New Chinese SSBN Deploys to Hainan Island

By Hans M. Kristensen

The Chinese navy has deployed a Jin-class (Type 094) ballistic missile submarine to a new base near Yulin on Hainan Island on the South China Sea, according to a satellite image obtained by FAS. The image shows the submarine moored at a pier close to a large sea-entrance to an underground facility.

Also visible is a unique newly constructed pier that appears to be a demagnetization facility for submarines.

A dozen tunnels to underground facilities are visible throughout the base compound.

The satellite image, which has also been described in Jane’s Defense Weekly, was taken by the QuickBird satellite on February 27, 2008, and purchased by FAS from DigitalGlobe.

The Arrival of the Jin-Class Submarine

The dimensions of the submarine in the satellite image are similar to the Jin-class SSBN I spotted at Xiaopingdao Submarine Base in July 2007 and the two Jin-class SSBNs I detected at the Bohai shipyard in October 2007.

China is believed to have launched two Jin-class SSBNs with a third possibly under construction. The U.S. Intelligence community estimates that China might possibly build five SSBNs if it wants to have a near-continuous deterrent at sea. Of course, it is not known whether China plans to operate its SSBNs that way. See Figure 1 for the location of the submarine.

Figure 1:
Yulin (Sanya) Naval Base

Click on image to view higher resolution
A new satellite photo purchased by FAS from DigitalGlobe shows a Chinese Jin-class SSBN at Yulin (Sanya) Naval Base on Hainan Island. Additional piers are outside the left frame of the photo. Click on image for larger photo. North is left.

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Missile loadout of the SSBN will probably take place at pierside at the main pier to the left of the narrow triple-pier where the submarine is seen, unless the underground facility is large enough to permit such operations out of satellite view. Not yet visible at the base is a dry dock large enough to accommodate an SSBN; the Northern Fleet submarine base at Jianggezhuang has a dry dock.

New Demagnetization Facility

One of the most interesting new additions to the base is what appears to be a submarine demagnetization facility (see Figure 2). Located in the southern part of the base and connected by pier to a facility on a small island, the demagnetization facility closely resembles such facilities at U.S. SSBN bases. Demagnetization is conducted before deployment to remove residual magnetic fields in the metal of the submarine to make it harder to detect by other submarines and surface ships. There is no demagnetization facility at the Jianggezhuang base, so this appears to be a new capability for China.

Figure 2:
New Submarine Demagnetization Facility

Click on image to view higher resolution
Since 2005, what appears to be a submarine demagnetization facility has been added to the base. Click on image for larger photo.

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Underground Facilities

The base has extensive underground facilities. The most obvious is a large portal over a sea-entrance to what is probably an underground facility. The entrance appears to be approximately 3 meters (15 feet) wider than a similar entrance at the Northern Fleet Jianggezhuang Naval Base (see Figure 3 for comparison).

Figure 3:
Submarine Caves at Yulin and Jianggezhuang

Click on image to view higher resolution
The submarine cave entrance at Yulin Naval Base (top) is approximately 3 meters wider than the one at Jianggezhuang Naval Base. Click on image for larger photo of the Yulin entrance. Description of the Jianggezhuang facility is available here.

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Although the interior of the facility is not known, it probably includes a canal at least the length of one submarine as well as halls for handling or possibly storing equipment as well as rooms for personnel. Directly on the other side of the mountain are several land-entrances that might connect to the central facility as well, although none of this is known for sure. Two of those entrances appear from their shadows to be very tall structures (see Figure 4).

Figure 4:
Tunnels at Yulin Naval Base

Click on image to view higher resolution
At least a dozen tunnels to underground facilities are visible, including some very tall ones on the east side of the mountain housing the submarine cave. Click on image for larger photo.

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Some Implications

The SSBN base on Hainan Island will probably be seen as a reaffirmation of China’s ambitions to develop a sea-based deterrent. To what extent the Chinese navy will be capable of operating the SSBNs in a way that matters strategically is another question. China’s first SSBN, the Xia, was no success and never sailed on a deterrent mission. As a consequence, the Chinese navy has virtually no tactical experience in operating SSBNs at sea. Yet the Jin-class and the demagnetization facility on Hainan Island show they’re trying.

The location of the base is important because the Indian government already has pointed to a future threat from Chinese missile submarines operating in the South China Sea or Indian Ocean. The arrival of the Jin-class in Hainan will probably help sustain India’s own SSBN program. For China to sail an SSBN into the India Ocean and operate it there in a meaningful way, however, will be very difficult and dangerous in a crisis. Chinese SSBNs are more likely to stay close to home.

The base on Hainan Island is near deep water and some analysts suggest this will support submarine patrols better that operations from the Northern Fleet base at Jianggezhuang. Of course, if the water is so shallow the submarine can’t submerge fully it will limit operations, but deep water is – contrary to popular perception – not necessarily an advantage. Military submarines generally are not designed to dive deeper than 400-600 meters, so great ocean depth may be of little value. The U.S. navy has several decades of experience in trailing Soviet SSBNs in the open oceans; shallow waters are much more challenging. And the South China Sea is a busy area for U.S. attack submarines, which have unconstrained access to the waters off Hainan Island. And I’d be surprised if there were not a U.S. “shadow” following the Jin-class SSBN when it arrived at Hainan Island.

Additional information: Chinese Nuclear Forces and U.S. Nuclear War Planning | Chinese Submarine Patrols Rebound in 2007, but Remain Limited | A Closer Look at China’s New SSBNs

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34 Responses to “New Chinese SSBN Deploys to Hainan Island”

  1. Jian Feng April 24, 2008 at 11:27 am #

    Very cool stuff!

    Nobody, including most Indians, will think that these expensive Paper Tigers are meant to scare the Indians. China has so many other ways and very little need to scare their Indian brothers. If we can be almost certain that these SSBNs based in Hainan are designed to hold CONUS targets at risk, there are only two mutually exclusive conclusions:

    (1) The Chinese decision makers are not smart enough to know the drawbacks of basing SSBN in Hainan, such as easy access of US shadow attack subs, easier detection in deep sea, etc.

    or

    (2) JL-2 has a much longer range and it does not matter where to base the SSBN. Hainan would then be a redundant insurance policy, in addition to other potential bases. The lack of experience in “Strategic Patrol” would thus not matter, and the Chinese leadship can sleep better with their Paper Tigers not roaming too far away.

    My question for the experts is whether it is physically impossible for JL-2 to have that kind of range, given the size of 094 type of SSBN. Most Chinese think very similarly. The idea of a Strategic Patrol sounds too risky and too jingoistic to most Chinese, especially when one thinks about China’s no-first-use doctrine.

    Reply: Thanks much! As for your comment about “paper tigers,” I agree, there certainly appears to be quite a lot of national status symbol behind the Chinese SSBN program. Even so, the annual report from the Indian Ministry of Defence noted under the “regional picture” in 2003: “As far as India is concerned, it cannot be ignored that every major Indian city is within reach of Chinese missiles and this capability is being further augmented to include Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles(SLBMs).”

    Concerning the range, I don’t know what the “experts” will say, but the DOD has lowered the JL-2 range by 10 percent in its 2008 report on Chinese military power; back to the estimate from a few years ago: 7,200+ km. How much extra the “+” translates into is probably insufficient to give the weapon a CONUS mission; I think this is a regional deterrence weapon. HK

  2. Jian Feng April 24, 2008 at 3:08 pm #

    Not being too harsh on our experts in DOD or CIA, they do not seem to have a good record of estimating things going on in China. Would any academic JL-2 aficionados satisfy my curiosity about its range upper limit? There are simply not that many targets within 7200 or 8000 km that worth China to develop a second strike capability. We are talking about the ultimate doomsday weapon from China, when all or most of the road mobile DF31A plus the old DF5 are either neutralized or not enough for retaliation. Anyway, if DOD thinks that JL2/094 combo is not meant for CONUS targets, we have no other means of knowing, as China will never tell.

  3. Lee Sze Yong April 25, 2008 at 10:23 am #

    Great photos.

    I wonder if the US Navy will be using this to go to Congress to ask for more attack subs. :)

    Reply: It’s already there….

  4. Matthew G. Saroff April 25, 2008 at 1:51 pm #

    My guess is that they realize that they need a credible second strike deterrent, and that they need to start operating the boomers in order to develop the skills to be credible with regard to the US.

  5. HH-9A April 25, 2008 at 10:07 pm #

    The main benefit that deploying in Hainan can offer is that Hainan and South China Sea located mostly beyond the US and its allies’ Ballistic Missile early warning network system currently under setting up mainly around Japan-Taiwan-Hawaii. But I could hardly image if the SLBM carried by the 094 SSBN in Hainan could have been in any deterrent effect should the SLBM’s max range be as short as reported by DoD and the likes.

    Although the USN’s Nuclear Submarines could have better access to the deeper waters around Hainan than the shallow one in north, I think that’s not the whole picture. When it can come closer, it still has to face superior number of SSKs and 093 SSNs just nearby as well as modern surface ships with improved ASW. The sheer fact is the number of USN’s SSNs currently operated in west pacific is far too small to form an effective counter force around the whole vast South China Sea.

  6. Aaron Bouma April 29, 2008 at 2:59 pm #

    Some reports say the JL-2 is meant to carry up to Ten MIRV’s. Do you think that’s true?

    Reply: No. There are many claims and rumors about Chinese nuclear forces, but none of them provide a source for their claim. My source for writing that JL-2 is intended to carry a single warhead is the U.S. intelligence community, which, as we have seen, is not always right. But until someone provides a better authoritative source that says otherwise, I think its a good play the start.

    More important than sources, however, is the question of why China would deploy multiple warheads on missiles. I never see those who claim they have multiple warhead systems explaining China’s strategic thinking behind such a posture. As far as we know, China has a minimum deterrent which is not thought to be on alert – at least the way other nuclear weapon states powers define alert. Those states developed MRV and later MIRV if they needed to build up their nuclear weapons fast to compete with another adversary or overwhelm a missile defense system, or developed a counterforce strategy where they had to hit many different targets quickly in a single strike.

    There are no indications, at least as far as I have seen, that China has decided to rapidly build up its nuclear forces or is developing a counterforce strategy. But the U.S. missile defense system – and that of Russia and India (if they develop one in the future) – could potentially provide China with a motivation to deploy MRV or MIRV. If so, however, the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community is that it would probably happen on the silo-based DF-5A ICBMs, not on the mobile systems.

    What might confuse some people is that China’s long-range systems are thought to deploy with a package of penetration aids, such as decoys and other technologies intended to confuse missile defense systems. Testing of those packages might have been misunderstood to be MRV or MIRV. HK

  7. Aaron Bouma May 1, 2008 at 7:18 pm #

    I definitely study the next generation warheads that China is developing. The more smaller compact warheads for the DF-5A ICBM. For the DF-5A and the DF-31A the max MIRV payload is said to be 3 90 Kiloton MIRV’s. I keep a very close eye on China’s nuclear Forces, because their nuclear strategy is somewhat unknown.

    Replay: Could you possibly reveal the source for your claim that the “payload is said to be 3 90 Kiloton MIRVs.” Thanks. HK

  8. Allen Thomson May 3, 2008 at 10:11 am #

    Google Earth indicates that the maximum elevation of the peninsula where the tunnels are is 70 meters. That seems enough for protection against conventional attack or even a nuclear airburst targeted against the surface structures. But it seems kind of thin protection for nuclear surface bursts targeted against the tunnels themselves, no?

    Reply: Think access. It probably takes one conventional precision weapon to close each of the entrances. What good at a lot of military equipment inside a well-protected underground facility if you can’t access it and use it? HK

  9. Danny Lin May 4, 2008 at 11:10 am #

    PLAN are in need of more ASW planes and warships. Having subs alone doesn’t protect their maritime interest, especially at the new age when large scale military confrontation between nuk owning countries are unlikely.

  10. Mike Wilson May 5, 2008 at 4:32 pm #

    Not knowing a lot about these things, I would simply say these large “Boomers” are China’s tickets to entry on the world stage as a superpower, someone not to be bullied, and a credible deterrent to anything the US can muster. If they are Mirv-ed, and say, four of them are fully functional – then at least one or two could possibly get launches off before our attack subs could find them in time. Lets see, two, times, say five mirved missiles, say 25 warheads hitting targets in US soil. Think: 25 9-11 catastrophes, at least. Now that, folks, is a credible deterrent.

  11. Ben May 9, 2008 at 4:52 pm #

    I think that the type 94 is more likely to be used like the Polaris/Poseidon subs sneaking up after a first strike and then attacking once in range, not like trident which is immediate retaliation form the patrol area.

    Reply: Perhaps, but we can think all we want. Until the Chinese actually build an operational SSBN fleet and operate them for some time, we really have no way on knowing. They could also chose to build a surge capability that they could hope to sent to sea if necessary with very basic launch orders.

    I can’t say I agree with your description of Trident, which in my assessment probably is less about “retaliation” than Polaris/Poseidon were – although it is also that. Trident is much more of a front-line weapon that would/could be used in the very early stages of a conflict – even preemptively. It is a very offensive weapon system. HK

  12. Christopher Farmer May 10, 2008 at 2:35 am #

    The PRC communists are not constructing this base at Hainan for preemptive war against the United States. The PRC is constructing the base to secure their oil shipping, China’s achillees heel, in the event that some unforseen event or series of events causes the United States Navy to be needed elsewhere. The base at Hainan will give the Chinese access to the Spratleys, the Taiwanese shipping lanes, the Persian Gulf shipping lanes and access to oil producing countries in Africa. Chinese nuclear weapons capability that could be launched from the submarine forces at Hainan will target strategic and industrial production locations in Russia, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan and Australia. The liquidation of American carrier groups operating in the region would be part of that war plan, should things get out of hand in Asia. Oil is what is on China’s mind now. They need a steady flow of energy products to keep their economy sizzling at a 6 – 12% GDP, and the war trigger will be interruption of those energy and other resource flows to the mainland.

  13. Anti-War May 12, 2008 at 4:01 am #

    China has to guard himself,especially to guard the South Sea! So the Jin-class is prerequisite! And even the aircraft carrier is needed.

    Reply I can’t see the Jin class has anything to do with guarding the South Sea. The South Sea is about territorial claims and protecting China’s commercial sea lanes. An aircraft carrier might be able to play a role in that, although it would have a very hard time in any large-scale conflict. But no one is out to take over the South Sea, so what exactly is the military threat to China that justifies these large military investments? HK

    • Williz May 13, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

      I strongly agree with you that every countries have its right to defend themselves. Other could not simply point their fingers at China because like olden days. China has been bullied quite a long time, it was indeed a humiliating history for China to be remembrance/lesson. If China developing their military weaponry to be considered as said from the author. “What exactly is the military threat to China that justifies these large military investments?” I mean you do not have reasons to accuse China this and that. As China has being known as one of the 5 nuclear power states in the world. Let me ask you then, did the US has the every right to develop it’s military power, but not China. What kind of logic is that? In fact, the US is the real trouble-maker in the world.

  14. Matorick May 12, 2008 at 1:08 pm #

    I guess my questions – from a ‘cloud view’ or meta-policy standpoint – would be:

    1. Does this SSBN represent a new-form strategic threat, or is it merely cumulative in nature, i.e. augmenting an existing category of threat posed by the Chinese navy.

    2. What category of vehicle – above or below the waves – would be required to MOST effectively counter this new SSBN? Attack subs? An Ohio-replacement? A new generation of above-water boats? etc.

    3. Does the US either have such a vehicle, or have such a vehicle in the works?

    I’d find it hugely ironic if this boat that the Chinese are launching represents the very sort of thing that the Seawolf was designed to address. After all the talk about ‘a post-Cold War world’ and not needing such boats, have we come full circle?

    Reply: Let me take your questions one by one:

    1. It is a new “threat,” although I think “capability” is a better word. China has never had an operational SSBN, so this is new. But is is of course augmenting the land-based force, because China feels its land-based systems are too vulnerable to Russian and US capabilities.

    2. A combination of attack submarines, ASW aircraft, and submerged listening devises will make any deployment of the Jin a very risky affair. Of course we don’t know this for sure, but after 50 years of blue water ASW against the Soviet fleet I think it is a pretty good guess. We probably have those capabilities.

    The Jin class is not at all what the Seawolf was designed to counter. It was intended to hide from and hunt down the most advanced Soviet SSNs and SSBNs. The Jin class is probably more of a capability that the older U.S. Sturgeon class SSNs were designed to counter. HK

  15. Sean May 17, 2008 at 8:23 pm #

    I see these submarines to have short term concern and agree with the other folks that these subs will stay near home. However, I come to this conclusion from a different direction. I have worked with various folks who in turn have worked in China both on civil and electrical engineering projects. The consistent theme I have heard from all of them is that the Chinese have an attitude of doing an adequate job rather than the right job even to the point where the work doesn’t meet specifications. Since this is a common theme from folks working on high rise construction to building electronic components I have to assume it is pervasive throughout their culture. One person told me about cement going onto a high rise which didn’t match what was called out in design specs. but which the contractor believed was adequate. Another told me that an electronic device which a contractor was hired to build routinely substituted components which met only some of the specs and as a result they had a support problems later on. They switched to Taiwanese companies after that experience. The other problem I have heard of is maintenance. The Chinese will spend their, or foreign, capital building out beautiful buildings and then allocate no money to maintain them so they have major issues later on.

    Maybe government projects are different but from the above experiences I have to conclude that the submarines will be substandard, pardon the pun, and will run into operational issues due to poor maintenance.

  16. Atty June 9, 2008 at 9:33 am #

    What is the significance of this development (Jin-class (Type 094) ballistic missile submarine to a new base near Yulin on Hainan Island on the South China Sea) for India? Do you think India has the capability to monitor or counter Chinese SSBN deployments in the Indian Ocean?

    Reply: The report of the deployment of the first Jin to the Hainan has certainly been noted in India and created lots of news. Government officials said the development was to be discussed at an internal meeting. Whether it means something for Indian security, and if so what, is harder to gauge. After all, India has been a presumed target for Chinese nuclear weapons since the 1960s, and even before the Jin becomes operational (strictly speaking we don’t know the Jin was visiting Hainan or will operate from there) all major Indian cities are hypothetical aim points for some of China’s missiles.

    So why would a submarine or two at Hainan matter? The traditional nuclear strategist would argue that it matters a great deal because China would, in theory, be able to ride out an Indian nuclear attack and still fire back. On the other hand, India does not have the capability to wipe out China’s nuclear forces, nor does its nuclear doctrine say doing to is an Indian objective.

    The real danger of the Hainan deployment and India’s response is that they become the next phase in a tit-for-tat competition that in the long run will make both countries strive for more capable forces. We have already seen how India has responded to China’s posture by developing the Agni III. At some point along that way, one of them might decide that the other side’s capability necessitates a change in nuclear policy toward one more akin to a counterforce posture. That can quickly drive number up in the name of security and stability, but also dramatically increase the total damage each could suffer in a nuclear war.

    India does not currently have the capability to counter Chinese SSBN operations in the Indian Ocean, but it probably won’t have to do so anyway. China does not have a capability to conduct SSBN patrols in the Indian Ocean. It has no experience in conducting SSBN deterrence patrols at sea and only a very limited capability to communicate with a deployed SSBN. A Jin SSBN deploying from Hainan Island will probably patrol close to home in the South China Sea. HK

  17. Harshad Joshi June 26, 2008 at 10:33 pm #

    Chinese cannot underestimate the capabilities of Indian missiles, the Agni III. We as Indians are proud of our powers and we know that Bharat has got the capacity to match any military/technology/financial power in the world.

    Reply: I’m sure they don’t underestimate Agni III; in fact, they’re probably just a worried about that weapon as you are about Chinese nuclear weapons. My advise is not to be so proud of your powers that you forget to analyze carefully why you have them and why you’re trying to build more. India’s security will not increase from a strategic nuclear competition with China, it will decrease. India has lived perfectly well within range of Chinese nuclear missiles since the 1970s. What has changed? HK

  18. meh October 26, 2008 at 8:28 pm #

    [Edited] “substandard,” pardon the pun, and “will run into operational issues due to poor maintenance.”

    I dont think that is an accurate description of what you’d call “adequate”. You have to give more convincing evidence than just speculation. like those contractors wouldn’t build a house that would just spontaneously collapse.

    Personally i don’t think the PLAN would commission too many 094. as there is really no need for it and the PLAN can’t provide sufficient cover for these subs beyond the island chain. Say each sub carries 12 JL-2, that’s 36 warheads that is capable of hitting US soil (theoretically). Maybe in 5 years when China has a few more attack subs and advanced aircraft, they would acquire more SSBNs. But by then they would be looking for more advanced subs…maybe Type 096 with JL-3.

    One more point regarding the vulnerability of the base to possible air strikes:

    If China decides to build such a strategic base in Hainan, it would have to have the capability to provide full air and anti-submarine protection before doing so. Hence the main issue here still lies in its capability to bring its SSBN far enough into the Pacific Ocean to be able to hit more than just the west coast of the United States. this I think it’ll be another 5-10 years at least before China can get its submarine fleet beyond the first island chain.

  19. Chao Zhang January 23, 2009 at 4:45 pm #

    [Edited] This article makes several retarded statements. Here are the correct statements:

    * The average depth of East China Sea is only about 70 meters, far below the submerge capability of even conventional subs
    * The average depth of south china sea however is more than 1000 meters
    * The sea bed interferes with pin pointing and active sonar, but discovery is harder in deep water with abundant thermo layer protections
    * South China Sea has very complex underground topography. PLAN has these mapped better than USN, who doesn’t have the same ability to survey sensitive territorial waters
    * South China Sea is far from bases of US and allies. There are no P3C’s there for one thing. Carriers don’t like to operate there either, lacking land based air support
    * That leaves any SSN’s to operate there alone, with less geographic knowledge, facing Chinese air cover, a total reversal of the situation along first island chain

    The reason Chinese SSN and SSBN’s were in North China Sea in the past is 1) shorter range of old BM’s and 2) the need to concentrate heavy defenses around the capital area. Today China has fresh resources to take advantage of the abundant strategic opportunities offered by South China Sea.

    Reply: On the subject of “retarded statements,” your “correct statements” seem overly confident.

    First, try talking to U.S. submariners who have operated in shallow waters to hear about their experience in using “abundant thermo layer protections” to evade detection.

    Second, how do you know PLAN has mapped the South China Sea better than the USN, which has used its SSNs to survey sensitive territorial waters for decades?

    Third, the PC-3s will go where the subs are.

    Fourth, US carrier battle groups actually operate in the South China Sea frequently, and has a long experience in doing so including during the Vietnam War when they more or less continuously conducted land-strikes from Yankee Station in the waters not too far south of Hainan Island.

    Fifth, U.S. SSNs are designed to operate alone, they don’t need air cover. The Soviet Union tried hard to track them for decades, and I would be very surprised if China has anywhere near that capability.

    Sixth, the suggestion that the shorter range of the the JL-1 and a need to defend the capital area caused the Xia and Han-class SSNs to be based in the North China Sea is too simplistic and somewhat reverse. If range were a constraint, then the subs would have been based forward. But they didn’t need to; the Xia was within range of U.S. bases in South Korea and Japan. From Hainan, the JL-2 will be able to cover the same targets, plus India and much of Russia, but not the Continental United States. Hainan as a base probably has more to do with China’s interests in the Spratly Islands and Indian Ocean, and the fact that it’s further away from Japan and South Korea.

    The point of all of this being to try to debate the situation based on what we think we know rather than “we’re better than you.” To that end, it would be interesting to hear more about what “the abundant strategic opportunities offered by South China Sea” are. HK

  20. Armando February 11, 2009 at 5:09 am #

    [Edited] There is one and only one purpose the Chinese Jin Sub will serve for [you probably mean one effect that the Jin-class program will have in India, correct?]…that is the research and development of Indian Missile Program and hastening of the India’s ATV project. We already see the Indian Army waking up in the NE border and the same will result with forward deployment and increased Naval diplomacy from the Indian side. But there is a real threat of hostilities as long as border issues between China and India are not solved.

  21. Pete Bogdonas February 12, 2009 at 1:12 am #

    SSBNs are not built for tactical support; they are strategic weapons systems. Each country which has them has deployed them stealthily to deter adversaries from attack. Simply put they constructed and deployed to protect the country from nuclear blackmail and to guarantee the survival of the state.

    Yulin (Sanya) is very near to deep water. An SSBN based there can get into the deep, get beneath the thermal layer, deploy its VLF antenna and patrol at depth undetected. While it is on patrol, an adversary attacking China risks retaliation from the SSBN. It does not take many Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles to carry sufficient warheads to destroy a country’s economy.

    North Sea Fleet SSBNs cannot get to deep water without a long transit. They cannot get beneath the thermal layer until they get to deep water. Shallow water is NOT an advantage for an SSBN. They are much more detectable in the shallows than in deep water.

    Once in deep water, below the thermal layer and operating quietly, every hour an SSBN patrols increases the search area an ASW unit must cover to find and destroy the sub. Even a noisy boat is hard to find in a large ocean area.

    Greater SLBM range increases the SSBN patrol area and complicates counter detection efforts. That’s why PLAN SSBNs have been deployed to Hainan/Yulin.

    As for the tunnel, it exists to present the “pea under the cup” puzzle. Is the boat in the tunnel or deployed?

  22. Peaceful March 12, 2009 at 1:06 am #

    It might be useful for us to read and understand the meaning of what “exclusive economic zone” is as it is defined in “The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea”.
    Please see:
    http://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/part5.htm

    All major UN members including US and China have ratificated the law.

  23. A.Kin March 20, 2009 at 2:26 pm #

    Small correction the US did not ratify the law of the sea….. Yes they promoted it, but in the end never signed it. Besides, with much case in point, If you are sovereign to defend/react (within your home) to threats. And spying is a threat. Would you not have done the same? (in a “I’m warning you” manner) The USN did admit they where on surveilance searching for Chinese submarines. I’d imagine the reaction if the opposite where to occur, say near Norfolk VA.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7941425.stm
    Agreed with many of the statements above, the base is only a further extension of the PLAN goals as a deterrent from attacks and blackmailing. As an emerging power in the globe, countries tend (if not must) to develop their military power to acertain credibility from being bullied around. Else they might loose their identity.

  24. HGR March 21, 2009 at 2:07 am #

    To HK:

    What if the SSBNs based at Haina sail through the straits between the island of Taiwan and the Phillip islands, and enter the Pacific Ocean? The SLBMs on those subs would be within range to continential United States then…….

    Of course, you can say the USN would be able to shadow these subs even before they enter the Pacific Ocean. But down the road, if China successfully recovers Taiwan, then the story would be different……. In this regard, Jin class could be just one step in a long-term plan. The Chinese are good at making long-term plans, the naval strategy of China today is still the same one made by Admiral Liu Huaqing in the 1980s, and it works

  25. visionary March 23, 2009 at 10:46 am #

    [Edited] The real issue is, “Are they quite enough for USN Seaworlf and Virginias?” and “Are they going be good enough to have a chance to launch the missiles?” HGR you are absolutely right, for these subs to be really effective, they had to go through 4 major choke points. Malacca Stright (India, Singapore Navy is waiting for them) Taiwanese straigt (Taiwan and US), Philipino and Indonesian islands (too shallo to risk internation incidents and no manevering room) and Japanes archielago (Japanese and US). So, China is stuck in the South China Sea. That is one of the reason why Taiwan is so crucial to China. It gives them deep water for their subs. A good coordinated ASW in South China Sea should choke them. Can any one tell us how good these Jin’s are?

    Reply: Lots of assumptions there about how China may operate its submarines and how important “deep water” is. As for how good they are, everything is relative, but they’re certainly not very quiet. HK

  26. John April 9, 2009 at 9:52 am #

    The Chinese are trying to expand its naval capabilities and operations to assert tighter control and challenge US dominance over the region with the building of its new naval base in Sanya. Of course, the Chinese may deny it but that’s an obvious reason already. The location of the new naval base is of a very strategic importance since they can easily control the sea lanes and project their naval power within the region in case of a future military conflict in the Taiwan Strait, Spratly Islands and the Indian Ocean as well as in the Pacific.

    The US would probably counter this by strengthening its ties with its allies in the region – Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and most especially Philippines due to its strategic location in the region. The US could talk with the Philippine government and probably come up with a deal to host bases there.

  27. Peter August 31, 2009 at 12:34 am #

    I believe that the explanation for the existence of this new class of submarine is even simpler than has been suggested so far; The Chinese have a plan to be taken seriously and this submarine is merely part of that plan, even if it is largely symbolic. They can well afford it and it provides them leverage domestically and externally be taken seriously. After all, only ‘serious’ Navies and Governments have the likes of SSBNs. They pose no actual threat and could be neutralized in very short order. No need to respond to this latest waste of Chinese money and effort … these submarines will most likely become white elephants, consuming vast amounts of China’s wealth that really should be spent of more important things. But, its their business. All ‘we’ have to do is keep our powder dry and be prepared well in advance of any silliness happening.

  28. Shane September 11, 2009 at 1:09 am #

    Many folks here have made a simple matter way too complicated. China’s long term national strategy is peaceful development with enough capability to safeguard territory integrity and various national interests. SSBNs at Hainan base plus DF-21 ASBMs forms the backbone of strategic deterrence against any hostile foreign force in the event of any potential territorial situation involving Taiwan and South China Sea.

  29. howardhofelich October 1, 2009 at 12:56 am #

    Think Blue Water. This Jin Class SSBN has only one mission..hover off the coast of North America and
    remind the USA it is susceptible to Chinese sea power & nuclear deterence. Hopefully they have a Hyman Rickover to keep their operations safe. I hope they are afraid of what they have floated, the last thing we need is another Chernobyl.

    Reply I think it would take a great deal of luck for China’s SSBN to ever get out of the South China Sea in a war. But I doubt Chinese have any plans to send their SSBNs on distant voyages off the U.S. coast. Instead, they’ll probably deploy them in bastions where they can be protected by attack submarines and aircraft. But I think you’re right on the reactor issue. Their safety record is not great. HK

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