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June 10, 2009

Quantity does provide a quality

DefenseTech argues fear over China's growing military prowess at sea are misplaced. It is not much of an argument, frankly, though I am glad to see they noticed the number "55" in China's diesel-electric submarine column.

The one category in which the Chinese Navy does pose a potential threat to the U.S. Navy -- in this writer's opinion -- is in non-nuclear submarines. The Chinese Navy has modern, Russian-built Kilo (Project 877EKM) submarines as well indigenous-built diesel-electric submarines. An Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP) submarine program is underway.

The U.S. Navy's ability to detect these craft, especially in littoral areas is limited. This was demonstrated for two years when the U.S. Navy operated against a Swedish AIP submarine, the Gotland, "loaned" for anti-submarine exercises. According to the Swedish officers, the U.S. carrier battle groups operating against the Gotland off the southern California coast invariably failed to locate the craft.

Related: News of China's Type 094, or Jin-class, SSBN.

Although the transition to the new SSBN is ongoing, recent Internet photos depicting at least two Jin SSBNs suggest that China has reached an unprecedented level of confidence in the sea-based leg of its strategic nuclear forces. Indeed, China's 2008 Defense White Paper states that the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is enhancing its "nuclear counterattack" capability. With the introduction of the DF-31 and DF-31A road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and the JL-2 missiles on Jin SSBNs, China is thus on the verge of achieving a credible nuclear deterrent based on a survivable second-strike capability.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at June 10, 2009 08:44 AM


The headline for this post is outstanding and should be emailed to pretty much everyone, uniformed and civilian, responsible for defence acquisition and budgeting in every Western government.

We have already seen some examples of how technologically advanced weapon systems fare against a larger number of inferior designs. They get crushed. The Allies didn't have the most advanced fighter, tank or artillery designs of the Second World War, but they were able to produce, for example, almost 16,000 P-51 Mustangs while Germany could field only 1,430 Me-262s. And most of the 262s sat on the ground through their service because they couldn't get enough fuel to put them in the air. Having the best wonder weapons isn't any guarantee of victory.

Britain regarded itself to have the world's best carrier force in 1939, with armoured carriers and sound tactical doctrine (massed carrier-borne bomber/torpedo strikes to destroy the enemy fleet), but they had so many fleets among which to disperse them (Home Fleet, Gibraltar, Med Fleet, Eastern Fleet) they could never actually mass the carriers for the kind of effective and focused large fleet engagements the Americans had in the Pacific.

Now who else do we know that has global commitments and not enough assets to meet them?

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2009 01:44 PM

I can't claim credit for the words but they seemed appropriate as a headline. At this point, I am only grateful for the history of the British in India. It may be the only lasting endowment of Western civilization.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2009 11:53 PM