Updated: Jun 8, 2020
According to a report published in Global Times, a state-owned newspaper, the People's Republic of China has commissioned a new, "strategic nuclear-powered submarine." Although the report does not indicate the submarine's class, but one can assume that it is a Type 094 Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN) due to the use of the word 'strategic' in describing the new asset.
Similar to the American Ohio Class submarine, the Type 094 serves as a mobile and difficult to detect launch platform for 12 JL-2 (Sabbot) submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). First deployed in 2015 by the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), the JL-2 can carry a single 250-100 kiloton (KT) nuclear warhead, or multiple warheads with a smaller yield of 90 KT each. With an estimated range of minimum 2,000 km and maximum greater than 8,000 km, the missile can easily strike US territory from Chinese costal waters. The submarine also boasts six torpedo tubes, which can be used to engage foreign ships and submarines.
A ballistic missile submarine, however, is not intended to be used in an offensive manner against conventional targets, such as merchant shipping and enemy submarines. Such missions can be handled by attack submarines and cruise missile submarines, such as the China's latest Type-093B fast attack submarine. The primary mission of a ballistic missile submarine is nuclear deterrence. Thus, the objective of this sort of submarine is to remain undetected, rather than pursuing and engaging surface-vessels. The invisibility and mobility of SSBNs present nations that present the asset with a lawyer of deterrence against an attack by maintaining the threat of a second strike; this is commonly referred to as mutually assured destruction.
The PLAN continues to modernize and grow at an impressive rate. On April 22, 2020, the Chinese navy launched a new assault carrier in Shanghai, less than a hundred yard from where its sister ship caught fire less than two weeks before. Equivalent to the US Navy's America class of amphibious assault ships, these vessels are key in supporting troop landings by providing a platform to transport marines, helicopter, and hovercraft near landing zones. These new warships will undoubtedly give the PLAN new capabilities to confront western powers as a new Cold War seemingly gets underway.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army, Department of Defense, or the United States Government.