Missile Designation Type Possible Targets/Comments DF-3/3A Medium Range Countries surrounding China,
including Japan, India and
possibly Southeast Asian
DF-4 Intermediate Range Countries surrounding China,
including Russia, Japan,
Southeast Asian countries
All of Russia, the United
States and Europe
DF-11 Short Range Targets along China's
border, including Taiwan
DF-15 Short Range Targets along China's
border, including Taiwan.
Used in missile exercises off
the Taiwan coast in 1996.
DF-21 Medium Range Countries surrounding
China, including Japan and
Southeast Asian countries
JL-1 Medium Range SLBM Targets surrounding
eastern China, including
Japan and Southeast
Asian countries when
deployed in China' s home
Wednesday 29 October 2008
Range and Payload
0 1.9-3.7 km No longer deployed DF-3/3A
40 2850 km
-Single nuclear warhead,
-Single conv. warhead
Single-stage; storable liquid propellant (AK-27/UDMH); Fully inertial strap-down guidance system 2.5-4.0 km 120-150 minute launch prep. time; road-mobile; all DF-3 scheduled to be replaced by the DF-21 DF-4
20 4850-5500 km
Single nuclear warhead,
Two-stage, non-storable liquid propellant (LOX/
3.0-3.5 km 60-120 minute launch prep. time; also used as booster for CZ-1 SLV; cave-based and rolled out to launch DF-5/5A
Single nuclear warhead,
liquid propellant (N2O4/
UDMH); gyro-platform with onboard computer
0.5-3.0 km 30-60 minute launch prep. time; also used as booster for CZ-2, CZ-3, CZ-4 SLVs; deployed at silos at 3 locations DF-21/21A
-Single nuclear warhead, 200-300 kT
-Single conv. warhead
Two-stage; solid propellant;
gyro-platform inertial guidance with onboard computer; working on
terminal guidance system
0.3-0.4 km 10-15 minute launch prep. time; land-mobile; reportedly replacing DF-3 in some areas; same missile as JL-1 SLBM; longer range Mod 2 to replace Mod 1 by 2005 DF-15/M-9
-Single nuclear warhead, 50-350 kT
-Single or cluster conv. warhead
down inertial computer-digitized
guidance system with terminal control
600 m 30 minute launch prep. time; M-9 version designed explicitly for export; the nuclear role for the CSS-6 is as yet unproven; enhancing accuracy with GPS tech. DF-11/M-11
-Single nuclear warhead, 350 kT
-Single or cluster conv. warhead
down inertial computer-digitized guidance system with terminal control
150 m 30-45 minute launch
prep. time; M-11 version designed explicitly
? 160 km
Two-stage; solid propellant booster and storable liquid propellant main engine Modification of HQ-2 (SA-2) SAM; mobile DF-25
0 1700 km
-Single conv. warhead Two-stage; solid propellant Development cancelled; based on first two stages of DF-31; land-mobile DF-31
0 8000 km
-Single nuclear warhead, 200-300 kT (100-200 kT) (500 kT)
use with MRV/MIRV
Three-stage; solid propellant 0.5 km In late stages of devt.; tested on 8/2/1999; 10-15 minute launch prep. time; land-mobile; most likely cave-based; same missile as JL-2 SLBM; nuclear warhead awaits certification; to be operational around 2000; to replace the DF-4; could incorporate penetration aids such as decoys or chaff DF-41
devt. not flight
0 12000 km
800 kg (700 kg)
-Single nuclear warhead, 200-300 kT
Three-stage; solid propellant 0.7-0.8 km Under devt.; 3-5 minute launch prep. time; land-mobile; will replace DF-5; possible deployment around 2010; warhead awaits certification; may be cancelled and replaced by a new solid-propellent, mobile ICBM that is currently in development JL-1
12 1700 km
-Nuclear warhead, 200-300 kT (500 kT) Two-stage; solid propellant;
gyro-platform inertial guidance with onboard computer
1.0 km Same missile as the DF-21/21A JL-2
not yet tested)
0 8000 km
-Nuclear warhead, 200-300 kT
-Possibly will be equipped with MRV/MIRV
Three-stage; solid propellant 1.0 km Under devt.; same missile as the DF-31; projected to be operational around 2003; warhead awaits certification. To be deployed on new 09-4 SSBN which is currently under devt.; 09-4 will likely be deployed by 2010DF" stands for "Dong Feng" ("East Wind")
"JL" stands for "Julang" ("Great Wave")
"CSS" stands for "Chinese Surface-to-Surface"
"CSS-N" stands for "Chinese Surface-to-Surface Naval"
"CSST" stands for "Chinese Surface-to-Surface Tactical"
China has six types of operational land based nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, the DF-3A, DF-4, DF-5/5A, DF-11, DF-15, and the DF-21/21X. China flight tested the DF-31 in August 1999, but it is unknown if it has been deployed. A longer range road mobile ballistic missile, the DF-41, is also being developed, but has not been flight tested. China has only one type of operational submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the Julang-1. Twelve Julang-1 are deployed on China's single Xia-class ballistic missile nuclear submarine (SSBN). The warheads for the Julang-1 are believed to be stored at the Jianggezhuang Submarine Base. China is developing a longer range SLBM known as the JL-2 which is the sea-based version of the DF-31. The JL-2 has not yet been tested from any submarines.
Short-range (SRBM) Under
Medium-range (MRBM) 1,000 km -
Intermediate-range (IRBM) 3,000 km -
Long-range (LRBM) 3,000 km -
-- -- Intercontinental-range (ICBM) Over
According to a study of China's nuclear forces conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC),
"Our best estimate is that China maintains an arsenal of about 400 warheads of two basic categories, some 250 "strategic" weapons structured in a "triad" of land-based missiles, bombers, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The emphasis of China's arsenal is primarily on the land-based missile leg of the triad. Additionally, China is thought to possess about 150 "tactical" weapons, made up of some or all of the following: low yield bombs for tactical bombardment, artillery shells, atomic demolition munitions, and possibly short range missiles."
Chinese nuclear forces are estimated to be deployed at about 20 locations and are under the control of the Central Military Commission (CMC). While China is believed to have 250 strategic nuclear weapons, only about 20 of these are deployed on missiles capable of traveling intercontinental distances; 100 are thought to be deployed on missiles and bombers with ranges from 1,800 to 4,750 kilometers. To date, China has not officially acknowledged its possession of tactical nuclear weapons and China has not discussed the qualitative or quantitative state of its nuclear arsenal. [Robert S. Norris, "Nuclear Arsenals of the United States, Russia, Great Britain, France and China: A Status Report," presented at the 5th ISODARCO Beijing Seminar on Arms Control, Chengdu, China, November 1996, p. 5. and Norris, Robert S. and William M. Arkin. "Chinese Nuclear Forces, 1999." The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. May/June 1999. p. 79.]
China has six types of operational land based nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, the DF-5/5A, DF-4, DF-3A, DF-21/21X, the DF-15, and the DF-11. China has 40 DF-3 missile launchers deployed at Jianshui, Kunming, Yidu, Tonghua, Dengshahe and Lianxiwang. However, these are being replaced by the DF-21 at the Tonghua, Jianshui and Lianxiwang sites. The DF-4 is a longer range missile deployed at Da Qaidam, Delingha, Sundian, Tongdao, and Xiao Qaidam. The DF-5A, China's longest range missile, is capable of striking targets throughout the continental United States. 18-26 of these DF-5A missiles are deployed in silos and caves at Luoning and Xuanhua. It is not currently known exactly where the DF-15 and DF-11 missiles are deployed. The new DF-31 has reportedly been deployed in southern China; there is no confirmation of this report. It is generally assumed that large numbers of ballistic missiles are deployed along the coastline in Fujian province in an effort to intimidate Taiwan.
China has only one type of operational submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the Julang-1 (JL-1). Twelve Julang-1 are deployed on China's single Xia-class ballistic missile nuclear submarine (SSBN). The warheads for the Julang-1 are believed to be stored at the Jianggezhuang Submarine Base. China is developing a longer range SLBM known as the JL-2 which is the sea-based version of the DF-31. The JL-2 has not yet been tested from any submarines.
China conducted its first nuclear test in 1964, tested its first hydrogen weapon in 1967, began series production of nuclear weapons in 1968 and initiated production of thermonuclear weapons in 1974. Robert Norris of the NRDC estimates that China has tested and deployed six nuclear warhead designs:
- a 20-40 kiloton (kT) fission gravity bomb
- a 20 kT missile warhead
- a 3+ megaton (MT) thermonuclear missile warhead
- a 4-5 MT warhead for the DF-5 ICBM
- a 3+ MT thermonuclear gravity bomb;
- a 200-300 kT warhead possibly for the for the DF-31 and DF-41 and JL-2 SLBM.
China may also possess low-yield fission warheads for tactical nuclear weapons. In addition, in July 1999, the Chinese government announced that in the early 1980s it had "mastered neutron bomb design technology," but Beijing did not indicate whether it had actually produced or deployed any neutron bombs. This statement about the neutron bomb was the first time that China had publicly discussed any of its military nuclear programs. China reportedly tested an experimental 1-5 kT enhanced radiation (neutron) warhead in September 1988; this step would seem to validate the recent Chinese statement about having developed a neutron bomb. China likely developed the neutron bomb to protect against the possibility of a large Soviet invasion of the mainland during the height of the Cold War.
Command and ControlVery little is known about China's chain of command for authority over nuclear weapons. It is believed that ultimate authority to use nuclear weapons rests with the Chairman of the Central Military Commission (currently Jiang Zemin) after top leaders have reached a consensus. A decision to use nuclear weapons may also require a consensus decision within the Central Military Commission and other senior military leaders.
China is believed to store most of its nuclear warheads and bombs separate from its delivery vehicles and the warheads and bombs are only mated with the missiles or aircraft during launch preparations. In this sense, China's nuclear forces are not on alert. Also, China may have central storage locations for its missile warheads and gravity bombs which are accessible by a number of missile and bomber bases.
- Only a few US government sources has discussed the size of China's nuclear arsenal. In the Pentagon's November 1997 report entitled, the US Defense Department stated: China has over 100 nuclear warheads deployed operationally on ballistic missiles while additional warheads are in storage. In addition, a classified CIA study reportedly stated that 13 of China's 18 DF-5A ICBMs are targeted at the United States while the remaining five are targeted at countries closer to China.
CHINA'S CURRENT NUCLEAR ARSENAL - STOCKPILE, DELIVERY SYSTEMS, AND DEPLOYMENTS
|System Name |
[US desig-nation in brackets]
|Year||Range and Payload||Nuclear Delivery Capability||Number of Systems and Warheads Deployed||Comments|
|1971||2850 km |
|Single nuclear warhead, 1-5 MT (3.3 MT)||40 missiles (one warhead per missile)||120-150 minute launch prep. time; road-mobile; reportedly |
deployed on 40 refire-capable
launchers at six field garrisons and launch
complexes; being phased out and replaced by DF-21/21A
|1980||4850-5500 km |
|Single nuclear warhead, 1-5 MT (3.3 MT)||20 missiles (one warhead per missile)||60-120 |
minute launch prep.
time; also used as booster for CZ-1 SLV; cave-based and rolled out to launch; will likely be replaced by DF-31 missiles after 2010
|1981||13000+ km |
|Single nuclear warhead, 1-5 MT (4-5 MT)||18-26 single warhead missile |
|30-60 minute launch prep. time; also used as booster for CZ-2, CZ-3, CZ-4 SLVs; deployed in silos at 3 locations; longer range Mod 2 to replace Mod 1 by 2005|
|1988||1700-1800 km |
|Single nuclear warhead, 200-300 kT||48 missiles |
(one warhead per missile)
|10-15 minute launch prep. time; same missile as the JL-1 SLBM; deployed in areas close to China's borders; replacing DF-3 in some areas on converted DF-3 launchers; new model has greater range and accuracy through GPS and a "radio-frequency" explosive warhead|
|DF-15/ M-9 |
|600 km |
950 kg (500 kg)
|Single nuclear warhead, 50-350 kT||300 missiles (estimate)||30 minute launch prep. time; nuclear role for CSST-600 is as yet unproven; |
deployed along China's east coast to target Taiwan; M-9 version designed explicitly for export; enhancing accuracy with GPS technology
|280 km |
|Single nuclear warhead, |
|200 missiles (estimate)||30-45 minute launch prep. time; M-11 version designed explicitly for export|
|JL-1 SLBM |
|1986||2150 km |
|Single nuclear warhead, 250 kT (500 kT)||12 missiles on one Xia-class submarine||Same missile as the DF-21/21A|
|Hong-6 (H-6) bomber [B-6]||1965||3100 km |
|One to three nuclear bombs, 10 kT-3 MT per bomb||120 aircraft; China is believed to have a stockpile of 150 nuclear gravity bombs for its aircraft||Redesign of Soviet Tu-26 Badger|
|Qian-5A (Q-5A) attack aircraft |
|1970||400 km |
|One nuclear bomb, 10 kT-3 MT||30 aircraft; China is believed to have a stockpile of 150 nuclear gravity bombs for its aircraft||Redesign of Soviet MiG-19|
|Tactical warheads [possibly including artillery shells, rockets, atomic demolition |
|mid-1970s||Low kT||150 warheads in storage|
"JL" stands for "Julang" ("Giant Wave")
"CSS" stands for "Chinese Surface-to-Surface"
"CSS-N" stands for "Chinese Surface-to-Surface Naval"
"CSST" stands for "Chinese Surface-to-Surface Tactical"
H stands for "Hong" (bomber)
Q stands for "Qian" (fighter/attack aircraft)
B designates bomber aircraft; A designates attack aircraft
Currently, the initial experimental validation phase focused on sodium loop technology. Two sodium loops were imported form Italy: ESPRESSO (sodium flow rate 110 m3/h, maximum sodium temperature 650oC) and CEDI (sodium flow rate 320 m3/h, maximum sodium temperature 650oC.) The primary conceptual design was completed in 1992 and the final design was completed in 1994. To test the concept of the design, a zero-power simulation experiment was conducted at the Physics and Dynamics Engineering Institute in Russia. It was not until January 1998 that construction work began on the country's first fast neutron reactor. The China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) , in cooperation with the Beijing Institute of Nuclear Engineering, is constructing the FBR with Russian technical assistance. On 8 September 1999, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed a Cabinet ordinance to cooperate with China in the construction of a FBR. The draft agreement was approved by the Russian Cabinet on 22 April 2000.
Under China's national high tech "863" project, a pilot commercial station, is being built in Fangshan county near Beijing. According to the Xinhua News Agency, it is scheduled to be operational by 2003. China's original plans included building a 65 MWth (20-25 MWe) experimental reactor by the year 2000 at a cost of about $103 million. China plans to use this reactor to provide the technical foundation for its long-term program of commercial FBR development.
In December 2003, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and a large business delegation including Siemens CEO Heinrich von Pierer visited China. During this visit, delegation members discussed the possibility of China's import of Siemen's Hanau Fuel Element Factory, a mothballed mixed oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication plant. The plant was reportedly intended to generate the fuel necessary to power China's planned fast breeder reactor. The outcome of this sale met with a good deal of controversy in Germany and is still pending. [See Stephanie Lieggi, "Controversy in Germany: Siemens Sale of MOX Plant to China," Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 12 December 2003.]
MAIN DESIGN PARAMETERS OF FAST BREEDER REACTOR (FBR)
Thermal Power 65 MW
Net Electric Power 20 MW
Fuel Type first run using UO2 (64.4% enriched)
Mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel (PU,U))O2;
219.2 kg of fissionable material:
--121.6 kg Pu (93.2 kg Pu-239);
--97.6 kg U-235 (30% enriched uranium)
Core inlet temperature 360 oC
Core outlet temperature 530 oC
Core height 45 cm
Core diameter 60 cm
Fuel element linear power (max) 430 W/cm
Max burn-up (target) 100 MWd/kg
Neutron flux 3.7X1015 n/cm2 .s
Reactor lifetime 30 years
Thursday 16 October 2008
Three years later the US received apparent confirmation of such thefts from the Chinese themselves. An unsolicited Chinese individual--a "walk-in," in the argot of espionage--turned a pile of PRC documents over to the CIA. Among them was a paper stamped "secret" which contained design information on perhaps the most advanced warhead in the US arsenal, the Trident II's W88.
Since then, the CIA has come to believe that the walk-in was a plant, someone who in fact worked for PRC intelligence. The US conclusion is that China, for some reason known only to its own top officials, had decided to flash a glimpse of its stolen knowledge in front of US eyes. If that is the case, it could turn out to have been a colossal misjudgment. The recent report of a special House panel, chaired by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), on Chinese espionage has detailed years of systematic PRC spying, outraging many members of Congress. It might well have an impact on the relationship between Washington and Beijing for years to come.
That US companies, through their own laxity or greed, may have speeded the loss of secrets is faint comfort to Washington. China has obtained everything from US nuclear data to crucial help in missile upgrades and US computers and machine tools far more powerful than domestic Chinese models.
Many of the details alluded to in the House report remain classified and beyond public view. In general, however, purloined US technology and data could allow the Chinese to produce state-of-the-art nuclear weapons, upgrade their combat aircraft and submarines, conduct more extensive and effective anti-submarine warfare, equalize battlefields via information warfare, and improve their command-and-control capabilities, according to the Congressional study.
"The PRC seeks foreign military technology as part of its efforts to place the PRC at the forefront of nations," concludes the House Select Committee on US National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China report-more simply called the Cox report. "The PRC's long-run geopolitical goals include incorporating Taiwan into the PRC and becoming the primary power in Asia."
Use of Western military technology obtained under questionable circumstances is not new for China, of course. Its current arsenal of CSS-4 nuclear-tipped ICBMs traces its design lineage to the US Titan ICBMs of the 1950s, thanks to CSS-4 lead designer Qian Xuesen, who worked on the Titan program.
A Chinese citizen educated in the US during the Japanese occupation of China, Qian became one of the world's top experts on jet propulsion during World War II. After earning a PhD at the California Institute of Technology and then working with a Cal Tech rocket research group, he was recruited to join the US military's long-range missile programs. He received a direct commission to colonel in the US Army Air Forces and began work on what became the Titan. However, spy allegations dogged Qian, and eventually he lost his security clearances. Negotiations between the US and the PRC resulted in his return to China in 1955. After serving as chief project manager in all PRC ballistic missile programs, he became head of the government arm responsible for all aeronautics and missile development research.
Theft and Diversion
Today, China uses what US intelligence calls a "mosaic" approach to the collection of technical data, which takes small bits of information collected by many individuals, then pieces them together in the PRC.
Classic spying remains a major part of this approach. Witness the case of Peter Lee, a Taiwanese-born, naturalized US citizen who worked at US national laboratories until evidence of espionage surfaced. In 1997, Lee passed China classified US developmental research on very sensitive detection techniques that could be used to threaten previously invulnerable US nuclear subs, alleges the Cox report. In 1985, Lee passed to China data about the use of lasers to create nuclear explosions on a miniature scale.
Mosaic intelligence also takes advantage of the relative openness of US society. PRC nationals attend US universities, host foreign scientific delegations, and pump visiting scientists for information that is on the edge of classified. The PRC also gets valuable bits from open forums such as arms exhibits and computer shows.
The report alleges that, at one recent international arms exhibit, PRC nationals were seen videotaping every static display and collecting all possible brochures. When a contractor left his booth unattended, Chinese spies stole a display videocassette that had been playing continual information on the US Theater High Altitude Area Defense system, a theater missile defense program.
"Converting the stolen cassette to a frame-by-frame sequence could yield valuable intelligence information to the PRC," says the select committee report.
Simple purchase of equipment plays a part in PRC intelligence gathering. Chinese front companies take advantage of US military downsizing to buy surplus high-tech US military goods, including some that are proscribed from export to all but close allies.
Two years ago, the US Customs Service seized more than $36 million in excess military property being shipped overseas illegally. Among the goods bound for the PRC and Hong Kong were 37 inertial navigation units for F-117 and FB-111 aircraft, Patriot missile parts, 500 electron tubes used in the F-14 fighter, and 26,000 encryption devices.
Military goods that find their way to the PRC can be reverse-engineered, or copied, for indigenous models. Thus the PRC's C-801 anti-ship cruise missile is thought to be a copy of the French Exocet anti-ship cruise missile. The Chinese Z-11 helicopter is a reverse-engineered French Aerospatiale AS-350 Ecureuil, according to the Cox report.
Because of the decentralized nature of the Chinese collection effort, Washington finds it very difficult to track, according to the report. It adds that, because of the FBI's historic focus on the Soviet Union during the decades of the Cold War, the US has never made monitoring the PRC's acquisition activities a priority.
"There is little or no coordination within the US government of counterintelligence that is conducted against the PRC-directed efforts to acquire sensitive US technology," concludes the Cox report.
It is in the area of nuclear weaponry that this lack of spy defenses may have hurt the US the most.
China has focused espionage activities on the relatively open environment of the US national labs for decades, according to the report of the select panel. The penetration "almost certainly continues today," claims the study.
Impetus for the PRC effort came following the end of the domestic chaos of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, when military planners sat back and assessed the state of their atomic weapons. PRC warheads of the late 1970s were large, multimegaton devices comparable to US technology of the 1950s. Officials may have decided that it was time to move to more advanced warheads and a new generation of ballistic missiles.
Over the years, the Chinese made major moves on American national laboratories located at Los Alamos and Sandia, N.M., Livermore, Calif., and Oak Ridge, Tenn. The effort evidently yielded the PRC a trove of stolen secrets. The Cox report says the Chinese obtained classified information on every currently deployed US Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile. Details remain classified, but the study says the warheads on which the PRC obtained information include the W56 warhead for the Minuteman II; the W62 for the Minuteman III; the W76 Trident C-4 SLBM, the W78 Minuteman III Mark 12A ICBM; the W87 Peacekeeper ICBM; the W88 Trident D-5 SLBM; and the W70 Lance short-range ballistic missile.
In 1996, US intelligence reported that China had stolen technology for the neutron bomb, which is intended to maximize radiation damage while reducing heat and blast. Such a weapon would be a useful tool if its possessor wished to wipe out human defenders but occupy the battlefield following conflict and avoid inflicting destruction on the area.
The PRC has also stolen data on weapons design concepts, on weaponization features, and on re-entry vehicles-the hardened shells which protect warheads during their plunge back into the atmosphere.
It may have obtained classified nuclear weapons computer codes. Theft of the so-called legacy computer codes, such as those used in development of the W88 Trident warhead, would fill in gaps in Chinese knowledge about how advanced thermonuclear devices perform when exploded. To successfully produce a W88-like weapon, the PRC may need dynamic, three-dimensional data on warhead packaging, primary and secondary coupling, and the chemical interactions of materials inside the warhead over time, according to the Cox report.
Specifics on the leaked codes remain largely classified. However, the House report confirms China acquired the MCNPT code, which is useful in determining a system's ability to survive electronic penetration; the DOT3.5 code, which performs similar calculations in a different manner; and the NJOYC code, which acts as a translator between the two other codes.
In the mid-1990s, US intelligence officials learned that China had acquired US technical information about insensitive high explosives. Conventional explosives are the first step in the chain reaction which leads to an atomic blast; insensitive high explosives are safer for use on mobile missiles. Such material can be dropped, struck, or even shot with a bullet but still not detonate.
The House Select Committee believes that the PRC theft of US secrets indicates that China will soon follow the US lead and move toward a nuclear force that is heavily reliant on lightweight, mobile, innovative nuclear weapons.
China is already known to be developing several new solid-propellant mobile ICBMs. The road-mobile DF-31, for instance, is likely to undergo first flight tests in 1999 and may be deployed as early as 2002, according to House data. The warhead for this smaller weapon would likely use elements of the US W70 or W88.
Chinese engineers may not be able to precisely match the sophistication of US warheads, but the difficulties they face in bending the US information to their own use are surmountable, according to the Cox report.
"Work-arounds exist, using processes similar to those developed or available in a modern aerospace or precision guided munitions industry," says the House study. "The PRC possesses these capabilities already."
The deployment of a new generation of thermonuclear warheads by China could prove strategically troublesome for the US.
For one thing, smaller, more efficient designs could allow the PRC to deploy missiles tipped with Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicle warheads. The Chinese have frequently expressed opposition to US deployment of ballistic missile defenses, and MIRVs might allow the Chinese to put heavy stress on, or possibly break through, such a shield.
In addition, smaller, lighter warheads might allow China to extend the range of their SLBMs, enabling them to strike the US from distant Pacific waters.
Finally, China might not be the only nation that gets to take a peek at the secret US data. "The PRC is one of the world's leading proliferators of weapons technologies," says the Cox study. "Concerns about the impact of the PRC's thefts of US thermonuclear warhead design information, therefore, include the possible proliferation of the world's most sophisticated nuclear weapons technology to nations hostile to the United States."
High Performance Computers
US nuclear secrets are of little use to Chinese scientists unless they have access to modern computers. And the House Select Committee judges that High Performance Computer equipment recently acquired from the US represents a major leap forward in China's computing power.
In recent years, US export controls on HPCs have steadily relaxed. As a result, China now has more than 600 USorigin HPCs, estimates the Cox report. Three years ago, they had none.
Furthermore, "the Select Committee judges that the PRC has been using High Performance Computers for nuclear weapons applications," says the report.
High Performance Computers-defined as systems able to perform 1,500 to 40,000 MTOPS (Millions of Theoretical Operations Per Second)--have a wide array of legitimate civilian applications. They are useful in everything from financial market transactions and credit analysis to weather prediction and petrochemical research.
They are also essential building blocks of modern weapon design. Everything from nuclear weapons to anti-submarine warfare systems and command-and-control installations benefit from HPC power.
To keep HPCs from being used for military purposes, the Commerce Department controls their export. In general, the sale of HPCs with a performance level of greater than 2,000 MTOPS to nations other than reliable US allies requires some degree of Commerce scrutiny and/or licensing.
Under a law passed by Congress in the Fiscal 1998 defense authorization bill, Commerce is supposed to perform post-shipment verifications on all exports of HPCs with greater than 2,000 MTOPS to so-called Tier 3 nations, including China, Vietnam, and nations of the former Soviet Union.
China has long resisted any such inspections of purchased US technology, however. A June 1998 US-PRC agreement on end-use checks holds that China will consider requests for such inspections to be nonbinding. If inspections are carried out, they will be conducted by one of the PRC's own ministries.
"The Select Committee has reviewed the terms of the US-PRC agreement and found them wholly inadequate," says the Cox report.
At the time the House report was written, only one post-shipment verification had actually taken place. Yet Commerce and Defense Department data indicate that US HPCs have been obtained by Chinese organizations involved in the research and development of missiles, submarines, aircraft, communications, and microwave and laser sensors.
US companies have at times abetted such technology diversion. Compaq Computer paid a $55,000 civil penalty in 1997 to settle alleged charges that it had shipped equipment to the PRC without obtaining the proper export licenses. Digital Creations Corp. of New Jersey pleaded guilty to criminal charges that it had shipped a computer to China without the required license and was sentenced in 1997 to pay a criminal fine of $800,000.
The Select Committee believes that China is particularly interested in acquiring the kind of computer power needed for the simulation of nuclear blasts. As a signer of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the PRC can no longer legally conduct actual tests to judge the performance of weapons. Yet HPC performance in the millions of MTOPS is needed for adequate computer modeling of aging nukes.
"For this reason, the Select Committee judges that the PRC is almost certain to use US HPCs to perform nuclear weapons applications," says the report.
Inhofe Pierces Administration "Smoke Screen"
Ever since the Chinese espionage scandal erupted, harsh criticism has been falling on the Clinton Administration's team of national security advisors-and the President personally. Their foes in Congress and the media accuse them of incompetence, inattention, poor judgment, and playing low politics with the nation's defenses.
Few if any critics have been as fierce or well-informed as Sen. James Inhofe (ROkla.), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Inhofe's view: "This President and this Administration are singularly culpable for orchestrating a politically inspired cover-up [of Chinese spying] in order to advance policies they knew were causing harm to US national security."
Inhofe dismisses as a "smoke screen" the White House's suggestions that most of the cases occurred long ago and that all recent Presidents are equally culpable.
"Sixteen of the 17 most significant major technology breaches ... were discovered after 1994," charged Inhofe, citing data uncovered by a Congressional panel led by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.). "The notion that Presidents Carter, Reagan, and Bush knew the extent to which China's efforts to steal US nuclear and military technology were successful is fantasy."
In a recent statement posted on his Senate Internet site, Inhofe went on to say, "At least eight (and maybe more) of these breaches actually occurred after 1994. ... Among these breaches--occurring on the Clinton watch--are many of those that go the farthest in advancing China's potential as a direct nuclear threat to the United States."
According to Inhofe, the eight breaches are:
* Transfer of so-called legacy codes containing data on 50 years of US nuclear weapons development, entailing more than 1,000 nuclear tests.
* Sale and diversion to military use of some 600 High Performance Computers, enabling China to enhance its development of nuclear weapons, missiles, and advanced aviation equipment.
* Compromise of nuclear warhead simulation technology, thus enhancing China's ability to perfect miniature nuclear warheads without actual testing.
* Compromise of advanced electromagnetic weapons technology useful in the development of anti-satellite and anti-missile systems.
* Transfer of missile nosecone technology that enables China to substantially improve reliability of its ICBMs.
* Transfer of missile guidance technology enabling China to substantially improve the accuracy of its ballistic missiles.
* Compromise of supersecret space-based radar technology, which would give China the ability to detect our previously undetectable submerged submarines.
* Compromise of some other "classified thermonuclear weapons information" which "the Clinton Administration ... has determined ... cannot be made public."
Inhofe is especially incensed at the way that President Clinton's national security advisor, Sandy Berger, has cast his role in the infamous W88 nuclear warhead case. China's theft of the design of the W88 miniaturized warhead happened in the 1980s and was discovered in 1995. It was an "enormously significant" event, said Inhofe. However, Berger claims he didn't tell the President about the theft until perhaps as late as early 1998.
"The idea that Sandy Berger, ... who was fully briefed about the W88 technology breach in April 1996, did not immediately communicate this information to the President is preposterous," said Inhofe.
Inhofe went on, "The President had to have known about the W88 breach no later than April 1996, well before the 1996 election. The President deliberately withheld this vital national security information from key members of Congress for obvious political reasons. He withheld it for almost three years-a cover-up that is nothing less than a scandal of gigantic proportions."
Inhofe charges that the underlying source of Administration action was the desire to maintain close relations--especially trade relations--with China.
"Notra Trulock, the Energy Department's former director of intelligence who had first briefed Berger in April 1996, testified [that] he was prepared to brief members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees as late as July 1998 but was denied permission to do so by acting Energy Secretary Elizabeth Moler, a political appointee. Moler reportedly ordered Trulock not to conduct the briefing because she said the information would be used to hurt Clinton's China policy."
Today's global market in space launch services is brutally competitive. China serves the same position in this market as it does for many consumer goods: It is the low-cost option. Its bids sometimes come in at half the price of Western launch firms, but it is not the high-quality option. PRC boosters have been known to veer off course and slam into nearby mountainsides, with disastrous results.
In general, the Cox report casts doubt on the wisdom of allowing US firms to put their satellites on Chinese rockets. The reason is that the boosters used are closely related to the PRC's military ballistic missiles. Launches financed by US firms and foreign agencies inevitably have given China the opportunity to refine booster reliability. In addition, US satellites are poorly guarded once they arrive in the PRC and present a tempting espionage target.
To bolster its point that the Chinese military benefits from civilian launches, the Cox report examines two cases in which US contractors may have skirted export restrictions to improve PRC boosters.
These companies--Hughes and Loral--were worried about the fate of their own satellites. Hughes Space and Communications, for instance, attempted in 1992 and 1995 to launch communications satellites on Chinese Long March rockets. Both satellites were lost when their launch vehicles exploded.
An internal Hughes investigation located the problem as being the Long March's hammerhead fairing-a sheath that protects the satellite as the rocket roars into orbit and then splits away as the payload is pushed into space. US engineers believed that the rivets that held the fairing together were not strong enough. They also thought the shape was slightly off and was vulnerable to strong winds during ascent.
The Chinese did not want to hear these points, at least not at first. They were very reluctant to admit fault in their boosters. However, commercial insurers were reluctant to back more Hughes launches in China unless changes were made. So Hughes conveyed their findings to the Chinese in a formal manner, and eventually the Long March 2E fairing was improved through such measures as an increase in the nose cap attachment screws.
Fairings are not necessary with single-warhead ICBMs. But multiple-warhead missiles use them to shroud re-entry vehicles, and the knowledge Hughes conveyed to China could help speed their development of MIRVs, believes the House Select Committee.
There is evidence that US government officials improperly approved at least some of the fairing discussions between the US firm and the PRC. Committee members allege, however, that Hughes knew that transferring the knowledge in question required additional review by the State Department.
"Hughes deliberately acted without the required State Department license," says the Cox report.
Loral was similarly worried about the reliability of the Long March rocket. On Feb. 15, 1996, a Loral Space Systems Intelsat 708 satellite was destroyed when a PRC booster tipped over even before it cleared the launch tower. The rocket crashed into a nearby hillside after 22 seconds of flight, devastating a village and killing upwards of 100 people, by some estimates.
A Chinese probe concluded that the spectacular accident was caused by a broken wire within the inner frame of the guidance system's Inertial Measurement Unit. Loral engineers thought that explanation did not come close to explaining the rocket's wild behavior. A Loral review pointed to two other possible causes: the IMU's follow-up frame or an open loop in the feedback path of the guidance system.
Loral faxed the report to the PRC in May 1996 without prior review by any US government authority, charges the Cox committee. China eventually concluded that Loral was right, and that the IMU follow-up frame had failed.
Improvements in the reliability of the Long March guidance system hurts US security because it is one of the candidates for use in the PRC's next-generation DF-31 ICBM, says the House Select Committee. Though not accurate enough to allow more than targeting of cities, the system is lightweight and compact.
One major danger in these technology transfers is simply that China has learned much about Western diagnostic processes, according to the Cox study.
"This exposure could improve the PRC's pre- and postflight failure analysis for their ballistic missile programs," says an interagency review team formed to answer questions about the Long March. "This, in turn, could increase the PRC's future ballistic missile reliability."
It is also possible that China has gleaned valuable technical information from the mere presence of USbuilt civilian satellites at Chinese launch sites. US firms are responsible for launch site security in the PRC, but buildings in which the satellites are prepared have numerous security weak points, from underground steam pipe tunnels to large unlocked window areas and paper door seals which can be peeled off, undetected, when cold.
Private US guards aren't exactly the epitome of professionalism, either. They routinely arrive for work drunk and then go to sleep, charges the Cox report. Trips to town to meet prostitutes are common.
The hunt for hookers became so intense at one point that a Defense Department monitor was approached by a PRC official who told him that one of the guards had been soliciting prostitutes in front of the local police department.
In another incident, a guard pulled a table out of line of sight of a video surveillance camera, to use it as a bed. Since the table blocked the room's door, the Defense Department monitor called the room to have it moved back. The guard reportedly responded that he was "not in the furniture moving business."
One guard even reported for work carrying a sleeping bag, charges the Cox study.
Espionage is not the only way the PRC obtains technological secrets. It also buys them, by relentlessly scouring the West for civilian items that may have military uses.
US law theoretically blocks sale of dual-use technology. However, determining what can and cannot be sold to the PRC is a difficult process, made harder by the PRC use of numerous front companies and long-term investments in Western firms.
Some efforts are rebuffed. In 1990, the PRC tried to advance its cruise missile program by buying the Williams FJ44 civil jet engine. This compact turbofan was derived from the power plant for the US Tomahawk, so the purchase was denied.
Others succeed. In 1993, a PRC company joint venturing with McDonnell Douglas to produce civilian airliners was allowed to buy 19 advanced US machine tools for its manufacturing plant. There were warning signs--the number of airliners to be built in China was cut by 50 percent, for example--but McDonnell Douglas insisted the tools were necessary for the PRC plant, so the Commerce Department approved the deal.
Two years later, McDonnell Douglas reported that six of the tools had been diverted to a factory that made military aircraft and cruise missiles, as well as commercial products.
Some attempted PRC purchases resulted in changes in US policy. In 1991, the Commerce Department decided to decontrol a popular series of civilian jet engines manufactured by AlliedSignal's Garrett Engine Division, the Garrett TFE-731. That meant that the engines could be exported without a license or US government review. The PRC quickly began negotiating with AlliedSignal over terms of a coproduction deal. Reportedly, the Chinese motivation was the need for a reliable engine for its developmental K-8 multirole military aircraft.
In July 1992, the Department of Defense learned of the negotiations. The reaction of military officials to the news sparked an interagency review of the decontrol decision. The co-production deal died after the review concluded that transfer of such jet engine production capabilities could threaten US national security.
"The PRC has mounted a widespread effort to obtain US military technologies by any means-legal or illegal," concludes the Cox report. "These pervasive efforts pose a particularly significant threat to US export control and counterintelligence efforts."
"Isn't that a periscope?" he asked.
Crew detected the target with the ship's state-of-the-art sonar. They then "pinged" what they took to be a submarine with their targeting sonar.
Under the rules of the sea the submarine should then have surfaced and displayed its national flag or faced being attacked by the Japanese warship with depth charges or torpedoes.
But, as the submarine captain was doubtless well aware, Japanese armed forces are heavily constrained by the country's pacifist constitution.
The submarine sped off, immune from attack, and revived a sharp debate in Japan about the constraints on the military at the time of a substantial arms race in Asia.
The Japanese believe, after talks with United States allies, that the submarine was Chinese and part of a now large naval force Beijing has been building and deploying in recent years to back its claim to be a regional power.
Indeed, Beijing has put special emphasis on creating a large and sophisticated submarine fleet as the cheapest and most effective way of projecting power well beyond China's coastal waters.
China's submarine fleet is now one of the world's largest with nearly 85 vessels. More than that, old and unreliable boats mostly acquired from the old Soviet Union are being rapidly replaced by modern submarines armed with highly sophisticated anti-ship missiles and radar-dodging cruise missiles able to attack land targets.
Beijing is even building at least five ballistic missile submarines, each carrying 12 intercontinental missiles and each missile having three nuclear warheads.
Meanwhile Japan has 16 submarines and no plans to build more and the American Pacific Fleet has 35 submarines, the world's most modern.
Beijing's emphasis on naval construction in recent years raises many eyebrows among military planners in Asian and Pacific Ocean nations because the intentions behind this huge investment in military power are so unclear.
It was again a central topic at the Maritime Security Challenge '08 conference of experts on Asian naval issues organized by Canada's Maritime Forces Pacific at Victoria last week.
At first the supposition was that Beijing's naval expansion aimed at backing its threats to invade and capture the independent nation state of Taiwan.
But the development of China's navy, both of surface warships and submarines, has now gone well beyond what is necessary to invade Taiwan and deter the island's main ally, the U.S., from rushing to its aid.
The vulnerability of the U.S. navy to attack from Chinese submarines was demonstrated with stark clarity in October 2006. A Song-class diesel-electric submarine shadowed a U.S. battle group led by the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and was only detected when it surfaced close to the carrier to reveal its presence.
That incident undermined the confidence with which U.S. strategists always talk about the superiority of their naval technology.
So does the coming into operation earlier this year of a massive submarine base hollowed out of the cliffs of China's Hainan island in the South China Sea.
The base at Sanya can house about 20 submarines and the entrance is so large they can leave and return submerged so as to be undetectable by satellites.
The base comes into operation at a time of increased tension between Beijing and other countries, especially Vietnam, around the South China Sea. Beijing claims most of the sea is Chinese territorial waters, and therefore it owns the resources underneath it.
Beijing's determination to project power goes well beyond its claims to the South China Sea, however.
China's economic well-being and therefore its internal security is now wholly dependent on sea-borne trade. And most of that trade, especially vital imports of oil, come across the Indian Ocean and through the South China Sea.
This has brought China's navy face-to-face with regional rival India, which is rapidly developing its own substantial maritime force into one that can make its presence felt throughout the Indian Ocean and even into Southeast Asia.
Since China is only beginning to develop a civil nuclear fuel cycle, it does not need to decide on the issue of spent fuel management until about 2005. However, China's three operating power reactors discharge about 60 metric tons heavy metal (MTHM)/year with an accumulated 300 MATH. It is estimated that with the addition of eight new reactors in the early 2000s that the discharge will be 168 MATH by 2005 with an accumulated inventory of 940 MATH. The CANDU and Qinshan reactors are expected to discharge 176 MTHM/year and will accumulate an inventory of 440 MATH by 2005.
The China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is the operational authority, and is responsible for site selection, construction and operation of each region's repository. The State Bureau of Environmental Protection (SBEP) is the oversight authority for China's nuclear waste disposal. The Everclean Environmental Engineering Corporation, a subsidiary of CNNC, was founded to handle low and intermediate level solid radioactive waste disposal.
China divides radioactive waste into five categories:
(1) Waste gases and liquids
(2) Solid waste
(3) Tail ore and waste rock
(4) Waste generated during the decommissioning and decontamination of military nuclear facilities
(5) Waste from urban industries and institutes involved with radioactive materials
In October 1994, at the IAEA-sponsored "Conference on Practices and Issues in Developing China's Radioactive Waste Management," CNNC Assistant General Manager Li Dingfan announced China's policy of local disposal of low- to mid level solid wastes and deep layer, permanent burial of high level waste (HL). Due to the incremental nature of the policy, all relevant provinces and municipalities are to establish temporary radioactive waste storage facilities. In response to this, all nuclear facilities have their own storage and treatment units for radioactive waste. In total, there are now 21 storage facilities in China.
Location selection for a repository for high level waste involves four stages - national, regional, district, and site. District screening was started in 1989 focusing on the Beishan area in northwest China. The most promising districts are reported to be Quinhongquan and Jiujin in the southern part of the region. The overall plan also involves four stages:
(1) 1985 - 2025: Site selection and site characterization
(2) 2025 - 2029: Repository design
(3) 2024 - 2050: Repository construction
(4) 2051 - onwards: Repository operation
Four regional low level waste (LLW) and intermediate level waste (ILW) repositories exist or are planned. They will be located in the northwest, south, east and southwest portions of China. The Lanzhou Nuclear Fuel Complex in Lanzhou, Gansu also stores nuclear waste. China's nuclear weapons test base at Lop Nur is also being considered as a site for radioactive waste storage.
Sources differ on the number of new spent fuel facilities currently under development. Some sources state that China is constructing three low-to-medium level storage pools for spent fuel: one in northwest China to be operational in 1997; one in the south to be completed in 1998; and one in the east to be completed in 2002. Another source states that China plans five regional LLW/HLW facilities.
Yet a third source states China plans three or four low- and intermediate level waste repositories to serve different regions, with the first to be located at the Lanzhou complex.
Spent Fuel Waste Storage/Management Facilities
(1) Gobi Desert
Planned reprocessing and storage facility to be completed by 1995. Already used for nuclear weapon related production and disposal. 20,000 sq km complex to include reprocessing and spent fuel storage facilities. Will store spent fuel that was previously stored at nuclear power plants. Will include a solidification plant and burial facilities for solid waste. China also announced plans for a larger treatment plant at the same location to be completed in 2000.
The Lanzhou Nuclear Fuel Complex is located 25 km northeast of Lanzhou, Gansu Province and consists of a uranium conversion facility, gaseous diffusion plant and a pilot-scale reprocessing plant. It contains a center for the temporary storage of spent fuel pending reprocessing.
(3) Lop Nur
The Lop Nur Nuclear Weapons Test Base is located in Malan, Xinjiang Autonomous Region and is China's only nuclear weapons test site. Lop Nur is a likely site for interim high-level waste storage.
(4) East China Disposal Site EAST
[Reportedly in preselection phase.] The East China disposal site is planned to open in 2003 with an initial capacity of 80,000 cubic meters and a planned total capacity of 300,000 cubic meters.
(5) Northwest China Disposal Site
Urumqi.The Northwest China disposal site began accepting waste in 1999. It has an initial capacity of 60,000 cubic meters and a planned total capacity of 200,000 to 300,000 cubic meters.
(6) South China Disposal Site
Located five km east of the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station, Beilong District. Will dispose of low- and medium-level waste from the Daya Bay NPS. It was selected in 1993 and is expected to be operational in 2000. It will have an initial capacity 80,000 cubic meters planned total capacity of 300,000 cubic meters.
(7) Southwest China Disposal Site
A temporary storage site for nuclear waste that is capable of handling 1,000 barrels of nuclear waste annually was established in spring 2000 in Sichuan Province. A permanent southwest China disposal site is expected to be operational in 10-20 years and is reportedly in a preselection phase. At least three locations have be chosen as candidates for the site.
Sunday 12 October 2008
In order to grasp the energy that China is now committing to undersea warfare, consider that during 2002-2004 China's navy launched thirteen submarines while simultaneously undertaking the purchase of submarines from Russia on an unprecedented scale. Indeed, China commissioned thirty-one new submarines between 1995 and 2005. Given this rapid evolution, appraisals of China's capability to field competent and lethal diesel submarines in the littorals have slowly changed from ridicule to grudging respect of late. China's potential for complex technological development is finally being taken seriously abroad.
Whereas the Yuan's debut allegedly surprised Western analysts, the emergence of China's 093 SSN and 094 SSBN has been anticipated for some time. Nevertheless, these programs remain shrouded in mystery, and there is little consensus regarding their operational and strategic significance. In the broadest terms, it can be said that a successful 093 program will significantly enlarge the scope of Chinese submarine operations, perhaps ultimately serving as the cornerstone of a genuine blue-water navy. The 094 could take the survivability of China's nuclear deterrent to a new level, potentially enabling more aggressive posturing by Beijing in a crisis. Moreover, these platforms are entering the PLA Navy (PLAN) at a time when reductions are projected to occur in the U.S. Navy submarine force; that fact was duly noted by a senior PLAN strategist recently in one of China's premier naval journals.
The PLA is notoriously opaque, posing major challenges for Western analysts. Official statements regarding the intentions of China's future nuclear submarine force are all but nonexistent. Nevertheless, one of the most significant statements is contained in the 2004 PLA defense white paper's discussion of naval operations. Enhancing "nuclear counterattacks" capability was described as one of the PLAN's most important missions. Moreover, Chinese unofficial writings on defense issues are voluminous and growing more so. Among dozens of journals, magazines, and newspapers devoted to military affairs (not to mention hundreds of more technically oriented publications), at least five focus specifically on naval warfare. This article will survey the available Chinese writings concerning the PLAN's future nuclear submarine force.
Two caveats are in order. First, this article seeks to present the views of Chinese analysts but does not render final judgment on the validity of those views. Such an approach will better acquaint a broader community of naval analysts with the essential primary source materials. Second, this is not a comprehensive study but rather a preliminary research probe. These data need to be treated with a certain amount of caution, and follow-on studies are necessary before major conclusions can be drawn.
The article begins with a brief survey of relevant elements from Chinese writings concerning the PLAN's nuclear submarine history. A second section examines how PLAN analysts appraise developments among foreign nuclear submarine forces: What lessons do they glean from these other experiences? The third section concerns mission imperatives: What strategic and operational objectives are China's 093 and 094 submarines designed to achieve? The potential capabilities of these submarines are addressed in this article's fourth and final section.
Chinese naval writings reveal an intense pride regarding Beijing's naval nuclear-propulsion program. These writings, in the "glorious genre," as it were, are well documented in John Wilson Lewis and Xue Litai's groundbreaking and authoritative classic China's Strategic Seapower. This article will not attempt to examine Chinese writings to check for consistency with the conclusions in the detailed study by Lewis and Xue (though this is a worthwhile project and should be undertaken, given the wide variety of new Chinese secondary source data). Rather, this analysis highlights several important trends in contemporary Chinese discussions of the first-generation nuclear submarines, in order to assess the prospects for the next generation.
In his recent autobiography, published in Chinese by the official PLA press in 2004, Admiral Liu Huaqing provides a unique level of detail concerning the foundation for China's contemporary development of nuclear submarines. Credited with an instrumental role in modernizing China's navy, Admiral Liu presided over a steady improvement and expansion of China's submarine force as both commander of the PLAN (1982-88) and vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (1989-97). In 1984, Admiral Liu emphasized: "We must place importance on submarines at all times.... Nuclear-powered submarines should be further improved and used as a strategic task force." Liu viewed nuclear submarines not only as "a deterrent force of the nation" but also as "an expression of our country's overall strength." As commander of the PLA Navy, Liu emphasizes, "I paid exceptional attention to the practical work of developing nuclear-powered submarines. From 1982 through 1988, I organized various experiments and training sessions in this regard. I also considered developing a second generation of nuclear-powered submarines." PLAN emphasis on submarine development continues today. As the 2005 edition of the PLA's first authoritative English-language volume on strategy emphasizes, "Stealth warships and new-style submarines represent the modern sea battle platforms."
Chinese periodicals elucidate more recent factors shaping Chinese nuclear submarine force development. One important 2004 Chinese survey of China's emerging nuclear submarine program, in the journal (World Aerospace Digest), reviews a series of inadequacies in China's submarine force that became starkly evident during the 1990s. According to this report, the 1993 Yin He incident was an important event for crystallizing the People's Republic of China (PRC)'s commitment to a new generation of nuclear attack submarines. Thus, when the Chinese freighter was inspected in Saudi Arabia before proceeding to Iran, the PRC high command was apparently "extremely furious, but had no recourse" . At that point, the leadership redoubled its efforts to build a "capable and superior nuclear attack submarine that could protect China's shipping in distant seas." The author notes that "at present, our country only has five Han-class nuclear attack submarines.... This number is insufficient and the capabilities are backward.... Thus, they are inadequate to cope with the requirements of the new strategic situation."
The 2004 memoirs of former PLAN commander Admiral Liu appear to lend some credence to this sequence of events as they state that the Central Military Commission began development work on a "new generation nuclear submarine," probably the 093, in 1994. "In 1990 the last [of the original five Han-class SSNs] was launched," Liu recalls:
After I briefed President Jiang Zemin on this, he decided to
personally inspect the launch of this submarine. At the time
of inspection, he said resolutely: "Development of nuclear-powered
submarines cannot be discontinued." On 29 May 1992, when forwarding
the Navy's report on building nuclear-powered submarine
units to President Jiang, I particularly stressed the need
to continually develop scientific research and perform successful
safety work. President Jiang wrote a note on the report, giving his
important instructions on this matter. Based on his instructions,
in the course of developing nuclear-powered submarines, we
formed a seamless and effective nuclear safety mechanism by
drawing on the experience of foreign countries while taking our
practical situation into account. The mechanism included
regulations and rules, technological controls, and supervisory
and examination measures. In 1994, in compliance with President
Jiang's instructions, the Central Military Commission and its
Special Committee adopted a decision to start developing a new
generation of nuclear-powered submarines. Seeing that there were
qualified personnel to carry on the cause and that new types of
submarines would continue to be developed, I felt relieved.
The above analysis in (World Aerospace Digest), however, does cut against what appears to be conventional wisdom in China's naval literature, which tends to credit China's Han submarines with a significant role in the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis. Thus, one report states that in mid-March 1996, "U.S. military satellites were unable to detect the position of [certain] Chinese nuclear submarines; it was as if they ... had vanished." This narrative continues, "The U.S. carrier battle groups were unable to cope with the hidden, mobile, high-speed, undersea" threat posed by the Chinese nuclear submarines, and thus "were unable to approach the sea area within 200 nautical miles of Taiwan." Implying some uncertainty on this issue, the author asks, "Why did the U.S. carrier group suddenly change its original plan? Was it that they feared China's nuclear submarines?" Another PRC report also alleges that American military satellites lost track of China's SSNs and that the U.S. Navy was forced to retreat when confronted by the "massive threat of China's nuclear submarine force." Given the Han-class SSN's reputation as a noisy vessel, these statements might well be viewed with suspicion--and, indeed, they are not reproduced here to imply their truth. Nonetheless, these Chinese conjectures are related above because they could be indicative of the context within which 093 and 094 development has occurred.
Most China scholars agree that the intellectual space for debate and disagreement in China is, and has for some time been, rather wide. In this respect, the analysis from [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (World Aerospace Digest) is once again noteworthy. While the vast majority of PLAN writings concerning the single Type 092 Xia SSBN heap praise on China's technical achievements, this analysis breaks new ground (in the PRC context) by drawing attention to the Xia's inadequacies. It notes candidly, "The Xia-class actually is not a genuine deterrent capability." Noting the symbolic value of the vessel, the author explains that the Xia was important to answer the question of "having or not having" a nuclear submarine but then enumerates the platform's numerous problems: high noise levels and radiation leakage, not to mention the short range of the single warhead carried by China's first-generation submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the Julang-1. Forced to approach the enemy's shores and vulnerable to enemy ASW, the Xia "cannot possibly serve as a viable nuclear, second-strike force." It is no wonder, the author explains, that China did not opt to build a "whole batch" of these problematic submarines. No doubt, such candid observations suggest that Chinese strategists do not necessarily overestimate the capabilities of their first-generation nuclear submarines, perhaps adding additional impetus to the building of a second generation.
Even more important than the observations concerning history cited above, however, are the views of China's "founding fathers" of naval nuclear propulsion. Two of these founding fathers recently offered interviews to the press in which they expounded on the outlook for nuclear submarines in naval warfare. First, Peng Shilu, designer of China's first naval nuclear reactor, was interviewed in [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (World Outlook) in 2002. Although Peng drafted his first reactor designs more than three decades ago, this engineer is unwavering in his commitment: "In the First World War, the battleship was the most important vessel; and in the Second World War, it was the aircraft carrier. [But in] the future, I believe the most critical naval asset will be the nuclear submarine." For Peng, the SSN's primary strengths are high power, high speed, large carrying capacity for equipment and personnel, and extended deployment capability, as well as excellent concealment possibilities. According to Peng, "Nuclear submarines can go anywhere.... [T]heir scope of operations is vast [and they are therefore] most appropriate to meet the security requirements of a great power." Drawing on another interview with Peng Shilu, an analysis published in 2005 by China's Central Party School Press concludes: "[Such is] the huge superiority of nuclear propulsion [that it] simply cannot be compared with conventional propulsion."
An interview with the Han submarine's chief designer, Huang Xuhua, which appeared in the military periodical [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Ordnance Knowledge) in 2000 is more explicit regarding some of the dilemmas confronting China's naval nuclear propulsion program. Huang discusses the conundrum for naval strategists posed by the option to choose between development of AIP (air-independent propulsion) technology and nuclear propulsion. The interviewer asks Huang directly whether it makes sense to continue with nuclear propulsion development, given recent worldwide advances in AIP technology. Huang points out that nuclear propulsion offers far more power, is likely much safer and more reliable, and enables submarines to stay submerged for longer periods of time. Taking Sweden's Gotland-class AIP-equipped submarine as an example, he suggests that this submarine's two weeks of submerged operations at an average speed of four knots might not "be adequate for combat requirements." Huang accepts that certain bathymetric conditions are ideal for AIP-equipped diesel submarines, such as those prevailing in the Baltic Sea (a small, shallow body of water). For Sweden, therefore, Huang says, "It is scientifically logical to select this type of submarine." The implicit argument, however, is that China confronts rather different, if not wholly unrelated, maritime challenges and requirements.
In making an argument for Chinese nuclear submarine development, Huang draws a parallel to Britain's deployment of SSNs during the Falklands War. He notes that their high speed was critical to their success in deploying to a distant theater in a timely fashion. Indeed, other PRC naval analysts have been impressed by the sea-control capabilities that British SSNs afforded during this scenario--the most intense naval combat since the Second World War. Huang then makes the observation that such high-speed submarines are critical for a nation, such as the United Kingdom, that--in contrast to the United States--no longer possesses a global network of bases. For the PRC, which takes great pride in its lack of overseas bases, this would appear to be an argument for SSNs serving as the basis of a blue-water navy with considerable reach. Indeed, writing in China's most prestigious military publication, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (China Military Science), PLAN Senior Captain Xu Qi goes so far as to state that China's "navy must ... unceasingly move toward [the posture of] a 'blue-water navy' [and] expand the scope of maritime strategic defense."
The Falklands War is hardly the only naval campaign of interest to Chinese strategists, as PRC researchers produce an extraordinary volume of analyses concerned with modern naval warfare--often generated by carefully dissecting foreign secondary sources. There is a large appetite for information regarding the United Kingdom's history of nuclear submarine operations and even that of such nascent nuclear submarine powers as India. However, Chinese naval strategists evidently prioritize analyses of the American, French, and especially Russian nuclear submarine fleets.
From a very early stage, PRC engineers demonstrated concretely that they were not averse to adopting American designs, as they conspicuously embraced the "teardrop" configuration for their first generation of nuclear submarines, in contrast to then-current Soviet designs. Today the "threat" component is also evident in PLAN analyses of the U.S. submarine force. Chinese researchers display intimate familiarity with all U.S. Navy submarine force programs, including the most cutting-edge platforms, such as Seawolf and Virginia. Additionally, there is great interest in the ongoing transformation of some SSBNs into SSGNs. Ample focus is also devoted to the capabilities of the Los Angeles class as the backbone of the U.S. Navy submarine force. Beyond platforms and programs, there is also a keen interest in America's industrial organization for nuclear submarine production and maintenance.
Chinese analysts closely monitor French nuclear submarine development as well. They have paid particular attention to the manner in which France strives to maximize the effectiveness of its second-tier nuclear submarine force. The September 2005 issue of (Naval and Merchant Ships) features a lengthy report, apparently by a Chinese naval officer studying in France who has made several visits to French nuclear submarines based in Brest. This report makes note of numerous details, from the vast support network at the base to France's inclination to support a high quality of life aboard its nuclear vessels. Concerning the value of France's SSBN force, which is noted to constitute "80% of France's nuclear weaponry," the author quotes a French military expert as saying, "France's SSBNs ensure national security, carry out strategic nuclear deterrence and [have] basic power for independent national defense." Other issues highlighted in this report include personnel practices (e.g., age limitations, two crews per submarine), operations cycles (a two/two/two pattern for SSBNs that marches other Chinese discussions--see below), command and control arrangements, quieting technologies, and the small size of certain classes of French SSNs.
It is with the Russian nuclear submarine force, however, that the Chinese navy feels the greatest affinity. This is not surprising and springs from historical, strategic, and perhaps even organizational-cultural affinities that appear to have been cemented since the passing of Sino-Soviet enmity in the late 1980s. Chinese analysts are well aware of the crisis that the Russian nuclear submarine force has suffered in recent years. They have written extensively on the Kursk tragedy and other accidents. For instance, one source has documented the great embarrassment suffered during an SLBM test failure that was witnessed directly by Russian president Vladimir Putin in early 2004. Chinese analysts note the vastly decreased building rate for Soviet nuclear submarines and voice concern lest the legacy force be insufficient to contend with the United States.
Nevertheless, respect for Russian nuclear submarine achievements has not diminished significantly. A review of Soviet naval development that appeared in (China Military Science) in 1999 extolled the virtues of nuclear submarines: "Relying on nuclear submarines, the Soviet Union rapidly overcame the unfavorable geostrategic situation, giving the USSR an ocean going navy with offensive capability." Perhaps reflecting on internal debates in China regarding naval modernization, the author also described how the Russian naval development encountered a major obstacle from a faction adhering to the notion that "navies have no use in the nuclear age".
Reflecting on today's Russian navy, (Modern Navy) lavished praise on the capabilities of a refurbished Typhoon-class SSBN, Dmitry Donskoy, that was re-launched in 2002; it also hailed the 2001 launch of an Akula-class SSN, Gepard, which is described as the world's quietest nuclear submarine. The latter report also noted that Gepard has twenty-four nuclear-armed cruise missiles. In a "war game" (of unknown origin) modeling a Russian-Japanese naval conflict, which was reported on in considerable detail in the October and November 2002 issues of (Naval and Merchant Ships), the Russian nuclear submarine force overcame Japan's ASW forces and inflicted grave losses (thirteen ships sunk) on the Japanese navy. This would appear to be a subtle argument that China also requires a substantial fleet of SSNs.
In Chinese naval periodicals, the affinity with the Russian nuclear submarine force is manifested by vast coverage of the minutest details of historical and contemporary platforms. In 2004-2005, for example, the journal (Naval and Merchant Ships) carried ten-to-fifteen-page special features, each devoted to outlining the development of a single class, such as the Victor, Delta, Oscar, or Alpha, complete with photo essays and detailed line drawings. These features are suggestive of the volumes of data that have been made available over the last decade from the Russian side and, simultaneously, the voracious appetite for such information within China's naval studies community. Among such descriptions, perhaps no Russian submarine commands as much respect and interest as the massive Typhoon. Chinese analysts are captivated not only by this vessel's gargantuan proportions but also by the efficiency of its reactors, its impressive quieting characteristics, the attention to crew living standards, and its command and control equipment and procedures. Evidently Chinese naval analysts appear to comprehend the strategic significance of a platform that could strike adversary targets from the "Russian-dominated Barents and Okhotsk seas."
Western analysts have followed Russian arms transfers to China with an all-consuming interest. But the above discussions imply that one should not underestimate the transfer of "software" and expertise that has occurred in parallel with that of the hardware. The true dimensions of these intellectual transfers remain unknown.
PRC writings concerning nuclear submarines do not hide the symbolic role of these vessels. One, for example, remarks on the precise correlation between membership in the UN Security Council and the development of nuclear submarines. Indeed, it appears to be conventional wisdom in the PRC that nuclear submarines represent one of China's clearest claims to status as a great power . In 1989, after China's successful test Of the JL-1 SLBM, Admiral Liu, then vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, stated,
Chairman Mao said that "we will build a nuclear submarine even if
it takes 10,000 years." ... Our nuclear submarine [and its] stealthy
nuclear missile both succeeded. This has [had] strong international
repercussions. As Comrade Deng Xiaoping has said, if we did not
have atomic bombs, missiles, [and] satellites, then we would not
[enjoy] our present international status, and could not shape
international great triangle relations [as a balancer to the Soviet
Union]. Developing strategic nuclear weapons has therefore [had]
great strategic significance for the nation.
Beyond symbolism, however, what are the missions that Chinese strategists envision for the second generation of PLAN nuclear submarines?
In general, nuclear submarines are credited with having significant advantages over conventional submarines: "a large cruising radius, strong self-power [i.e., electrical power supply], high underwater speed, great diving depth, [relative] quietness and large weapons carrying capacity." Perceived advantages of conventional submarines include "small volume, low noise, low cost, and mobility." Underscoring the cost differential, an anonymous PLAN officer is cited as warning, "The price of one nuclear submarine can buy several, even more than ten, conventional submarines.... As a developing country, our nation's military budget is still quite low, and thus the size of the navy's nuclear submarine fleet can only be maintained at a basic scale"
In 1989 Admiral Liu declared, "I believe that there are two issues in developing nuclear submarines: one is the development of SSBNs, and one is the development of SSNs. Both types of nuclear submarines should be developed, especially SSNs. Along with technological development, enemy ASW power has strengthened. Originally, using conventional submarines was sufficient to accomplish [our] missions, but now that has become problematic, [so] we must develop SSNs."
To understand what strategic roles the 093 submarine might undertake, it is essential to return to the discussion initiated by both Peng Shilu and Huang Xuhua in the first part of this article concerning the particular tactical and operational advantages of nuclear submarines. Indeed, the sophistication of PLA thinking on these issues is underlined by Huang's analysis of the different roles played by SSNs for each side during the Cold War. For the Americans, he says, they were a vital element of "global attack strategy" . For the Soviets, by contrast, their roles were to stalk enemy carrier battle groups, as well as to defend Soviet ballistic missile submarines. Concurring with Peng and Huang, a third analysis from (National Defense) enumerates further advantages of nuclear submarines by emphasizing the all-important factor of the SSN's impressive power supply. Not to be underestimated, this supply of power can vastly improve the crew's quality of life (e.g., by providing for strong air conditioning) and support electronic combat systems. In terms of combat performance, it is said that SSNs can employ their speed to foil ASW attack and are built solidly to absorb battle damage.
A consistent theme in PRC writings concerning SSNs involves their ability to undertake long-range missions of extended duration. Consistent with the analysis above that described the 1993 Yin He incident as lending significant impetus for the 093 program, a recent discussion of China's nuclear submarine force in (Naval and Merchant Ships) refers to the enormous growth in China's maritime trade as a factor in shaping China's emerging nuclear submarine strategy.Likewise, another article from (Modern Ships) on PRC submarine strategy suggests, "Submarines are the PLAN's main long-distance sea force.... Protecting China's sea lines of communication has become an important aspect of maritime security. This is an important new mission for the PLAN." If nuclear submarines can "break through the island chain blockade" , they can conduct long-distance operations without hindrance from the enemy's airborne ASW. Nuclear submarines are said to be far superior to diesel-powered submarines in combat situations in which air cover is lacking--a recognized vulnerability of the PLAN in distant operations. But overall, there is a strong emphasis on the imperative for Chinese nuclear submarines to function in a joint environment, thereby complementing other PLA strengths.
Nevertheless, these same analyses also exhibit some conservatism--for example, suggesting explicitly that China's new nuclear submarines will not operate beyond China's "second island chain" (running from the Japanese archipelago south to the Bonin and Marianas Islands and finally to the Palau group). Indeed, nuclear submarines are also said to be critical in the struggle to establish sea control in the littoral regions and in China's neighboring seas. The linkage between the 093 program and the Taiwan issue (as suggested above) is fairly clear: "In order to guarantee the required national defense strength and to safeguard the completion of national unification and to prevent 'Taiwan independence,' over the past few years, China has increased indigenous production of new conventional and nuclear submarines" (emphasis added). There is not only an acceleration of the building rate but also a change in the pattern of submarine development: "China's construction of a new generation of nuclear-powered attack submarines breaks with past practice, in which China would first build one vessel, debug it repeatedly, and then begin small batch production. In this case, work on the later submarines began almost simultaneously with work on the first.... China is doing it differently this time ... because of the urgency of the surrounding situation." Consistent with the Taiwan scenario hinted at above, it is said that China's nuclear submarines will be ideal for attacking a likely enemy's lengthy seaborne supply lines.
Disturbingly, one article actually does raise the possibility of a long-range land attack and even a nuclear-strategic role for China's future SSN. But it is the 094 SSBN, of course, that is envisioned to have the primary role in the nuclear-strike/ deterrence mission. Indeed, the same analysis suggests that, in contrast to Russia, China is planning to base a higher proportion--as many as half--of its nuclear warheads on submarines. Another source states that Chinese "SSBNs, [which] already possess appropriate nuclear counterattack capability, are an important embodiment of national strategic nuclear deterrence."
One Chinese expert identifies bathymetry as influencing SSBN development and deployment. He suggests that countries with shallow coastal waters on a continental shelf (such as China) face strong incentives to develop smaller SSBNs in order to better operate in local conditions. Among the reasons cited by Chinese strategists for continuing development of their nation's SSBN program are the inherent stealth and mobility of the submarine, which combine to make it the "most survivable type of (nuclear) weapon" . The PLAN is pursuing the 094, therefore, in order to guarantee via deterrence that mainland China is not struck by nuclear weapons and "to make sure, in the context of regional war, to prevent direct intervention by a third party" . In this analysis, China's nuclear forces are viewed as critical to deterring Washington in a Taiwan scenario, and the author is unusually candid: "At present, our country's nuclear deterrent forces are insufficient; [therefore] the potential for U.S. military intervention in a cross-Strait conflict is extremely high." Another source, citing China's development of the 094 submarine, emphasizes that "if a war erupts across the Taiwan Strait one day, facing the danger of China waging nuclear war, it will be very difficult for America to intervene in the cross-strait military crisis."
Another PRC analysis draws a direct link between the 094 and U.S. missile defense capabilities. It proposes: "In the face of the continual upgrade of the U.S. theater missile system and the excited U.S. research and development of all sorts of new antimissile systems, of course we cannot stand by idly and watch.... We must ... [adopt] countermeasures. The most important of these countermeasures is to exert great effort in developing new types of nuclear-powered strategic missile submarines which are more capable of penetrating defenses." Failure to do so, according to these authors, will increase the likelihood that "the opponent's nuclear cudgel may some day come crashing down on the heads of the children of the Yellow Emperor."
A somewhat more subtle justification for the 094 makes the argument in quasi-legalistic terms. Since China currently has a no-first-use policy for its nuclear forces, it is said to require the most survivable type of nuclear weapons (i.e., SSBN-based). The same analysis cautions that there is no need to build SSBNs in the excessive numbers that characterized the Cold War at sea. Rather, China will seek a "balanced" nuclear force (both land and sea-based), just as it will seek a balanced navy.
There appears to be some recognition that an effective sea-based deterrent hinges on more than stealthy second-generation nuclear submarines. A student at China's Central Party School cautions that unless the PLAN "possess[es] the ability to control passage in and out of important strategic passages in times of crisis.... In wartime, it is possible that PLAN vessels might suffer enclosure, pursuit, blocking, and interception by the enemy. Besieged in the offshore waters, [China's] sea-based nuclear deterrent could be greatly reduced."
For Western analysts, the most important details concerning the 093 and 094 submarines involve their projected deployment numbers and capabilities. Here the authors will examine both Chinese naval writings and related technical research to suggest a range of possibilities. It bears repeating that we do not endorse the estimates offered below but are merely presenting the data for other scholars and analysts to consider.
A major theme of Chinese writings is that while China cannot yet build submarines that meet advanced Western standards in all respects, it is intent on building successful 093 and 094 submarines. According to one source, "The technology involved is relatively mature." The situation is strikingly different from that surrounding China's first generation of nuclear submarines, which were built in the 1960s and 1970s when China was unstable, impoverished, isolated, and technologically backward. One author cites China's "successful economic reforms" over the "past twenty years" and the accompanying "technological progress" as providing the necessary expertise and adequate "resources" for successful nuclear submarine development. China is finally poised to capitalize on its decades of experience with related development and manufacturing processes. Because of these advances, China's new nuclear submarines will not necessarily be copies of either American or Russian submarines but rather products of an indigenous Chinese effort that is informed by foreign "best of breed" technologies and practices. Nor will Chinese nuclear submarines necessarily be used in the same roles for which U.S. and Soviet submarines were optimized (e.g., antisubmarine warfare).
The actual number of 093 and 094 submarines that China constructs and deploys will offer insight into its naval and nuclear strategies. One Chinese source suggests that by 2010, China will field a total of six 094 SSBNs, divided into patrolling, deploying, and refitting groups. Consistent with this projection, another source suggests that these groups will comprise two SSBNs each.
Another critical question concerns the 093 and 094 submarines' acoustic properties. Chinese sources universally recognize that noise reduction is one of the greatest challenges in building an effective nuclear submarine. PRC scientists have long been conducting research concerning the fundamental sources of propeller noise. For instance, experts at China Ship Scientific Research Center developed a relatively advanced guide-vane propeller by the late 1990s. This, and the fact that China already has advanced seven-blade propellers with cruciform vortex dissipaters on its indigenous Song-class and imported Kilo-class diesel submarines, suggests that the 093 and 094 will have significantly improved propellers. A researcher in Qingdao's 4808 Factory also demonstrates Chinese attention to the need to use sound-isolation couplings to prevent transmission of vibrations to the ocean from major fresh-water circulating pumps in the steam cycle. Advanced composite materials are credited with capability to absorb vibrations and sound.
One Chinese researcher states that the 093 is not as quiet as the U.S. Seawolf class or Virginia class but is on a par with the improved Los Angeles class. Another analyst estimates that the 093's noise level has been reduced to that of the Russian Akula-class submarine at 110 decibels . He states that the 094's acoustic signature has been reduced to 120 decibels. According to this report, this is definitely not equal to that of the Ohio class, but is on a par with the Los Angeles. There is no additional information given to evaluate concerning the origins or comparability of these "data."
It is conceivable, if unlikely, that the PRC has achieved a major scientific feat concerning the propulsion system for nuclear submarines. A wide variety of Chinese sources claim that China has succeeded in developing a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) suitable for use in its new-generation nuclear submarines. This development is described as a "revolutionary breakthrough" . Another source elaborates: "HTGR is the most advanced in the world, [its] volume is small, [its] power is great, [its] noise is low--it is the most ideal propulsion system for a new generation of nuclear submarines. The United States and Russia have both not achieved a breakthrough in this regard. According to Western reports, in the first half of 2000, China successfully installed an HTGR on a nuclear submarine. If this information is true, the 093 uses this advanced propulsion technology."
This same analyst suggests that the need to incorporate the new HTGR explains why 093 development has stretched out over a number of years. HTGR development is indeed cited as a major component of China's 863 High Technology Plan to develop selected key technologies. The Institute of Nuclear Energy Technology (INET) at Qinghua University has constructed a ten-megawatt HTGR, known as HTR 10. Qinghua and MIT signed a collaborative HTGR research agreement in 2003. The chief scientist and office director in charge of energy technology development for China's 863 Plan write that HTR 10's "high level results" make it "one of the most promising fourth generation systems." In the area of nuclear reactor design, construction, and components, robust indigenous research has been supplemented by extensive technological assistance from such Western corporations as Westinghouse.
As implied above, some Chinese analysts believe that the HTGR promises to give PLAN submarines unprecedented maximum speed. China's Han submarines, by contrast, are said to have a maximum speed of twenty-five knots, while the Xia has a maximum surface speed of sixteen knots and underwater speed of twenty-two knots. As mentioned before, however, Huang Xuhua believes that submarine speed is less important than concealment, which in turn depends on minimizing a submarine's acoustic signature. Another possible benefit of advanced nuclear propulsion is increased reactor safety.
Despite the above speculation, there are substantial reasons to doubt that China would be willing or able to put such an immature technology in its second generation of nuclear submarines, as this would constitute a substantial risk on the investment. Moreover, as Shawn Cappellano-Sarver points out, "The technical difficulties that would have to be overcome with the blowers (the need for magnetic bearings) and the fuel loading system to make an HTGR compatible with a submarine are formidable. This makes the probability of the 093 being equipped with an HTGR small."
As for armaments, the same analyst states that the 093 submarine may be equipped with "Eagle Strike" YJ-12 supersonic antiship cruise missiles. The YJ-12 has been developed as part of a larger Chinese quest for improved cruise missiles, particularly submarine-launched variants. The PLAN is presently working to equip "attack submarines with long distance, supersonic, low altitude missile travel, high accuracy, and strong anti-interference anti-ship missiles, with the combat capability to attack enemy surface ships from mid- to long-range."
The 093 is said to have sixty-five-centimeter torpedo tubes. In his interview, Huang discusses the engineering issues associated with torpedo tube diameter, explaining that "wider tubes support superior torpedoes and are not for ... missiles or sound-dampening." As for the number of missile tubes in the 094, two sources predict sixteen tubes, compared with the Xia's twelve. A third source forecasts between twelve and sixteen tubes.
Admiral Liu Huaqing has recounted China's initial failure and ultimately successful (on 12 October 1982) effort to test launch the JL-1, or CSS-N-3, SLBM from a submerged Golf-class submarine. This made China the fifth nation to have an undersea nuclear capability. "Launching carrier rockets from underwater has remarkable advantages, compared with using land-based or airborne strategic nuclear weapons," Liu emphasizes. "This is because the launching platform ... has a wide maneuver space and is well concealed. This gives it better survivability and, hence, greater deterrent power." The JL-1 was test-fired successfully from the Xia on 15 September 1988. According to one PRC analyst, "China believes that although the U.S. thinks the Xia-class submarine is too noisy and easy to detect, the Chinese navy is capable of going into the Pacific without detection because of its special tactics."
The 094's JL-2 SLBM is projected to have a range of eight thousand kilometers, compared to 2,700 kilometers for the JL-1. There is also speculation that, in contrast to JL-1, JL-2 will have multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles (MIRVs). This would enhance nuclear deterrence by increasing China's number of undersea warheads and significantly bolstering their chances of penetrating an American national missile defense. One Chinese source predicts that each JL-2 SLBM will carry three to six warheads. Another article makes the extremely ambitious claim that JL-2s already carry six to nine warheads each and in the future will carry fourteen to seventeen.
The question of how Beijing will communicate with its newly modernized submarine fleet constitutes a major operational challenge. If China emulates other submarine powers, it is likely to pursue total redundancy for submarine command and control, relying on multiple means employing different physical principles. Extremely low frequency (ELF) communications have the advantage that messages can be received at depths of two to three hundred meters, thereby maximizing submarine stealth and survivability. There are major problems with ELF in practice, however, and it is not clear that China has mastered this technology. Most submarine communications are conducted across a range of frequencies, from very low frequency to extremely high frequency. Submarines receive messages through exposed antennas while at periscope depth, or via floating or slightly submerged antennas while near the surface. China might, therefore, create a dedicated maritime aircraft squadron for communications with its submarine fleet, if it has not already done so. A lengthy profile in (Naval and Merchant Ships) of the U.S. TACAMO ("Take Charge and Move Out") air fleet, which supports American SSBN operations, may buttress the general conclusion that Beijing is determined to perfect its communications with its submarine fleet as it launches a new generation of nuclear vessels.
The SSBN communications issue is especially acute, but China has been grappling with this particular problem for more than two decades. According to Admiral Liu, China on 16 April 1984 used "the satellite communications system for our nuclear-powered submarines to test the channels" of the Dong Fang Hong-2 communications satellite, which had been launched eight days before. "The navy's satellite communication system for its nuclear-powered submarines was the first one to open a test communication line with the satellite," Admiral Liu reports. "The success of the nuclear-powered submarine's experiment on instantaneous transmission of messages via the satellite ... pushed China's submarine communication to a new level."
Centralization is arguably essential for SSBN command and control, particularly in the highly centralized PLA. According to John Wilson Lewis and Xue Litai, China's SSBN force, like all other nuclear units, is overseen by the Strategic Forces Bureau. This arrangement is intended to ensure that "only the [Central Military Commission] Chairman--not China's president--has the authority to launch any nuclear weapons after getting the concurrence of the Politburo Standing Committee and the [Central Military Commission]."
However, it is unclear to what extent centralized SSBN command, control, and communication (C3) would be technologically possible for China. "At present China's communications infrastructure is vulnerable to a first strike," Garth Hekler, Ed Francis, and James Mulvenon contend. "As a result, the SSBN commander would require explicit and restrictive rules of engagement and ... targeting data, lest crisis communications with Beijing reveal [the SSBN's] position to hostile attack submarines or if the submarine is cut off from Beijing after a decapitating first strike." On the broader question of submarine force command and control doctrine, it is suggested, "While the PLAN may recognize the effectiveness of decentralized C3 for certain types of submarine missions, it appears to be seeking to create a more tightly centralized submarine C3 system by developing command automation, network centric warfare strategies, and advanced communications technologies."
Chinese naval planners realize that rapidly improving equipment is useless without corresponding improvement in human performance. The PLAN has for some time been pursuing nuclear submarine missions of extended duration. In his recently published memoirs, Admiral Liu relates that he raised the priority of long-duration exercises for PLAN nuclear submarines in order to test all parameters of these new capabilities.
Apparently as part of these expanded activities, the current PLAN chief of staff, Sun Jianguo, reportedly commanded Han 403 during a mid-1980s mission of ninety days that broke the eighty-four-day undersea endurance record previously set by USS Nautilus. Chinese military medical journals evince a very clear interest in undersea medicine, especially issues surrounding physical and psychological challenges related to lengthy submerged missions.
An even more important challenge for nuclear submarine effectiveness is maintaining a cadre of quality technical personnel. According to one Chinese source, "The greatest problem facing submarine forces today is: it is difficult to have skilled technical operators; especially officers, because they must have good nuclear reactor equipment maintenance and repair skills."
Chinese analysts acknowledge that America has long been dominant in undersea warfare, especially after the Cold War. Many Westerners are therefore surprised that China would have the temerity to challenge the United States directly in this specialized domain of warfare. Yet PLAN analysts keep close tabs on U.S. Navy submarine building rates and carefully probe for potential American submarine force vulnerabilities. They have studied the 8 January 2005 accident involving USS San Francisco with great interest. A 2006 article by a senior PLAN strategist suggests that "China already exceeds [U.S. submarine production] five times over" and that eighteen U.S. Navy submarines based in the Pacific might be at a severe disadvantage against seventy-five or more Chinese submarines. While these assessments are ultimately attributed to an American source, the PLAN analyst makes no effort to deny or reject these assessments.
It is widely held that the trajectory of Chinese nuclear propulsion may be one of the best single indicators of whether or not China has ambitions to become a genuine global military power. With no need to surface in order to recharge batteries or any requirement for refueling, not to mention unparalleled survivability if acoustically advanced and properly operated, nuclear submarines remain ideal platforms for persistent operations in far-flung sea areas. They will form an efficient means for China to project power should it choose to do so. Available information on Chinese SSN and SSBN build rates currently suggests the continuation of a moderate development plan. However, Washington should, at a minimum, develop contingency long-range planning for a determined PRC naval challenge, spearheaded by a new and formidable force of Chinese nuclear submarines.