Saturday, 17 May, 2008

China's largely inactive submarine fleet stirs

China's entire fleet of 55 attack submarines conducted six patrols in 2007, up from the two the fleet conducted in 2006 and none in 2005, according to new information obtained by a scientific organization.
In an exchange with Navy chief Adm. Gary Roughead, Hunter said China was "outstripping us by 3-1 on submarine production, and your own figures show that they are going to eclipse us in submarine numbers in 2011." In response, Roughead said anti-submarine warfare was a top Navy priority.

While the Chinese submarine inventory includes a number of older diesel electric boats, the country recently took delivery of eight Russian-built Kilo class, non-nuclear powered submarines, according to the Congressional Research Service. China is building four classes of new submarines including a nuclear powered attack submarine and a nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, and was expected to have 28 relatively modern submarines in its inventory by 2006.

Yet, China's low submarine patrol numbers would appear to call into question the level of training of its submarine crews and the capability of the its submarine fleet to operate much beyond the nation's coastal waters.

The U.S. Navy currently operates 53 nuclear-powered attack submarines, twice as many as the rest of the world combined, and is building its newest attack submarine -- the nuclear-powered Virginia class -- at the rate of one per year. The service also maintains a fleet of anti-submarine warfare aircraft that has no equal.

The Navy's annual funding of $137 billion dwarfs China's entire defense budget, which was estimated at $44 billion in 2006, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

In an analysis of relative global naval power, Robert O. Work, senior defense analyst at the Center for Strategic Budgetary Assessments in Washington, wrote, "No naval challenger now threatens the U.S. Navy... Although the battle fleet numbers fewer ships that at any time since 1931, the Navy likely enjoys a wider margin of superiority than at any point since the late 1940s."

The Navy's 71 major surface warships have a cumulative guided missile magazine capacity greater than that of the 366 major surface combatants in the next 17 largest navies, Work said. The U.S. Navy also owns 12 of the world's 15 aircraft carriers and operates its own air arm that is larger than any other nation's air force.
So far, 183 nations, representing about 98 percent of the global population, have joined the OPCW.

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