China aircraft carriers are far behind but submarine technology parity is nearer

China’s aircraft carrier technology is still far behind the USA. China only has one refurbished Soviet aircraft carrier and a domestic submarine based on the Soviet carrier will be operational in 2020. China’s next aircraft carriers could start getting up to the level of 1980 era US carriers in size and some technology in the late 2020s.

China’s submarine technology is more rapidly closing the technology gap and also could have numeric superiority by 2025.

China’s operational undersea force has 63 vessels – five nuclear-powered attack submarines, four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, and 54 diesel-powered attack submarines.

However, in fewer than three years this force will grow to between 69 and 78 submarines.

The number of anti-ship cruise missile submarines is also increasingly significantly. Since the 1990s, China has built 13 Song-class attack submarines and 17 Yuan-class ones with diesel-electric air-independent power attack submarines. Three more Yuans are slated for deployment by 2020.

Also, eight of China’s 12 Russian-made Kilo-class submarines can launch cruise missiles, which are designed to deliver large warheads over long distances.

China will start construction in early the 2020s modern and advanced missile submarine, the Type 096. The Type 096 will also be armed with a new more lethal missile, the JL-3.

And Beijing is working on a new class of nuclear-powered attack submarines, based on the Shang class called the Type 093B guided missile nuclear-attack submarine.

According to the Pentagon, the Type 093B “not only would improve the PLA Navy’s anti-surface warfare capability, but might also provide it with a more clandestine land-attack option.”

Many of the newer subs will be outfitted with China’s supersonic anti-ship cruise missile, the YJ-18, regarded by the Pentagon as one of the most lethal anti-ship weapons. Chinese analysts have called the YJ-18 “the most perfect anti-ship cruise missile.”

China is also building the world’s largest submarine factory.

Bohai Shipbuilding Heavy Industrial Corporation is building a giant submarine that will have two parallel assembly lines. The gigantic hall reportedly is where China will begin construction on is latest attack submarine, the Type 095.

The US can build submarine construction at about six at a time. The one new chinese factory will be able to make four at a time. China can likely build several large submarine factories and still has a few smaller factories. China is on track to vastly out produce the USA in submarines that will be closer to technological parity.

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