Some US naval analysts believe China’s new Type 093B nuclear-powered attack submarine are on par with the U.S. Navy’s Improved Los Angeles-class submarines.
The 93B is improved over the 93. The 93B is a transition platform between the 93 and the forthcoming 95. Jerry Hendrix, director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security— said, “The [93B] is quieter and it has a new assortment of weapons to include cruise missiles and a vertical launch capability. The 93B is analogous to our LA improved in quietness and their appearance demonstrates that China is learning quickly about how to build a modern fast attack boat.”
Other sources were not convinced that Beijing could have made such enormous technological strides so quickly—but they noted that the topic of Chinese undersea warfare capability is very classified. Open source analysis is often extremely difficult, if not impossible. “Regarding the question on the Type 093B, I really don’t know, anything is possible I suppose, but I doubt it,” said retired Rear Adm. Mike McDevitt, now an analyst at CNA’s Center for Naval Analyses. “I have no doubt that the PLAN has ambitions to at least achieve that level of capability and quietness.”
The Seawolf and Virginia-classes have surpassed the Improved Los Angeles-class as the premier US Navy attack submarines, such older vessels will remain the mainstay of the service’s undersea fleet for many years to come. If the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s newest boats are able to match the capabilities of the U.S. Navy’s shrinking undersea fleet, Washington could be in serious trouble.
The US Navy already anticipated that it could be facing-off against a Chinese submarine fleet that is nearly twice its size, but not as technically capable. The U.S. Navy has roughly 52 attack submarines now but might only have 41 attack boats by 2029 as older boats are retired faster than newer ones are commissioned.
If China is truly catching up technologically, Congress might consider accelerating the attack submarine build rate to the maximum capacity of America’s two nuclear-capable shipyards. At the same time, the U.S. Navy might have to accelerate the development of the next-generation successor to the Virginia-class, which has been tentatively designated the SSN(X) program and is scheduled to enter service in 2044.
SOURCE – National Interest
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