Hans M. Kristensen, a lifelong Danish pacifist and advocate of the West’s unilateral disarmament since his earliest youth days, now an anti-nuclear hack at the FAS, seems to be bored these days. He has just penned another blogpost where he stubbornly denies and understates the Chinese nuclear threat, despite all the evidence that the threat is very grave and much more serious than he admits.
He says he has just spotted another Jin class ballistic missile submarine at the Huludao shipyard in commercial satellite imagery, and then repeats his old lies (popular among the advocates of America’s unilateral disarmament) that:
- China has only 3-4 Jin class ballistic missile subs;
- that they’re so noisy they’d be easy for the US Navy to detect; and
- that their JL-2 missiles only have a 7,400 km range and cannot target the US West Coast (let alone the rest of the CONUS) unless they sail “deep into the Pacific Ocean.
All of his claims are utterly false, and have already been disproven two times here at CDN. For those who were not following CDN at the time, though, I’ll show the evidence disproving those claims once again.
Firstly, the number. According to the DOD and private websites, China already has five Jin class submarines, with a sixth one under construction. Also, despite Kristensen’s claim, the next generation of Chinese ballistic missile subs (SSBNs), the Type 096, is not merely in development, it’s already undergoing sea trials and could begin sea patrols as early as this year, according to DOD officials.
Secondly, regarding the JL-2 missile’s range, it is at least 8,000 kilometers, NOT the mere 7,400 kms that Kristensen falsely claims. The 8,000 km figure is confirmed by a wide range of sources, from GlobalSecurity to SinoDefence. As late as 2008, the DOD itself was saying the JL-2’s range was 8,000 kms, and giving maps showing it could reach half of the Continental US. See this map from the DOD’s 2008 report on the Chinese military:
“The missile is apparently roughly comparable in size and performance to the American TRIDENT C-4 long-range multiple-warhead three-stage solid fuel missile missile that is launched from submerged submarines.
The missile will reportedly carry either 3 or 4 MIRV (90kT each) or a single warhead with a yield of 250-1000 kT. Other reports suggest that each missile might be loaded with as many as six warheads.
Most reports agree that the JL-2 will have a range of about 8,000 km, while some reports suggest that the missile will have an estimated range at least 9,000 kilometers.“
But even assuming it’s a mere 7,800 kms, it could still hit Seattle and San Francisco if launched from the Sea of Japan or the Tsugaru Strait (between the Japanese islands of Hokkaido and Honshu), or from a position just east of Honshu Island, west of the 150E meridian.
There go two major US urban areas.
Los Angeles could be hit from launch positions just slightly east of the 150E meridian.
There goes America’s second-largest urban area.
Note that 8,000 kms is just the range of the BASIC JL-2 variant. China is now developing, and has repeatedly tested, two newer JL-2 variants: the Jia and the Yi. The former has a range of 12,000, and the latter a range of 14,000, kilometers. This will allow Chinese submarines to strike targets anywhere in the Continental US while being in their homeports.
Thirdly, Kristensen falsely claims that the Jin class is so noisy it would easily be sunk in any war.
This is also patently false. While the Jin class is not nearly as quiet as China’s diesel-electric attack submarines, it is still quiet enough to evade detection by the USN. Why?
Because the USN sucks – especially at anti-submarine warfare, which was always been its Achilles Heel.
During WW2, the waters off the East Coast were safe hunting grounds for the German Navy’s U-boats, so much so that American leaders complained that “the Battle of the Atlantic is being lost” and had to ask the UK and Canada to provide escorts for US ships. During WW2, the USN sunk fewer than 200 German U-boats, while the British and Canadian navies sunk a total of 491.
During the Cold War, the US Navy again showed its utter incompetence and inability to seriously perform ASW missions, with American and allied submarines – even old ones, such as HMCS Okanagan – repeatedly “sinking” US surface warships in exercises, and with Soviet submarines also routinely pinging USN warships.
Matters have only gotten worse since the end of the Cold War. The SOSUS detection system is gone, the S-3 Viking carrier-based ASW aircraft has been retired without replacement, and the fleet of P-3 Orion ASW aircraft has been cut by more than half. Deliveries of the P-8 Poseidon aircraft are very slow, and very few of them are on order. Nor has the USN practiced ASW seriously since the Cold War’s end.
In fact, in the last 3 decades, everyone and their dog has been able to avoid detection by the USN. That includes the Chinese, whose Song-class diesel-electric sub secretly stalked the USS Kitty Hawk in 2006 before suddenly surfacing just 5 miles away from that carrier, in a perfect position to sink it.
For more on the USN’s total incompetence at ASW (and at naval warfare in general), see Roger Thompson, Lessons Not Learned: The Status Quo Culture of the US Navy, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 2007, pp. 15-62.
And as the ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu wrote in his Art of War treatise:
“To secure ourselves against defeat lies within our ability, but the opportunity for victory is always provided by the enemy himself.”
Now, the Jin class is nuclear-powered, and somewhat noisier than the Song class, but the waters around Japan – especially in the Sea of Japan – are quite congested and noisy and are a perfect environment in which Jin class SSBNs could hide.
Hiding in the open ocean – in the vast swathes of the Pacific – would, if anything, be even easier, since the area in which to look for a Jin class sub would be even larger.
And in any case, the Chinese – as stated above – are already testing their new SSBN class, the Type 096, which is much quieter than the Jin class and can carry twice as many ballistic missiles (24 vs the Jin’s 12). It is due to begin sea patrols this year, as DOD officials have stated.
On top of that, China has a new, diesel-electric ballistic missile submarine (the Type 041), which is even quieter than the Song class. It’s virtually undetectable – especially to such a second-rate navy as the USN.
Kristensen also claims – with no evidence to base his claims on – that the DOD’s assessment that the Jin class and the JL-2 will give China “its first credible and survivable at=-sea nuclear deterrent” is overoptimistic from the Chinese perspective. But it’s not, and the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission reached a similar conclusion last year:
“China’s Julang-2 (JL–2) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) is expected to reach initial operational capability by late 2013. The JL–2, when mated with the PLA Navy’s JIN-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), will give China its first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent. The JIN SSBN/JL–2 weapon system will have a range of approximately 4,000 nautical miles (nm), allowing the PLA Navy to target the continental United States from China’s littoral waters. China has deployed three JIN SSBNs and probably will field two additional units by 2020. China also is developing its next generation SSBN, the Type 096, which likely will improve the range, mobility, stealth, and lethality of the PLA Navy’s nuclear deterrent.”
Now, why does Kristensen and other anti-nuclear hacks dramatically understate the Chinese nuclear threat, you may ask?
The reason is simple: to mislead the public and policymakers into accepting deep unilateral defense cuts, so that America becomes militarily inferior to and defenseless against China and Russia. This has always been Western pacifists’ goal, and many of them, including Kristensen, have been paid by the Kremlin to advocate the West’s unilateral disarmament.
Lulling the opponent into a false sense of security, and thus causing him to lower his guard, is an old military concept well understood by Sun Tzu, who taught his acolytes (in the Art of War, Chapter I, verses 18-19 and 22):
“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. (…) If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.”
America’s top military brass and political class have indeed grown arrogant, so cocksure of their imaginary superiority, not realizing China and Russia have already caught up with the US military in most respects and are now working hard on closing the few remaining gaps.
So all of Kristensen’s claims are utterly false. Jin class submarines can easily avoid detection by the USN; there are currently five of them, with a sixth under construction; they will soon be joined by newer, and much quieter, subs; and their JL-2 missiles, even in their basic variant, have more than enough range to strike the Continental US from the Sea of Japan.