Rebuttal of China deniers’ understatement of China’s nuke capabilities
Even as China becomes an ever greater military threat to America, the pro-disarmament lobby in the US is still stubbornly denying that threat. The pro-disarmament lobby does so in order to lull American policymakers and voters into a false sense of security. The goal of this induce them to agree to dramatically and unilaterally cut America’s military power, especially its nuclear deterrent, which the Left outright hates.
Thus, it is not surprising that the Left continues to vastly understate China’s nuclear arsenal’s size and capabilities. Recently, the Left has been desperately denying the threat posed by China’s Jin class of ballistic missile submarines, which have given China a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent capable of striking the CONUS. Most recently, Christian Conroy and Hans Kristensen (a lifelong Danish pacifist who has spent his entire adult lifetime advocating the West’s unilateral disarmament) have denied that the Jin class gives China a credible sea-based deterrent.
Their denials are utterly wrong and are based on several utterly false claims they make. Specifically, China threat deniers falsely claim that:
1) The Jin class is too noisy to be survivable;
2) Its ballistic missile, the Julang-2 (JL-2), doesn’t have sufficient range to hit the CONUS;
3) China’s Central Military Commission has not delegated command-and-control authority over nuclear weapons to the PLA Navy nor authorized loading nuclear weapons on its submarines;
4) China has only three Jin class submarines.
Let’s refute each of these claims in turn.
1) The Jin class is NOT too noisy and IS survivable. Data on Chinese submarine noise from the Office of Naval Intelligence or other parts of the DOD has to be treated very skeptically, because the ONI is little more than a propaganda department which has, throughout many decades, routinely overestimated America’s military capabilities and understating those of her adversaries. It excelled in that during WW2.
Most importantly, the USN’s anti-sub warfare capabilities have atrophied so badly during the last few decades that even very noisy and obsolete subs can evade detection by the USN, especially if captained by competent, intelligent skippers.
America’s ASW capabilities today are in shambles, to say it very politely. To say it brutally, they’re almost extinct. The US has not seriously practiced, or devoted any significant resources, to ASW since the CW’s end. The S-3 Viking, a dedicated carrier-borne ASW a/c, has been retired. The Navy’s P-3 Orions are now being used as overland ISR aircraft. P-8 Poseidon production is slow and threatened by sequestration.
But even during the Cold War, when US ASW capabilities were far better than they were today, they were still woefully inadequate – so much so that even obsolete allied and Soviet submarines had no problems sneaking up on, and scoring goals against, USN surface ships and subs – including, yes, the Navy’s much vaunted and supposedly undetectable Ohio class boomers.
To give but one example: in 1981, during routine NATO exercises in the North Atlantic, a Canadian 1960s-vintage diesel submarine sneaked undetected under US ships and “sunk” not one, but TWO American aircraft carriers and took photos of them. The USN didn’t even know what hit them until a Canadian submariner leaked the story to the Canadian press. This was at a time when the Canadian military was dramatically underfunded and Ottawa had arguably the most anti-military government in its history. And in 1985, an obsolete Soviet submarine successfully sneaked upon USN SSBNs several times, again without the USN knowing the adversary was even there.
These days, allied submarines – even obsolete ones – ROUTINELY beat the US Navy and “sink” its much-vaunted carriers and submarines in exercises. It has happened more often than I can be bothered to count, but Professor Roger Thompson has listed some of these occassions here:
The USN is so crappy at ASW that even an idiot could sneak a submarine upon its ships and sink at least one of them. Intelligent submarine skippers, such as those of the PLAN, could compensate for the Jin class’s noise by using ocean current temperature changes, for example.
In fact, using the Jin class is a win-win situation for China. If they stay in the noisy waters of the Yellow Sea or the South China Sea, it would be very difficult to find them. If they sail into the open Pacific, it would be even more difficult to detect them as one would have to scan the entire, vast Pacific – the largest ocean in the world – for their subs.
2) The JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile DOES have sufficient range to hit the CONUS (though not yet from Chinese territorial waters). While Kristensen and Conroy falsely claim that the JL-2 only has a 7,200-7,400 km range, it actually has a range of at least 8,000, and probably more, kilometers.
GlobalSecurity.org, arguably the most credible military information website on the Internet, says that the JL-2’s range is at least 8,000, and may be up to 9,000, kms:
Quote from the GS article:
“Most reports agree that the JL-2 will ahve a range of about 8,000 km, while some reports suggest that the missile will have an estimated range at least 9,000 kilometers.”
The DOD itself was saying, as recently as 2008, that the JL-2 had a range of 8,000 kms, not 7,200 or 7,400, and in that year’s report on China’s military, the DOD included this nice map showing the JL-2’s range to be sufficient to strike the entire Pacific Northwest of the US:
So why the downgrade now? In all likelihood, due to the pressure of the Chinese (pro-appeasement) lobby inside and outside the US government, which doesn’t want the American public to know the real magnitude of the Chinese military threat and doesn’t want anyone to interfere with their kowtowing to China. Bill Gertz has already documented how the CIA, the DIA, the DOD at large, and other agencies have, for years if not decades, dramatically understated the Chinese military threat.
But even the Air Force’s NASIC intelligence center, while understating the JL-2’s range, admits that this missile, coupled with the Jin class, will allow China to “target portions of the United States” from waters near China.
Yet, that doesn’t change the fact that the DOD is on the record, saying just a few years ago, that the JL-2 had an 8,000 kms range and the capability to target the entire PNW.
TheDiplomat agrees that the JL-2 has an 8,000 km range:
So the JL-2’s range is 8,000 kms, not a mere 7,200 or 7,400.
With that range, the JL-2 still cannot target the CONUS while being in Chinese territorial waters – but it can target anything on the West Coast, including LA and San Diego, if positioned at just slightly east of 150E, i.e. slightly east of Honshu Island. Roughly the same geographic longitude as Micronesia.
If it sails somewhat further into the Pacific, to 160E, it can target any place in the CONUS. I’ve already covered this subject here:
And included a nice map here:
Of course, if the JL-2’s range is 9,000 kms, as some reports say, the Jin class can target the CONUS from even further afar.
In any case, within a few years, the discussion over the JL-2’s range will become a moot one, because two new JL-2 variants will enter service: the Jia and the Yi. The Jia will be able to carry 6-8 warheads over a distance of 12,000 kms; the Yi, up to 12 warheads over a range of 14,000 kms. Proof:
Both of these missiles will give the Jin class the ability to target any place in the CONUS from Chinese territorial waters or even their homeports.
And as for the oft-repeated idiocy that China has only 250 warheads – it’s also a blatant lie. In fact, China has between 1,600 and 3,000 nuclear warheads, according to estimates by General Viktor Yesin (former CoS of the Russian SMF) and Professor Philip Karber (former DOD chief nuclear strategist), respectively. China’s 3,000 miles of missile tunnels alone prove that China’s nuclear arsenal is far, far larger than a mere 250 warheads – you don’t build such a vast network of tunnels for just 250 warheads. A few hundred miles would have been enough.
There is other evidence China’s nuke arsenal is larger than that. The PLAAF alone has more bombs than a mere 250 for its bomber/striker fleet (H-6s, JH-7s, Q-5s): 440 according to General Yesin. China also has 500 nuclear-armed LACMs and SRBMs, and China’s 100-120 MRBMs (DF-3, DF-21) are quite likely also nuclear-armed, considering the vast majority of them are aimed at Russia and India.
3) There is no evidence that the Central Military Commission has NOT delegated command-and-control authority to the PLA Navy and that China does not load nuclear warheads onto its submarines. In fact, we should assume that the CMC HAS given such authority to the PLAN and that Chinese SSBNs ARE normally loaded with nuclear warheads. Otherwise, it would make no sense at all for China to build all of these submarines and missiles only not to load them with nuclear weapons. In any case, China threat deniers like Conroy and Kristensen have no evidence whatsoever for their claims.
4) The PLA Navy has five Jin class subs, not a mere three, and is building a sixth one. Three Jin class boats is what it had in 2007/2008, when none other than Hans Kristensen spotted the third Jin class sub in a satellite photo of Huludao Shipyard. Evidence here.
Kristensen also desperately denies that any articles boasting of the PLA’s nuclear strike capability against the United States have been published in Chinese state media. He claims this has appeared only on private Chinese websites not connected to the government.
This claim, however, like all other claims of Kristensen, is patently false, however. The article boasting of how China would strike the US with nuclear warheads carried by JL-2 and DF-31 missiles appeared in none other than the Global Times – a state-run, rabidly anti-American newspaper tightly linked to and controlled by the Communist Party of China. As Bill Gertz correctly reported in the Washington Times on Nov. 20th (emphasis mine):
“an alarming report in another newspaper, the xenophobic Communist Party-affiliated Global Times, revealing for the first time the Chinese military’s detailed plans for using submarine-launched and road-mobile nuclear missiles to attack American cities.
The Global Times article included photos of missile systems and maps showing nuclear attacks on downtown Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, and other U.S. locations.
“In general, after a nuclear missile strikes a city, the radioactive dust produced by 20 warheads will be spread by the wind, forming a contaminated area for thousands of kilometers,” the report said.
“Based on the actual level of China’s one million tons TNT equivalent small nuclear warhead technology, the 12 JL-2 [submarine-launched] nuclear missiles carried by one Type 094 nuclear submarine could cause the destruction of five million to 12 million people, forming a very clear deterrent effect.”“
In sum, China threat deniers’ claims are all blatant lies. China DOES already have a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent and its JL-2 SLBMs CAN hit the Continental United States if launched from a position just slightly east of Japan. China has five, not three, modern Jin class submarines, enabling it to provide a continous at-sea nuclear deterrent, and these submarines CAN, without much difficulty, evade detection by the USN.
Let’s face it. China is coming closer to reaching nuclear parity with the US every day – and deploying Jin class subs is a big step in that regard. These subs have given China a very survivable, accurate, deadly, and continous at-sea nuclear deterrent.