According to Pentagon reports, China operates “near-continuous” submarine patrols in the South China Sea. Type-094 Jin-class boats will be replaced by advanced Type-096s, equipped with new, longer-range Julang-3 ballistic missiles that can hit the continental U.S. from Chinese home waters.
According to Christopher Twomey, a U.S. Naval Postgraduate School security scholar in California, the assessment shows crucial improvements in Chinese capabilities.
“We’re going to want to have our SSNs [nuclear-powered attack submarines] trying to tail them… so the extra demands on our assets are clear,” said Twomey. “But the point here is that the information -- the near continuous patrols -- has changed so rapidly that we don’t know what else has changed.”
The Chinese subs are now deploying a third-generation missile, the Julang-3 (JL-3), General Anthony Cotton, the U.S. Strategic Command commander, told a March congressional hearing.
With an estimated range of more than 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles) and carrying multiple warheads, the JL-3 allows China to reach the continental United States from Chinese coastal waters for the first time, the Pentagon reports.
And within a few years, these missiles will be carried by stealthier Type-096s boats, warns Timothy Wright at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“That will be of concern to the United States because it will stretch U.S. defenses, hold more targets at risk, and they will need addressing with additional conventional and nuclear capabilities,” Wright said.