East Asia Correspondent – David McDonald
China Highly Likely To Continue Improving Fleet Efficiency And Capabilities
China is highly likely to continue improving fleet efficiency and capabilities through its emphasis on fleet capabilities over fleet size. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is currently constructing a new aircraft carrier and is developing new classes of mission ready cruisers and frigates.
Given the escalation of events in the South China Sea, China has shifted its modernization efforts more heavily towards its navy. Its largest point of focus for naval modernization is improving the quality of the navy over the quantity of vessels.[i]
Despite a reduction in personnel, PLAN’s investment in submarines, surface warfare ships, and missiles, allows it to attain its goal of creating a navy capable of defending its national interests from U.S. intervention.[ii]
China’s submarine development has occurred since the 1990s when it developed its first Jin class, Type 094, nuclear-powered, ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) and Shang class, Type 093, nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN). Chinese military officials consider these domestically built submarines as upgrades to China’s older vessels in overall efficiency, detectability, and weapons systems.[iii]
In terms of surface warfare vessels, China continues to develop different types of ships. Its recent projects focus on the creation of a domestically built aircraft carrier and on new classes of cruisers, and frigates.[iv] The PLAN will base the design of its new aircraft on its current carrier, the Liaoning, which it purchased from the Ukrainians in 2012.[v] China is also developing a new cruiser class, consisting of two Type 055 cruisers, which is currently in the development stage. An ONI report stated that these new cruisers would likely carry anti-surface weapons. China also continues to commission ships from its Luyang II and III classes, which PLAN established in 2012. Along with developing new cruiser classes, China is also establishing the Jiangkai II frigate class. The new frigates will contain improved hulls and improved anti-aircraft warfare capabilities.[vi]
Analytic confidence for this assessment is medium. The analyst did not use an analytic method. Source reliability is medium with no conflict among sources. Not all sources were recent, as the analyst used older sources to provide background. The analyst’s expertise on the topic is minimal. The analyst worked alone with some discussion amongst group members. The task complexity was moderately complex and the time constraint was sufficient.