The People’s Liberation Army Navy, has recently commissioned a new strategic nuclear-powered submarine to enhance its comprehensive nuclear deterrent force.
According to a 22 April report by the state-owned Global Times newspaper, China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) announced the commissioning of the new submarine on its WeChat account in an article reviewing its achievements since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012.
“The past five years since the 18th National Congress of the CPC has been an extraordinary period for the CSIC, with the handover of China’s first aircraft carrier Liaoning to the PLA Navy, the launch of the first homegrown aircraft carrier, the completion of the new nuclear submarine and the deep-sea-exploration submersible Jiaolong…”the article said.
The article did not reveal neither the submarine’s name nor its type. However, the description that reads that it is a “strategic” asset suggests that it can refer to a nuclear ballistic missile-carrying submarine (SSBN).
Although referred to as a “new weapon”, analysts consider unlikely that this is the first of the next-generation Type 096 SSBNs submarine.
The period between launch and commissioning of the first Type 096 submarine is estimated to be up to four years and a new design has not yet become visible in satellite imagery.
The 2017 Annual Report to the US Congress on China’s military power by the US Defense Department (DoD) maintains that Bejing’s next-generation nuclear submarine, Type 096, will likely begin construction in the early 2020s, and will reportedly be armed with the JL-3, a submarine-based ballistic missile.
“Pentagon’s prediction about Type 096 could be correct to some extent, but the submarine could be completed ahead of schedule. The submarine is a key weapon to the country’s nuclear warfare capability. Only the US and Russia have the real ‘nuclear triad’ (consisting of ballistic missiles, strategic nuclear submarines and strategic bombers), but sooner or later, China will have it as well,” said Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, to Global Times.
The DoD report also forecast that by 2030, Being could develop a new variant of the SHANG class (NATO code) Type 093B, which would not only improve the PLA’s anti-surface warfare capability but also provide it with a more clandestine land-attack option.