A Chinese shipbuilder accidentally revealed its major navy plans
Nuclear submarines, giant aircraft carriers, robot warships.
For a brief moment, the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), put online China’s next big naval projects (but quickly pulled them down). The revelation, of which screenshots were taken before censors intervened, provided a picture of China’s ambitions for a world class navy.
CSIC is a major shipbuilder for the People’s Liberation Army Navy, responsible for high ticket items like aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. The biggest item in CSIC’s not-so-secret portfolio is China’s first nuclear-powered carrier. Popularly identified as the Type 003, it will be the largest non-American warship in the world when its launched in the late 2020s. CSIC’s Dalian Shipyard, which refurbished the aircraft carrier Liaoning, and launched China’s first domestically built carrier, CV-17, in 2017, will presumably build China’s first “Type 003” CVN.
The Type 003 will displace between 90,000-100,000 tons and have electromagnetically assisted launch system (EMALS) catapults for getting aircrafts off the deck. It’ll likely carry a large air wing of J-15 fighters, J-31 stealth fighters, KJ-600 airborne early warning and control aircraft, anti-submarine warfare helicopters, and stealth attack drones. When joined with Type 055 destroyers and next-generation attack submarines, it would provide the PLAN a highly capable task force for representing China on global missions.
Type 095 SSN
CSIC’s website also boasted that it would build a new nuclear-powered submarine, likely the Type 095 nuclear attack submarine (SSN). The Type 095 SSN would be built at CSIC’s Bohai Shipyard, which is China’s sole nuclear submarine shipyard. Compared to the Type 093 SSN, the Type 095 SSN will include new noise reduction measures, like an integrated electric propulsion system and possibly a shaftless rim drive, single hull, and electronic noise cancellation. CSIC is also working on a separate ‘quiet’ submarine project, presumably to be built at its Wuhan conventional submarine shipyard. This submarine is presumably quieter than the air-independent propulsion (AIP) Type 039B Yuan submarine; it’ll likely have quieting measures like a single hull, a new AIP system, and lithium-ion batteries. A new generation of Chinese submarines could help the PLAN remedy its historic technologic disadvantage against the submarines forces of the American and Japanese navies.
The big CSIC announcement also covers 21st century naval wish lists, like autonomous robot submarines. This is the first official confirmation of China pursuing armed unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), in addition to unmanned surface vehicles already offered for exports. Autonomous UUVs, armed with torpedoes and missiles, could act as expendable scouts or wingmen for manned Chinese submarines and surface warships, such as undertaking dangerous missions like probing enemy minefields, launching sneak attacks, and drawing away enemy forces.
To defend Chinese home waters and expand the anti-access/area denial umbrella underwater, CSIC is designing an underwater attack and defense system. It could likely be an armed variant of the “Underwater Great Wall” of UUVs, other maritime robots and seafloor sensors. With built in modularity, it could be tailored to defend naval bases with surveillance UUVs and counter torpedo defenses on one end, and at the other end of the spectrum; a networked minefield of armed and smart UUVs supported by automated underwater listening posts. These capabilities would require not just the platforms, though; CSIC would need to master emerging technologies like underwater high capacity datalinks, combat AI, and multi-spectrum sensors.
Peter Warren Singer is a strategist and senior fellow at the New America Foundation. He has been named by Defense News as one of the 100 most influential people in defense issues. He was also dubbed an official “Mad Scientist” for the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. Jeffrey is a national security professional in the greater D.C. area.
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