(From the National Interest)
By Dave Majumdar
Is China’s new Type 093B nuclear-powered attack submarine on par with the U.S. Navy’s Improved Los Angeles-class boats?
At least some U.S. naval analysts believe so and contend that the introduction of the new People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) submarines is an indication of just how quickly Beijing is catching up to the West.
“The 93B is not to be confused with the 93. It is a transition platform between the 93 and the forthcoming 95,” said Jerry Hendrix, director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security—who is also a former U.S. Navy Captain. “It is quieter and it has a new assortment of weapons to include cruise missiles and a vertical launch capability. The 93B is analogous to our LA improved in quietness and their appearance demonstrates that China is learning quickly about how to build a modern fast attack boat.”
Other sources were not convinced that Beijing could have made such enormous technological strides so quickly—but they noted that the topic of Chinese undersea warfare capability is very classified. Open source analysis is often extremely difficult, if not impossible. “Regarding the question on the Type 093B, I really don’t know, anything is possible I suppose, but I doubt it,” said retired Rear Adm. Mike McDevitt, now an analyst at CNA’s Center for Naval Analyses. “I have no doubt that the PLAN has ambitions to at least achieve that level of capability and quietness.”
Though the Seawolf and Virginia-classes have surpassed the Improved Los Angeles-class as the premier U.S. Navy attack submarines, such older vessels will remain the mainstay of the service’s undersea fleet for many years to come. If the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s newest boats are able to match the capabilities of the U.S. Navy’s shrinking undersea fleet, Washington could be in serious trouble. Indeed, the U.S. Navy already anticipated that it could be facing-off against a Chinese submarine fleet that is nearly twice its size, but not as technically capable. Read more