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China Will Deploy Subs that Could Nuke Alaska or Hawaii This Year

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An undated photo of a Jin-class Type 94 nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). PLAN Photo

An undated photo of a Jin-class Type 94 nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). PLAN Photo

China is set to deploy submarines sometime this year armed with nuclear tipped missiles capable of striking Alaska or Hawaii, according to a January assessment from the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI).

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Jin-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine is set to begin patrols in 2014 — armed with the PLAN’s new Ju Lang 2 (JL2), ONI Senior Intelligence Officer Jesse Karotkin told the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission in late January.

“With a range in excess of 4000 [nautical miles], the JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM), will enable the JIN to strike Hawaii, Alaska and possibly western portions of CONUS from East Asian waters,” Karotkin said in written testimony to the commission.


View China’s JL-2 Ranges in a larger map

The Jin, or Type 94, submarines are a developmental leap over the older Type 92 Xia-class submarines armed with the much less capable JL-1 SLBM.

The Jins — 11,000 tons fully submerged — will be the PLAN’s first bid to create a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent to operate with China’s land based nuclear ballistic missiles.

“The three JIN [ballistic missile submarines] currently in service would be insufficient to maintain a constant at-sea presence for extended periods of time, but if the PLA Navy builds five units as some sources suggest, a continuous peacetime presence may become a viable option for the PLAN,” Karotkin said.

The missile has been under development by the Chinese for more than a decade.

If China plans for five or six of the Jin-class submarines, it’s likely to mimic the nuclear deterrent ability of smaller Western nations like the U.K. and France, Eric Wertheim, author of Naval Institute’s Guide to Combat Fleets of the World told USNI News on Tuesday.

“They want to get more on par with Western countries,” he said.

As part of creating a deterrent patrol, the PLAN has accelerated submarine operations according to the ONI statement.

“This trend suggests the PLAN seeks to build operational proficiency, endurance, and training in ways that more accurately simulate combat missions,” Karotkin said in his testimony.

It’s unclear when this year the first patrol will occur.

Categories: Budget Industry, News & Analysis, Submarine Forces
Sam LaGrone

About USNI News Editor

Sam LaGrone is the USNI Online Editor at the U.S. Naval Institute.
He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. In his role he covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
Sam is a 2003 graduate of Virginia Military Institute.

  • http://nickysworld.wordpress.com/ Nicky

    That’s why the US Navy should have a squadron of SSK submarines in Guam. They can stall and stop China from launching ICBM’s at America.

    • muzzleloader

      There are 3 SSN’s based there now. But I believe more would be good.

      • http://nickysworld.wordpress.com/ Nicky

        At least having SSK’s their would stall any attack and they can stall them until the SSN’s come on scene

    • vincedc

      I don’t think we have any SSKs left in the fleet.

      • muzzleloader

        The US has not any diesel boats since the late 50,s. SSK’ by definition are late generation subs that have very efficient diesels, and high capacity batteries that enable them to stay submerged for days. The ones that are equipped with the Air independent power systems can stay down for up to a week. They are very quiet, and very dangerous.

        • TLVBCH

          The last three diesel electric combat submarines were the following
          1. USS Barbel Comm 1959 Decomm 1989
          2. USS Blueback Comm 1959 Decomm 1990
          3. USS Bonefish Comm 1959 Decomm 1988

          The USN leased the Swedish submarine with crew from 2005 till 2007 for tactics against the ultra quiet diesel subs. From what I have read we didn’t to so well.

  • oldgizzerOpa

    Be careful here lads…too many things at Guam, which is only so big. Hundreds of aircraft, ships, and subs makes it a juicy first hit target! One PLAN sub, could hit with three missiles close range and take it out…Remember Pearl Harbor December 1941, except on a more lethal scale. Personally, I like dispersal, two thirds out, and only one third in safe harbor.

  • James Hedman

    So the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is not still in effect? Hardly. They nuke Seattle and Bellingham and we MIRV Peking, Shanghai, and a few dozen other cities.

    • Joe Jenson

      If it would rid us of the Seahawks, i’d say thanks and call it a day.

  • http://cgblog.org/ Chuck Hill

    Saying they can hit only Alaska and Hawaii assumes they don’t sail into the Eastern Pacific, from which they could hit anywhere in the US. No, they are not likely to do this, but then they are not likely to attack the US at all.

  • Don Alfera

    I can appreciate the many views shared. The fact is we are moving the clock forward with each nuke developed and deployed.

    We must keep working with other nations to dis-arm from the nukes. We do not need more and better, we need less and less.

    This development is only that much more of a divide in the ability of NATO and the UN to to provide a unified form of protection and enforcement on the global level.

    Time to stop that clock and turn it back, way back. This has been one of the most potentially devastating development and abuse of any of our resources on this planet. The “WHOLE PLANET” in all of recorded history nothing is more deadly to all life and placed in the hands of man.

    • Independence2014

      That’s a nice, feel good notion, but it is hardly realistic. The nuclear weapons genie is out of the bottle. Sure, use negotiations to reduce nuclear weapons forces, but relying upon that alone without keeping our nuclear strategic assets tested, modernized, and proficient is really nothing more than a wishful form of unilateral disarmament. That didn’t work out well during the 1970s during the Cold War, and it is even more dangerous now in an increasingly multipolar world with more nuclear armed nations.

    • gordon

      Absolutely do NOT agree with your premis… We’re playing with people who don’t know how to say “please” and “thank you”… The old adage of walk/talk softly but carry a BIG stick – and don’t be afraid to swing it….

    • Wayne

      Right; and Harry Callahan could have kept the streets of San Francisco safe with a sling shot.

  • joshuagenes

    If they strike than we won’t owe them a dollar on the debt. It’s their loss.