The CSS Blog Network

China SSBN Fleet Getting Ready – But For What?

Photo: wikimedia commons.

This article and the associated images originally appeared on the FAS Strategic Security Blog.

China’s emerging fleet of 3-4 new Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines is getting ready to deploy on deterrent patrols, “probably before the end of 2014,” according to U.S. Pacific Command.

A new satellite image taken in October 2013 (above) shows a Jin SSBN in dry dock at the Bohai shipyard in Huludao. Two of the submarine’s 12 missile tubes are open. It is unclear if the submarine in the picture is the fourth boat or one of the first three Jin SSBNs that has returned to dry dock for repairs or maintenance.

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Smart Defense: A Eurosubmarine

Trafalgar Class submarine SSN (Ship Submersible Nuclear) HMS Triumph. Photo: Ben Sutton/UK Ministry of Defence

Amidst the financial crisis, European nations have attempted to consolidate resources to tailor their defense capabilities to more efficiently meet the emerging security challenges. Cooperation has become the buzz-word in Europe, with the EU’s Pooling and Sharing Initiative and NATO’s Smart Defense both emphasizing the notion of “doing more with less.” In his opening remarks at the NATO Defense Minister’s meetings in October, Secretary General Rasmussen outlined more multinational teamwork as the solution to spending scarce resources more effectively. On NATO’s Industry Day, he called for industry to propose multinational solutions, instead of individual ones. Yet despite the high level guidance, effective cooperation on long-term capabilities remains elusive.

Albeit long-term capabilities pose significant challenges, cooperation on them is not implausible. The British ballistic nuclear submarine fleet is in need of replacement, and France’s fleet will soon follow course. In today’s resource-scarce and cooperation-prone environment, their futures could converge into a single co-produced platform. This “Eurosubmarine” might initially be designed to fully replace each nations fleet in an economical way, but if the political climate changes, it could emerge as a shared platform, housing two sovereign sets of nuclear missiles, or even as a joint European nuclear deterrent. » More

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