Monday, March 3, 2008
The DoD has released its 2008 version of the Congressionally mandated annual report on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China. For comparison purposes, the 2007 version can still be downloaded on the DoD website. From our read, it is unclear what the data accumulation period is. We note in the 2007 report that ballistic missile counts were as of October of 2006, while in the 2008 report the ballistic missile count was as of November 2007. It is unclear up to what date other aspects of the reports are current as to. For example, the 2007 report was released in June of 2007 while the 2008 version has been released in March of 2008.
In looking through the data, we have decided there is so much good content here we would break it down one small bite at a time. We find some aspects of the report to be excellent and well done, but we note some of this report is less than impressive. Since most of our readers tend to jump straight to the force structure aspects of discussion, we decided we would start our analysis there first, specifically the PLAN submarine forces. This chart is listed in both annual reports attempting to describe the total number of vessels per type PLAN has in operation.
|Vessel Type||Total 2007 Report||Total 2008 Report|
|Tank Landing Ships||25||26|
|Medium Landing Ships||25||28|
|Diesel Electric Submarines||53||54|
|Nuclear Attack Submarines||5||5|
|Coastal Patrol (Missile)||41||45|
While this chart is easy to read, the numbers for 2008 do not match the stated commentary in the 2008 report nor does it really tell the story. In looking at the various numbers thrown around in the report, we do not find much evidence that the PLAN was evaluated thoroughly, as there are a number of inconsistent aspects in regards to the PLAN within the 2008 report. Congress should not be impressed, in fact there are some questions here in regards to quality or seriousness to obligation. It is unclear if the report is simply sloppy or intentionally deceiving, but it is very clear to any reader this report is not accurate because in many cases, it gives different numbers for the same thing. The 2008 report states:
China’s naval forces include 74 principal combatants, 57 attack submarines, 55 medium and heavy amphibious ships, and 49 coastal missile patrol craft.
The chart actually shows 74 principal combatants, 59 attack submarines, 54 medium and heavy amphibious ships, and 45 coastal missile patrol craft. It is difficult to understand why the Figure 14 on page 64 of the new report does not match the statement quoted on page 14. Other information stated also adds confusion, particularly when compared in relation to the 2007 report.
Two new SHANG-class (Type 093) nuclear powered attack submarines (SSN) and one JIN-class (Type 094) SSBN may soon enter service alongside four older HAN-class SSNs and China’s single XIA-class SSBN.
China has an estimated ten SONG-class (Type 039) diesel-electric attack submarines (SS) in its inventory. The SONG-class SS is designed to carry the YJ-82 (CSS-N-8) ASCM. The YUAN class SS is now assessed to be in full production and will be ready for service by 2010.
The report makes some strange conclusions. First, the report claims there are only 10 Song class submarines, which does not match previous testimony in front of Congress. The plan usually operates in squadrons of either four or five submarines, so this would tend to imply the DoD believes 2 full squadrons of Songs have been commissioned. The 2007 report stated 12 Kilo submarines, which have been well sourced as imports from Russia, so the suggestion is 2 full squadrons of five submarines with 2 older model Kilo submarines for training. The 2008 report claims 4 HAN class nuclear attack submarines, which implies a single squadron of HAN class submarines. However, both reports claim the PLAN has deployed 5 SSNs, which tends to imply both the 2007 and 2008 report claims 1 Type 093 is operational. Th 2008 report claims two more Type 093s could enter service this year. There is speculation the first Type 093 was a mod, and several credible sources on Chinese BBS claim there will be a total of 4 Type 093s SHANG class at sea this spring. It is unclear if the DoD believes the 5th SSN is the Type 093 mod pictures have been circulated of, or if it is one of the Type 093 SHANG class that will be in the water this spring.
The report does not appear to count Yuan class submarines among its diesel electric submarine count, claiming they will be operational by 2010. We note there are at least 2 mods of the Yuan class already undergoing sea trials, and we have highlighted a 3rd under construction at Wuhan, where the photography appears to show even more Yuan class submarines already floated. Based on the details of the report alone, it would appear the attack submarine list breaks down as follows per this report.
- Type 35 MING class - 17
- Project 877EKM KILO class - 2
- Project 636 KILO class - 10
- Type 039 SONG class - 10
- Type 091 HAN class - 4
- Type 093 SHANG class - 1
That would mean there are between 13 and 15 Type 033 ROMEO class still in operation according to the DoD, since they are not claiming any Yuan class. We note this analysis is drawn solely on the estimate of 10 Type 039 SONG class submarines as stated in the report. However, we have no reason to believe that assessment is accurate. As Global Security notes:
As of late 2004 there were probably at least five Songs completed [including the first Type 039G1], with eight or more under construction. The year 2004 was a landmark for the Song, with two vessels launching at the Wuchang shipyard, and, for the first time, two more launched at Shanghai's Jiangnan shipyard. By early 2005 there were at least 10 Songs either in commission, on sea trials, or in the final stages of being fitted out, with seven of these submarines reportedly built since 2003. From published photos it appeared that the following numbers had been painted on PLAN Songs: 320, 314, 315, 316, 321, 322, 323, and 324. Janes Fighting Ships reported there was a 325, though as of mid-2005 there were no published photos.
By the end of 2005 modified Type 039 Song class production continued at both the Wuhan Shipyard and the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai. By March 2006 China had 13 SONGs SSKs, and was building modern diesel SONGs SSKs at an average rate of 2 per/year, according to Vice Admiral Albert H. Konetzni, Jr. USN (Retired), former Deputy Commander and Chief of Fleet Forces Command. Konetzni predicted that China might have 75 modern submarines by 2020 [Statement of Before the Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee 28 March 2006].
This tends to give the impression that either Adm. Konetzni was exaggerating, which would be contrary to the physical photography observed by many, including Global Security and Janes (not to mention a number of other sources), or that the DoD report gave little attention to the growth of submarines, or was unable to determine if any new submarines have been commissioned since early 2005, 3 full years ago.
If we assume the report is not counting Yuan class submarines, and previous testimony is accurate regarding the Song class submarine build rates, there could be as many as 15 Song class and as many as 5 Yuan class of at least 3 different versions in the water by next year. That is a full eight submarines higher than the estimate, and still may be a low number.
We don't really know what to make of this reports analysis of the Type 094. Clearly the DoD is either not reading or choose to ignore the FAS blog, nor are they observing what Sean O'Conner is seeing (see last picture at the bottom, a great find). It does not make sense that the report would only claim "one JIN-class (Type 094) SSBN" in this report. Clearly the submarine construction rate was ignored in analysis or evolution from the 2007 report.
Considering the report is equally unclear on Type 093s and Type 094s, the DoD appears to be doing a number of things with the release of this report. First, there will be no major breakthroughs in the analysis of the PLAN this year. This could be intentional to insure there is nothing provocative highlighted prior to the Olympics hosted by China. Second, there appears to be a very good chance the first report regarding the expansion of the PLAN fleet for the next administration will be eye popping. Based on the build rates and estimates, by late 2009 the PLAN may have built or imported 35 submarines since 2000, and potentially m