Chinese Navy on A Tear to Assert Global Reach with New Carriers and Warships.
While the Chinese military has been on a tear of introducing new weapons systems and platforms, this past week was remarkable even compared to their recent pace of rapid military expansion.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, or “PLAN”, launched three newly commissioned warships and released a fascinating new video showcasing operations on their newest and first domestically produced aircraft carrier, the Shandong Type 002 this past week.
The big week in Chinese Naval expansion raised eyebrows of military observers around the world as China exerts and expands influence in their own regional waters and also continues an effort to project power in the seas off Africa’s east coast.
The three new ships launched last week by the Chinese Navy include the nuclear-powered fleet ballistic missile submarine “Changzheng-18”. The new Changzheng-18, a Type 094A Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile platform, is somewhat comparable to, although about 20% shorter than, the U.S. Navy’s current Ohio Class fleet ballistic missile submarine. The Changzheng-18 carries 12 of China’s highly capable JL-2 SLBMs (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile). The JL-2 SLBM or “Giant Wave 2” is a second-generation intercontinental range nuclear missile with up to three independent warheads and a range of 7,200 kilometers.
The commissioning ceremony of Type 09Ⅳ SSBN Changzheng 18 (hull number 421),
Type 055 Destroyer Dalian (hull number 105),
and Type 075 LHD Hainan (hull number 31) was held at Sanya naval base on 23 April, which was also the 72nd anniversary of the PLAN. pic.twitter.com/mafjaIrqtA
— dafeng cao (@dafengcao) April 25, 2021
Chinese state media covering the launch of the three new ships were careful to characterize the Changzheng-18 nuclear fleet ballistic missile submarine as a weapon meant for “second strike” in retaliation for an initial attack against China, not an offensive weapon for first-strike power projection. Conversely, the new Yussan-Class “Hainan” Type 075 amphibious assault ship is more specifically configured for power projection and, according to state media, is, “used to land on enemy territories”. This ship is roughly analogous the U.S. Navy’s “America” and “Wasp” class of amphibious assault ship or “gator freighter”.
The mission of this ship is interesting given China’s recent military adventures in Africa, including the establishment of a military base in Djibouti in 2017. The Chinese military mission on the African continent is stated as including, “anti-piracy, intelligence collection, peacekeeping operations, counterterrorism and non-combat evacuation operations”.
The Chinese international counterterrorism and non-combatant evacuation missions in Africa were showcased in real life, and in popular Chinese action cinema during the March, 2015 rescue missions in Yemen. The Chinese military successfully rescued over 620 Chinese citizens and 270 foreign citizens in a series of daring operations conducted over 12 days in Djibouti by Chinese special forces and naval assets. In all, civilians from 15 different countries received rescue and aid from the Chinese military.
The daring real-world 2015 Chinese special operations rescue mission from local insurgents in Africa was dramatized (and embellished) in the wildly popular 2018 Chinese-Hong Kong action movie, “Operation Red Sea”. The movie was a smash-hit in China, grossing over 3.36 billion yuan ($531 million) at the box office in its opening weeks. “Operation Red Sea” became the third highest grossing Chinese film ever, according to the Chinese film database and ticketing platform Maoyan.
The third ship launched by the Chinese Navy last week was the new “Dalian” Type 055 destroyer. The Type 055 destroyer, also known as the “Renhai-Class Cruiser” by NATO, is an advanced, low-observable guided missile and air defense destroyer meant to accompany a carrier battle group. The ship also includes a significant anti-submarine warfare capability. The new Dalian and the previous two, and planned five more Renhai-Class/Type 055 ships are heavily armed with a 112-cell vertical launch missile system distributed on the fore and aft decks. The ship also packs an updated H/PJ-38 130mm naval gun and a Close-In Weapons System (CIWS) for missile and aircraft defense among other weapons.
In addition to the three new ship launches, Chinese state media network CCTV released an excellent new video showing flight operations and an insider’s look at the beautiful new aircraft carrier Shandong. The Shandong, China’s first domestically-produced aircraft carrier, was launched on April 26, 2017. The ship’s design is updated from previous Chinese carriers that were acquired from Russia. Shandong, however, is greatly advanced over previous Chinese carriers.
The new video shows a well-drilled crew presenting the ship’s features and an interesting look at how clean and advanced the new vessel is. There is also some great video of flight operations with Chinese J-15 Flying Shark aircraft.
A great comparison made by @AkelaFreedom and posted at the SDF:
“For comparison, satellite imagery – Type 075 LHD, Shandong and Liaoning. The same pier and height.”
But at least for the Liaoning, it seems to be not “the same pier”! Or am I wrong? 🤔
Anyway a great comparison. pic.twitter.com/725KKqJx56
— @Rupprecht_A (@RupprechtDeino) April 26, 2021
The new ship launches and media not only emphasize China’s more open attitude about showcasing their increasing military capabilities, they also give further reason for most western observers to reconsider underestimating Chinese military capabilities. The idea that China’s naval, air and land-based military assets are somehow second-rate to western peers has rapidly become outdated and ill-informed as China continues impressive growth of their global military capabilities.