Chinese Submarine Fleet.

Chinese v Australian Submarine Fleet.

Chinese Submarine Fleet.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of China possesses a fleet of 56 submarines, both nuclear-powered and diesel-electric, with another two submarines in the process of having hulls fitted out.

It is expected that the Chinese fleet could grow to between 65 and 70 submarines by the end of the 2020s.

Chinese Submarine Fleet.

  • 6 Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBNs), Nuclear-powered and Nuclear weapons.
  • 6 Nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs).
  • 44 Diesel-electric attack submarines (SSKs), 17 with Air-independent propulsion (AIP) enabled.

The Bohai Shipyard at Huludao, which builds the Chinese Nuclear submarines, is currently being extended, and the 2020 China Military Power Report projected an increase to eight SSBNs by 2030. Probably the Type 096 SSBNs.

Australian Submarine Fleet.

Australia currently operates a fleet of six diesel-electric powered Collins class submarines. These were built between 1990 and 2003, and are expected to be retired in the mid 2030s.
The have a maximum speed of 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) when submerged. They have a range of 480 nautical miles (890 km; 550 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) when submerged.

Australia has plans to change its submarine fleet numbers. By buying 3 or 5 American Virginia SSN-774 class submarines in the 2030s. These submarines have a submerged speed of 25 knots, and a range that is only limited by food and maintenance requirements.

This will be followed in the 2030s and 2040s, by a number of new submarines, called the SSN-AUKUS, to be built in the U.K. and in Australia.

These SSN submarines are nuclear powered, but not Nuclear armed, the same as the current number of Chinese SSNs.

Can SSN submarines carry nuclear weapons?

It is said that any submarine can carry nuclear weapons, but only the SSBNs can carry Ballistic Nuclear Missiles.

Why does Australia need Nuclear powered submarines?

China’s growing power and assertiveness have been significant drivers behind developments in Australian defence policy in the past few years. This has led to the need to try to follow the Chinese lead in increasing its submarine fleet.

China currently has 56 submarines. Australia has 6.

China plans to increase to about 70.
Australia plans to remain at about 6 but change from Diesel-electric to nuclear-powered.

A spokesman for the Chinese mission to the UN, has accused Australia, the UK and the USA of fuelling an arms race, by proceeding with these new submarines for Australia.

One way of thinking is that China is fuelling the arms race by its massive military increase over recent years.

For China to accuse Australia of fuelling an arms race, without even having nuclear weapons, when China is increasing its own nuclear weapons capability, is somewhat of a puzzle.

Chinese Nuclear Weapons Expansion.

In 2020, the US estimated that China had nuclear warheads numbering in the low-200s and expected the stockpile to double within a decade. Just two years later, China has reached that mark and could have some 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035 if they continue to expand their stockpile at the current pace, according to the 2022 China Military Power report.

Nuclear-powered Submarines for Defense.

Without having nuclear weapons, a small fleet of SSGNs, with 65 vertically launched (non-nuclear) missiles in each, would substantially increase the defence capability against any sea based invasion of Australia. This would be done by destroying the invaders larger ships.

It would do very little to help Australia in invading any country, compared to the existing fleet.

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