In February of 2015, the United States Navy announced in a press conference to the House Armed Service Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee that the number of submarines deployed by the Chinese Navy has exceeded that of the U.S. The United States currently has 71 commissioned submarines, while the Pentagon estimates that China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)’s submarine fleet is now in the range of low seventies.
Although China’s vessels are of inferior quality to those of the United States, Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy has deemed their submarines “fairly amazing”. With both diesel and nuclear based submarines, PLAN’s fleet is increasingly utilized by China for war games and deployments. Their submarines are being sent out for longer term deployments, as well as expanding the geographic reach of their operations. Recently, three submarines were deployed to the Indian Ocean (causing concern to Indian officials) and other vessels have been patrolling the seas for over 95 days.
Although, the U.S. does not believe that Chinese submarines are currently equipped with ballistic missiles, the Chinese Jin-class submarines can be fitted with this capability. Analysts believe that a Chinese sea-based nuclear deterrent revolving around submarine-launched ballistic missiles (JL-2 missiles) is not out of the question. The primary ship classes of the PLAN sub force currently in service includes the Jin-class (nuclear powered/ballistic missile), the Xia-class (nuclear powered/ballistic missile/decommissioning), the Shang-class (nuclear powered), Han-class (nuclear powered/decommissioning), and the conventional, diesel-powered Yuan-, Song-, Kilo-, and decommissioning Ming-class submarines.
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