Friday, 11 April, 2008

200 Submarines for Imperial China

200 Submarines for Imperial China

Following the humiliating Opium War of the mid-19th century, China faced continual encroachment from Western nations, and total defeat at the hands of the “upstart” Japanese in 1895. The occupation of Beijing by an alliance of powers in 1900 only added insult to injury. China’s profound maritime weakness, however, encouraged surprisingly bold thinking about emerging technologies for undersea warfare. Over the last decades of the 19th century, Chinese leaders attempted vainly to gain the support of foreign powers, particularly Britain and France, for constructing a modern navy. In 1915, a former U.S. naval attaché, CDR Irvin Gillis, arranged for the visit of Vice-Admiral Wei Han and 30 Chinese student officers to Groton, Connecticut to observe submarine building and operations. According to one account, Wei Han “delighted [Electric Boat] officials by announcing that China needed a fleet of 200 submarines.” An initial purchase of 12 vessels was inked, and plans for training Chinese crews were put into place. Unfortunately for China’s navy – and for Electric Boat – these agreements collapsed as the imperial regime gradually gave way to the so-called warlord era.

To current developments;

These efforts are complemented by domestic production. In addition to retaining approximately 30 aging “Romeos” and continuing to build the derivative Ming class – with 20 now in the force – China has begun series production of its indigenously designed and manufactured Song class, the first of which was launched in 1991. The Songs – probably at least five, with eight or more under construction – incorporate advanced foreign technology and can launch anti-ship cruise missiles while submerged. China is also building the Type 093 SSN, with the first already nearing sea trials. Beijing boasts that this submarine will have performance equal to a Los Angeles-class SSN. Also on the ways is the Type 094 SSBN, which analysts expect at sea as early as 2005 with 16 8,000-kilometer nuclear-armed missiles [more on this later - ed.].

PLAN leaders are ambitiously developing the human dimension of their underwater force as well by elevating the status of their professional non-commissioned officers in an effort to enhance and retain their skills. China’s admirals have also acknowledged that they have to compete for skilled labor by increasing the pay of some ranks by 100 percent in 1999-2000 – and the PLAN is aggressively increasing the number of officers holding advanced degrees. Training in the PLAN submarine force is strongly influenced by U.S. capabilities and operations.

UPDATE:
The Washington Times in its Dec 3, 2007 edition reports, China tests ballistic missile submarine.

China's military has launched the first of a new class of ballistic missile submarines in what defense officials view as a major step forward in Beijing's strategic weapons program.
The new 094-class submarine was launched in late July and when fully operational in the next year or two will be the first submarine to carry the underwater-launched version of China's new DF-31 missile, according to defense officials.
"When fully operational, it will represent a more modern, more capable missile platform," said one official familiar with reports of the new submarine.

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