The Chinese regime is developing a new capability for submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and a U.S. admiral told reporters that he finds the development concerning.
“Any time a nation has developed nuclear weapons and delivery platforms that can range the homeland, it’s a concern of mine,” said Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, during an April 7 Pentagon press briefing.
Gortney said the Chinese regime has already “put to sea their sea-launch ballistic missile submarines,” noting that China may have “three in the water right now.”
The United States is carefully watching the Chinese regime’s submarines and will be deploying a new system to track submarines by fall this year. It will keep tabs on hostile submarines by tailing them with new quiet and robotic Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessels.
Gortney said that even without leaving Chinese waters, the Chinese regime’s ballistic missile subs can already hit U.S. soil. “They can reach Hawaii,” he said, and the “farther east they go, they can reach more and more of our nation.”
He said that while the Pentagon has not yet seen the Chinese regime bring its submarines close enough to strike the West Coast of the United States, “it doesn’t mean that those patrols can’t exist in the future.”
The Chinese regime is believed to have started deploying submarines last year, armed with nuclear missiles “capable of striking Alaska or Hawaii,” according to a Feb. 4, 2014, report from the U.S. Naval Institute, which cited an assessment from the Office of Naval Intelligence.
The report noted that the Chinese regime’s People’s Liberation Army Navy was set to start patrols with its Jin-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine in 2014. The subs were said to be armed with Ju Lang 2 (JL-2) intercontinental-range submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which fit in the same category discussed during Tuesday’s press briefing.
The JL-2 missiles have a range of over 4,000 nautical miles, and would enable the Jin-class submarines to strike Hawaii or Alaska from waters in East Asia, as Gortney warned.
In its current state, the Chinese regime’s force of ballistic missile submarines is not capable of having a “constant at-sea presence for extended periods of time,” reports the U.S. Naval Institute, quoting Senior Intelligence Officer Jesse Karotkin of the Office of Naval Intelligence.
It adds, however, that if the Chinese regime “builds five units as some sources suggest, a continuous peacetime presence may become a viable option.”
The Chinese regime has been expanding its submarine forces. Earlier this week, it announced that Chinese shipbuilders finished three Type-093G nuclear-powered attack submarines, which will be armed with supersonic anti-ship missiles.
The Type-093G is an upgraded model of China’s Type-093 attack submarines, which now have vertical missile launch systems, according to the state-run China Daily news outlet. The submarines are Han-class, as opposed to the Jin-class submarines that will allegedly go on patrols with nuclear warheads.