Measured in terms of warships commissioned since 1990, China is now number three globally and is rapidly gaining on Russia, the number two country. Most of Russia’s post-1990 military ship deliveries simply reflected yards “finishing up” Soviet-era projects.
Chinese yards, in contrast, have come on strong over the past decade, with a big push in submarine construction that began in 2002-03 and a strong pipeline of surface warship deliveries that continues to gain steam to this very day. Chinese military shipyards—in particular the Changxing Island and Hudong Zhonghua yards near Shanghai—are humming with activity, and over the next 2-3 years, China is likely to commission enough large warships to put it second only to the U.S. in terms of large warships built and delivered since 1990.
3. China’s military shipbuilders are using modular mass production techniquesEnjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
CSSC’s Jiangnan Shipyard is using modular construction methods to build Type 052-series destroyers. Modular construction involves building the ship in “blocks.” This maximizes a shipyard’s productive potential and also provides greater latitude for modifying designs and customizing ships. Modular construction also gives yards the flexibility to either build centers of expertise within the yard or outsource the production of certain components and then import them to the yard for final assembly.
CSSC’s Hudong Zhonghua shipyard also appears to be using modular construction techniques for the Type 071 LPD. The yard has now constructed four of the vessels, two of which are in service and two of which are in the trial/outfitting stage. They have also been able to fabricate the Type 071 hulls faster, with a time gap of nearly four years between the first and second vessels, but only 10 months between vessels two and three, and four months between vessels three and four.
4. China’s military shipyards appear to be sharing design and production information across company lines
Historically, CSIC built all Chinese submarines, but the current production run of Type 041 Yuan-class advanced diesel electric subs has seen at least two boats being built in CSSC’s Jiangnan yard. This suggests submarine construction expertise is growing outside of CSIC. However, there are no indications thus far that CSSC is doing submarine design work, which could mean that Beijing is making the companies and their design institutes share submarine design and construction information. Likewise, the new Type 056 corvette is being built in both CSSC and CSIC shipyards, suggesting that a standardized design and production approach is being shared by both companies.
5. China’s military shipbuilders will be able to indigenously build aircraft carriers
China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, which entered service on September 25th of this year, started as an empty hull and gave CSIC valuable experience in effectively creating an aircraft carrier from the keel up. China has a total of seven shipyards with sufficiently large berths to assemble a carrier hull (three hundred meters or more), and the yards are basically equally dispersed between CSSC and CSIC. These yards are located in Dalian (CSIC), Qingdao (CSIC), Huludao (CSIC), Shanghai (CSSC), and Guangzhou (CSSC).