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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Type 032 Qing - An Operational System ??

It is generally acknowledged that nuclear powered submarines are noisier than diesel electric submarines. Strategic missiles are based on submarines because submarines can be hidden in vast expanses of ocean, thereby gaining a high degree of survivability. The other major nuclear powers took advantage of the survivability of submarnes to deploy missiles at sea. Unlike attack submarines, whose primary mission is to protect convoys or attack enemy shipping, these balIistic missile carrying submarines seek to avoid surface ships and remain undetected, available for strikes against enemy targets on command.

As long as an enemy is not able to develop an ability to localize and track submarines, the only conceivable way they could preemptively attack the submarine force with ICBMS would be to randomly barrage suspected submarine operating areas. Submarine basing wouId have the stabilizing effect of forcing a wait-and-see attitude on decision makers during periods of international crisis.

On tactic available for port egress operations might be to use the 12-mile limit to force the adversary to spread himself thin. The submarines could proceed up or down the coast well within territorial waters before proceeding into the open ocean. Since the submarine would be in noisy shallow coastal waters, it would be undetectable from outside the territorial limit. The adversary would virtually have to commit thousands of ships to attempt to establish trail on port egress.

The Chinese are evidently extremely sensitive to operations of American ocean surveillance ships in proximity to their coastline. The US Navy is evidently committed to conducting such operations.

The United States, with its substantial commitment to undersea warfare, has been unable to identify or project any threat to American ballistic missile submarines. China may not have such confidence. The first generation Xia class SSBN is reported to have never made an at-sea patrol of the sort made by American boomers, perhaps reflecting a well-founded fear of detection and trailing by US forces.

To successfully trail a submarine, it is necessary to have a device capable of sensing the submarine with sufficient effectiveness that some estimate of the position of the submarine relative to that of the trailer can be maintained. It is also necessary that the device be difficult to spoof or jam and that it not be susceptible to simple countermeasures. The trailer would have to seriously consider attempting to trail at port egress, where submarines are initially localized, if there is to be any hope of success. The trailer would have to use either an acoustic or nonacoustic sensing technology to detect and follow the submarine.

Even the later generations of Chinese SSBN's mght not present an overwhelming problem to American ASW forces as they depart their home port. IT maigh tbe anticipated that China would have no more than two or three SSBNs avialble for high seas patrol operations, versus the dozens of boats deployed by the USA or Russia. Such a large ballistic missile submarine carries military assets capable of delivering enormous destruction against an adversary’s targets, it is itself a target of considerable military importance, If the submarine’s position were to become known in wartime, there would be a substantial incentive to attempt to destroy it.

If a flexible targetting strategy were adopted for a submarine force, submarines might be ordered to fire a Iimited number of missiles at enemy targets. The firing of these missiles could potentialIy reveal the position of the submarine to enemy surface ships at great distances, to space-based sensors, radar systems, and possibly even sonar systems. The expected postlaunch survivability of a missile-carrying submarine is therefore quite different from that of its expected prelaunch survivability The flexible use of this force could therefore resuIt in attrition that would compromise its abiIity to continue the war or force termination of the war.

In the 1980s the US Office of of Technology Assessments an MX basing system would that consisted of a force of 51 moderate-sized [25’ X 342’] diesel-electric submarines each of which was armed with four MX missiles. It is hard to say that a coastally deployed, small strategic submarine would be more or less survivable if it were nuclear powered since its survivability would not depend on an ability to maintain high speeds for extended periods of time, as might be the case with attack submarines. In addition, since the coastally deployed submarines would always be relatively near the continental United States, they would not have long transits to and from patrol areas In any case, the survivability of either diesel electric and the nuclear-powered units would be so high that the choice of propulsion system need not be of serious concern.

China, if necessary, could supplement strategic nuclear submarines with Type 032 conventional submarines, with much lower production costs, as a way rapidly increase the Chinese sea-based nuclear forces. Although they have a short range compared to nuclear submarines, they can be adequately protected in the Yellow Sea or the South China Sea cruise, carrying JL-2 7000-8000 km range ICBM, enough to cover Alaska and Indian targets.

Since a large ballistic missile submarine carries military assets capable of delivering enormous destruction against an adversary’s targets, it is itself a target of considerable military importance, If the submarine’s position were to become known in wartime, there wouId be a substantial incentive to attempt to destroy it. If a flexible targetting strategy were adopted for a submarine force, submarines might be ordered to fire a Iimited number of missiles at enemy targets. The firing of these missiIes could potentialIy reveal the position of the submarine to enemy surface ships at great distances, to space-based sensors, radar systems, and possibly even sonar systems. It could be necessary to make the survivability of remaining missiles as independent of previously launched missiles as possible. This could be done if the submarine force was made up of a large number of submarines each carrying a small number of missiles.

Small, slow-moving submarines would in fact have certain signatures that are different from those of larger, faster moving submarines. In addition, a fleet of many submarines poses both a qualitatively and quantitatively different set of operational problems to an antisubmarine force than does a fleet of a few submarines.

A submarine-based system would require highly skilled and trained personnel that are widely available in the Chinese Navy, which ahs a large fleet of conventional submarines. Construction of such submarines presents somewhat different problems from that of surface ship construction. Past experience indicates that if shipyards do not demonstrate a good deal of competence constructing surface ships, they will have very great difficulties constructing submarines.

Wuhan-based China State Shipbuilding Industrial Corp (CSIC) is reported to have signed a contract in April 2011 to deliver six Type 032 Qing-class conventional attack submarines (SSK) from the Wuchang Shipyard. Each can carry three CJ-10K submarine-launched, 1,500km-range land attack cruise missiles (LACM) capable of being armed with unitary tactical nuclear warheads. The first Qing is a Test Platform to test the JL-2 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. The Qings Pakistan signed up for won't be ready before the 2016/17 timeframe. A total of three such SSKs were reported to be on order from China’s PLA Navy as well.

This claim must be taken with a grain of salt. The story is very poorly attested [there is only one primary instance], and in somre respects raises more questions than it answers. Type 032 Qing-class is a lot of submarine to be carrying only three torpedo sized cruise missiles. Most reporting suggests that the PLAN is only buying one of this type as an SLBM test platform, and the reported three units is too many for test purposes but not enough for operational applications. The export by China to Pakistan of the 1,500km-range CJ-10K cruise missile would be a clear violation of the Missile Technology Control Regime.



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Page last modified: 12-04-2016 20:19:04 ZULU