China’s Overhyped Sub Threat


It was the US Navy’s biggest jolt in years. On October 26, 2006, a Chinese Song-class attack submarine quietly surfaced within nine miles of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk as the 80,000-ton-diplacement vessel sailed on a training exercise in the East China Sea between Japan and Taiwan.

The Song-class vessel, displacing 2,200 tons, was close enough to hit the Kitty Hawk with one of its 18 homing torpedoes. None of the carrier’s roughly dozen escorting warships detected the Song until it breached the surface.

The Song’s provocative appearance was, for the Americans, ‘as big a shock as the Russians launching Sputnik,’ one NATO official told Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper, referring to the Soviet Union’s launch of the first-ever space satellite in 1957. ‘This could well have escalated into something that was very unforeseen,’ said Adm. Bill Fallon, then commander of US Pacific forces.

The incident underscored the then explosive growth of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s undersea force, as well as Beijing’s apparent intention to wrestle the Western Pacific away from the once-dominant US Navy. ‘The Chinese are building a credible submarine force which will make it very difficult for the US Navy to maintain sea control dominance in or near coastal waters off of China,’ warned Rear Adm. Hank McKinney, former commander of the US Pacific Fleet’s submarine force.

Of particular concern to American defence officials was the projected introduction, over the coming decade, of up to 20 new nuclear-powered attack submarines, known as ‘SSNs,’ that are an order of magnitude more capable than the Song class. ‘The acquisition of increasing numbers of SSNs would give it (the PLAN) the ability to contest US naval forces farther from China’s shores,’ Thomas Mahnken wrote in China's Future Nuclear Submarine Force, edited by Naval War College professor Andrew Erickson and published in 2007.   

Yet nearly five years later, McKinney’s and Mahnken’s alarm has been proved false. The PLAN still possesses a tiny number of nuclear-powered submarines. The Songs and other short-range diesel boats remain the backbone of China’s undersea force. Beijing’s production of new submarines has declined andthe PLAN’s overall undersea fleet is likely to contract in coming years. ‘I don't think they know whether they want to make the full-up commitment it would take to do this (submarine) thing right,’ Owen Cote, Jr., an analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says of the Chinese.

Meanwhile, the US Navy and its Pacific allies have crafted plans to stabilize or even grow their own submarine fleets. In 2006, Western observers feared the undersea balance of power in the Pacific would tilt. In a sense, they were right. It has tilted – back towards the United States and its allies.

How that happened speaks volumes about China’s evolution as a regional power.

Crunching the Numbers

In early 2011, the PLAN possessed ‘more than 60 submarines,’ according to the Pentagon’s Congressionally-mandated annual report on Chinese military capabilities.

That force included five nuclear-powered attack submarines: three of the 1980s-vintage Type 091 Han-class SSNs that are rapidly reaching the ends of their service lives, plus two Type 093 Shang-class boats. The next-generation Type 095 SSN is due to enter service around 2015, according to Pentagon estimates.

May 16, 2013 at 14:37

Not chinese propoganda, if anything the U.S. spits out propoganda then anyone else in the world. Everything you see on the media of China is a lie. Firstly the Chinese are not all the way communist, yes they have a communist party but they are no fully communists. Secondly the Chinese are not dumb, they were smart enough to record their history longer than anyone else so that they can learn from their mistakes, Something the U.S. has not done. And thirdly China's rising military power is not a threat because they only want to defend their land. People have attacked and abused China long enough as it is. If the Chinese were really dedicated to offense, they would be near victory already. They are a dedicated and proud poeple. Their culture keeps them together, not religion. Their actions match up to their bark, unlike politics, and their people are hard working at developing a better life for their generation. It would'nt be surprising if China spread further into other's land due to harrasment and racial steryotypes about them.

Brent O
December 11, 2013 at 16:21

China cannot win a war against the Western powers for one simple reason. It is not a self sufficient economy. Once the bulk-carriers full of food and raw materials stop arriving in Chinese harbours, people will starve and industry will grind to a halt. It doesn’t matter how good your military may be; it still must be fed. And soon the environmental degradation caused by the CCP’s foolishness will combine with the aging demographics to reduce China to beggary.

[...] according to various reports,they this..though its a year and half old article.. China by the way,you must go for quietest subs..Modified Scorpene is good,but no mix up this [...]

October 1, 2012 at 12:20

He's not bragging but simply stating the fact that China was catching up with modern warfare against the West.  Of course there was a great human cost .. but China is advancing on strategy and tactics during the Korean war.  It's just the matter of time when it can catch up on technology.  Although slow but China is able to adapt from time and time again through out its long history.

major lowen gil marquez, phil army
September 1, 2012 at 16:42

By surfacing the communist Chinese submarine more or less 9 miles is no big deal, we do not no really the whole situation, its the words of the communist they surface without the knowledge of  the officers and man of USS kity Kitty Hawk? how about the strategic secret of the US Navy fleet officer? we should also think of that not only on the hallucinated propaganda of the communist Chinese…

September 1, 2012 at 07:44

china have a big backyard,and still getting bigger by invading some ones backyard too.too greedy

March 20, 2012 at 22:47

Yeah. This grenade halncuer is actually muzzle-loaded and fires caseless 40mm grenades. The only thing it has in common to the M203, is the fact, that it’s designed to be mounted on a rifle. Try to gain some knowledge before you start smearing crap on people.

March 19, 2012 at 21:18

one thing the west overlook about china is that they don’t like to show off but they always want to prove a point that if war broke out today they would be able to defend themselves against any force at their backyard and they have the capability to do it so those who are hoping that it does should be warn. because it would be disastrous for any country to get involved.

December 29, 2011 at 23:10

Did anyone ever stop to think that possibly the reason why Chinese submarines do
not often go out on patrol is to lengthen their service life. If the Chinese have
a date in mind in which to attack a larger superpower, that benefit would leave them with a larger quantity of operable subs when that time comes. Since the Chinese lack the exquisite technology the United States can employ, any slight advantage in numbers would help even the odds in a coastal theater.

December 28, 2011 at 10:08

Just an idea and something we’ve been discussing within our group but perhaps the Chinese are intentionally misleading US assets in the region. After all, it’s not that hard to make a sub noisy through cavitation and other means.

This wouldn’t be the first time US assets thought one thing only to be surprised with something completely different.

October 26, 2011 at 04:11

“China isn’t building a world-class, globally-deploying submarine force. It’s building a mostly defensive, regional undersea force – and a smaller one than once predicted.”

Very true statement.

October 25, 2011 at 07:43

Your posts are “full of it”. Expressing your frustrations and/or jealousies to the point of hatreds by unwisely choosing degrading words and terms. Pretending to be some-one and NOT an East Indian(the no-good ones, of course). You guys better stop those riduculious thing about having lived or worked in China. If you were living in China for sometime in the past, the experiences much have been one hell of an unpleasant stay in order to drive you into this state of mind.
To YOU and all others like you, don’t pretend and do not even try to lie, everybody know whether what you said is true or not. It might be more pleasant for you and others like you to start present your opinions or dis-agreements to the best of your knowledge and understandings. Simply put, be yourself and speak as who or what you are. That way,its not only pleasant for you, others and CCPs will be taking your comments with respects.
Finally, the Chinese have great respects and admirations for the land today called-India,do not ruin that image by your un-productive emotional sentiments. Besides, India belongs to all ethnic groups within its border-NOT exclusively owned by a few bad Indians.

October 25, 2011 at 01:05

@SCdad07: I wouldn’t label Pham Van Dong a traitor. He did what he had to do. However, his letter states basically nothing. I challenge china to present that at the UN for its 9 dotted line claim.

October 25, 2011 at 00:12

And with what cost? If you know the real number of casualty the Chinese bore to push back America to 38th parallel in Korean war, then you couldn’t brag so loud like that. So do your homework before bragging. It could save you face.

October 24, 2011 at 21:16

@Reason, funnily enough, the PLA, having just fought the second sino-japanese war and the Chinese Civil War, gave the US military the first war it cannot win. Vietnam was the second by the way. Now imagine a bunch of ragtag soldiers with bolt action rifles fighting against tanks like m-4 sherman, browning machine guns, air power and naval vessels. doesnt seem very real does it? well, thats what happened in the korean war and the ragtags pushed the US 8th army back to the 38th parallel. shameful.. shameful…China has led the world for thousands of years before europeans caught up and led for 200 years, maybe its time China led the way again.

October 24, 2011 at 13:31

It’s the completeness of the threat as illustrated by your point. Deny us operationally, we intervene at our own peril… with global implications, impacting international norms and upsetting our influence in the region for years to come…

October 24, 2011 at 11:16


What are you talking about?

October 24, 2011 at 11:09

@John Chan

NOT – Anti China trash — but certainly Anti CCP talk. There’s a huge difference

Seriously, John… I am more PRO-Chinese than YOU – I live in China and I actively object to the subjugation of a billion+ Chinese people by the CCP as they get rich and fat at the expense of the hard working Chinese people.

The CCP is an alien government, that has constantly trodden all over Chinese values and culture as it follows an outdated European philosophy and IS NOT CHINESE.


I resent how the CCP throws around the Anti-China card as though it is the keeper of Chinese culture…. this is the worst crime of the CCP.

Go look in the mirror John and ask yourself what is it about you that represents China and being Chinese – then ask yourself honestly – does the CCP represent any of that or protect it?

No…. it just represents itself and expresses itself through the writings of a long dead German – get real John and everyone else who shamelessly defends the CCP as though they are defending China.


Every Chinese person I know HATES the CCP

Mike China
October 24, 2011 at 10:21

The problem with China’s navy is it can hit back if attacked. That is something
US forces are not accustomed to .An analysis of wars involving US forces since WW2 shows that major US bases were safe /immune to attack.
However in any conflict involving PLA and US forces the ability of the former to attack is growing significantly.No matter what the US does it cannot escape unscathed if it chose to attack China.
The US has an assured destruction capability with regard to China.The Chinese don’t have a 100% of the capability. They need not aspire for that.The ability to wreak enormous havoc on US interests will serve that purpose.You never know.
The PLA could significantly improve their weapons to deter the US,if that is required.

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