7 April 2015
Beijing is commissioning an upgraded version of a nuclear attack submarine that would be capable of carrying supersonic missiles designed to take down enemy aircraft carriers, The Diplomat reported, citing China Daily.
China is commissioning three upgraded Type-093 Shang-class nuclear-powered attack submarines. The new Type-093G "is reported to be an upgraded version of Type-093 … With a teardrop hull, the submarine is longer than its predecessor and has a vertical launching system," the China Daily reported.
The redesign of the submarine would allow it to move faster and more quietly than its previous iteration, the Chinese media reported. Crucially, the 093G model would also be outfitted with vertical launch tubes that would allow the submarine to be outfitted with the YJ-18 supersonic anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM).
The YJ-18 is designed to target enemy ships and battle groups with increased lethality and range. According to the Taiwan-based Want China Times, the YJ-18, when combined with aerial spotting and targeting from Chinese aircraft operating from an aircraft carrier, could hypothetically hit enemy ships almost 250 miles away.
China has only one aircraft carrier, a nearly 30-year-old Soviet-built vessel that has had its share of mechanical problems.
The YJ-18 is designed to carry a 660-pound warhead that would be capable of sinking a destroyer-sized ship, military aviation site Deagel reported. The missile is thought to be able to maneuver after being launched in order to attempt to avoid missile interceptors.
War On The Rocks noted that a missile with a range as wide as 250 miles could pose serious problems for the US Navy's Aegis Combat System. That distance is beyond the "engagement range" of aircraft carrier strike groups, leaving the vessels vulnerable to weapons operating at that distance.
This proliferation of long-range ASCMs is perhaps thesingle greatest military threat the US faces from China.
Expansion and deployment of ASCMs systems would allow China to build an aerial maritime strike force that could effectively control all of the maritime territory surrounding China. The Chinese military could quickly move against enemy vessels and Beijing would be able to counter the US's naval presence in the region if the two powers ever came in conflict.
However, these missiles would still do little or nothing to counter the US submarine fleet or overcome the US underwater superiority.