China will deploy long-range nuclear missiles on subs this year

The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will likely equip its submarines with long-range nuclear missiles for the first time by the end of 2014, according to a 25 March statement to the US Senate Armed Services Committee by the head of US Pacific Command (USPACOM), Admiral Samuel Locklear.

"China's advance in submarine capabilities is significant. They possess a large and increasingly capable submarine force," the admiral told the committee. "I think they'll have in the next decade or so a fairly well modernised force of probably 60 to 70 submarines, which is a lot of submarines for a regional power."

He added that the latest class of PLAN submarines would be armed with a new ballistic missile with an estimated range of 4,000 n miles (7,500 km). "This will give China its first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent, probably before the end of 2014."

Locklear was referring to the production of China's Jin (Type 094)-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine and the JL-2 missile. The JL-2 is a three-stage solid-fuel stellar-inertial guided missile that can travel over 4,320 n miles (8,000 km) while carrying a single 1 MT nuclear warhead. A single Jin-class submarine can carry 12 JL-2 missiles.

According to IHS Jane's Fighting Ships , the PLAN currently operates four nuclear-powered ballistic submarines (SSBNs), five nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) and 53 diesel-electric submarines (SSKs).

Satellite imagery viewed by IHS Jane's confirms that China has built at least four Jin-class boats. A Pentagon report to Congress in mid-2013 claimed three were operational, which would confirm imagery showing three alongside at Yulin naval base on Hainan island in early 2014. Meanwhile, a fourth was seen at Bohai shipyard No. 431 at Huludao in January 2013 but is since believed to have finished construction ahead of commissioning.

IHS Jane's
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