If the Chinese Navy is now solid in terms of surface fleet, with in the coming months a fleet composed of 5 Type 055 cruisers and 25 Type 052D destroyers in line, plus around a hundred frigates and corvettes, it remains under threat American submarines but also Japanese, South Korean and even Australian submarines (in the distant, very distant future...), as shown by the accident of the USS Connecticut in the China Sea two months ago. Although medium-term measures have been taken, such as the gradual arrival of the new Type 039C submarines or the possible replacement of the first 20 Type 056 corvettes by a model with increased anti-submarine detection performance, the The need to strengthen anti-submarine defense in the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Pass is present, and requires immediate measures.
It is probably with this in mind that the Chinese naval air forces carried out a naval mine-dropping exercise last week using their new H-6J long-range bombers, during a combined mining exercise and conventional bombing, according to the state website GlobalTimes.cn citing a report from China's 7th Television Channel, dedicated to the armed forces. Of all the methods of anti-submarine warfare, mining of naval access is undoubtedly the one that can potentially pose the most problems for American and allied submarines. By nature passive, underwater mines are very difficult to locate for a diving submersible trying to remain as discreet as possible. On the other hand, they are only effective in relatively narrow and shallow passage areas, such as in straits.
The fact remains that, given the particular geography of the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, this method, although somewhat archaic, can prove very effective in keeping Western submarines at bay, by closing certain straits. particularly those giving access to the Sulu Sea along the Philippine coast, or even blocking certain passages between the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Amami-Oshima, allowing the Chinese Navy to concentrate its surface and submarine assets and aerial anti-submarine warfare in the remaining areas, without having to disperse excessively. Such a solution can also be considered to quickly undermine Taiwan's eastern coasts if the island were to be captured by Chinese forces, so as to prevent an allied amphibious counter-offensive.
On the other hand, the implementation of such a strategy presupposes having previously obtained total air superiority over the airspace concerned, as well as the suppression of all of the adversary's anti-aircraft defenses. Indeed, the dropping of underwater mines requires that the aircraft evolves close to the surface, at relatively slow speed, making it a target of choice for hunting or enemy anti-aircraft defense if necessary. The fact remains that the fact that naval air forces openly train for this type of maneuver, and even promote it publicly, undoubtedly appears as a message addressed to the US Navy as well as its allies, to warn against the potential presence of this type of mine now in the South China Sea. There is no doubt that this message will have been heard in Washington, the loss of a Western nuclear submarine destroyed by a Chinese underwater mine constituting, in these times of tension, a potential casus belli between the two superpowers.