15 April 2014

China’s Undersea Nuke Arsenal Could Match U.K. and France

Beijing prepares fifth missile submarine 
OSIMINT in War is Boring

Imagery from Oct. 10, 2013 shows a Type 094 Jin-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine at a dry dock in Huludao, in northeastern China.

If confirmed, this would be the fifth Type 094 hull observed on satellite imagery.

The Jin-class boats are the Chinese navy’s first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent. The predecessor Type 092 class was wholly unreliable. With five effective SSBNs, China could soon have the capacity to emulate the operations of Western atomic states like France and the U.K.

Paris and London possess four missile boats apiece, compared to America’s 14. The Western subs are more reliable than China’s Jins.

Previous overhead imagery from February 2013, available in Google Earth, showed a Type 094 and a Type 093 attack submarine variant at the fitting-out pier of China’s Bohai Shipyard No. 431.

A new imagery update would suggest that those submarines had finished construction while another Type 094, measuring approximately 136 meters, had emerged from the fabrication shop.

In regards to the count so far, recent handheld photos appearing at the beginning of the year—showing three Type 094 at Yulin naval base—substantiated the Pentagon’s mid-2013 report to Congress claiming that three were operational.

Unfortunately, imagery of Yulin from Nov. 29 shows two Type 093s and only one Type 094 at the base, a deployment also observed back in 2012.

In the meantime, we believe the fourth boat, observed in February 2013, has finished construction ahead of commissioning—a view that IHS Jane’s also holds.

This news comes after recent remarks by U.S. Navy admiral Samuel Locklear suggesting that the Chinese navy will likely equip its Jinsubmarines with the JL-2 long-range nuclear missiles for the first time by the end of 2014.

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