollars in trade pass each year. China has also complicated matters by building artificial islands in the region. Some are equipped with missile launchers and military-capable airstrips.
China’s latest H-6 bombers can launch cruise missiles equipped with nuclear warheads. Mainland China also houses hundreds of silos equipped with long-range rockets that can be fitted with nuclear warheads.
A Jin sub could mount up to 12 JL-2 rockets. Each has a range of 450 miles putting anywhere in the United States within striking distance.
However, some US military officials believe it’s more likely for the US to be pulled into battle against China to defend a Southeast Asian ally rather than through direct conflict with Beijing.
Nonetheless, the US’s nuclear arsenal still would outweigh China’s tirade even if it deploy its SSBNs as planned.
The US possesses about 7,000 nuclear warheads. China reportedly has several hundred. The exact number is perhaps known only by elite Communist Party officials and members of the world’s most sophisticated intelligence agencies. However, it’s unlikely the real number would match that of the US.
China also faces challenges in building and operating SSBNs. China’s project can be traced back to 1981, almost two decades after the US and Russia had their nuclear-armed vessels out at sea. Since then, development has been slowed by quality-control issues.
“While it is clear that the [Chinese navy] is making strides towards correcting these issues, the capabilities of China’s nuclear-powered submarine fleet remain in a process of maturity,” read a report by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group.