Wednesday, December 6, 2023

What does the Chinese defense effort tell us about Beijing's real ambitions?

The Chinese defense effort, rarely mentioned by the country's authorities, is often difficult to assess. However, the analysis of public information makes it possible to determine the real ambitions targeted by Beijing, as well as the strategy that will be used to achieve them.

At the beginning of August, the American Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mark Gilday, presented the most ambitious plan to increase the power of the US Navy since the end of the Cold War.

Designated " Navigation Plan 2022 ", the document presented a strategy to bring the US Navy to have, in 2045, 12 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, 66 nuclear attack submarines, 96 destroyers and 56 frigates as well as only 3,000 aircraft including 1,300 fighter planes, alongside 12 missile submarines, 31 large amphibious ships and 150 surface ships and autonomous submarines.

The objective of this plan, which must still be approved by the executive and supported by the legislature even though it implies a significant increase in investments, is to keep the rise in power of the Chinese fleet under control, and to a lesser extent extent, from other potentially hostile fleets, such as the Russian Navy.

China, for its part, does not communicate on its format objectives, and very little on its strategic objectives. It is therefore necessary to extrapolate this information based on peripheral data.

To do this, it is relevant to look at the sizing of Chinese military industrial resources, and its production capacities observed in recent years, and more particularly on the naval industrial capacities demonstrated in recent years.

Type 055, Type 052D, Type 054A: the Chinese Navy is developing a fleet that will outnumber the US Navy by 2035

Indeed, since 2015, the naval forces of the People's Liberation Army have experienced rapid and massive evolution, with the arrival of new ships such as the Type 052D destroyers then their lengthened DL version, as well as the Type 055 cruisers.

Further upstream, the entry into service of the Type 054A anti-submarine warfare frigates from 2008 allowed Beijing to significantly increase its offshore capabilities, alongside the Type 071 LPD assault ships, while ASM protection coastal was entrusted to a vast flotilla of Type 056A corvettes and Type 039A conventionally powered submarines.

In fact, from 2017 to today, the Chinese naval forces have received 10 new Type 052D destroyers, 8 Type 052DL and 6 Type 055, an average of 4.5 new destroyers per year, while over the last 3 years , this number is closer to six destroyers delivered per year.

The Chinese defense effort in the naval domain will allow the Chinese Navy to be on par with the US Navy in the Pacific by 2035.
Chinese shipyards produce on average 5 Type 052D and DL destroyers per year, a 7,500-ton ship armed with 64 vertical silos for anti-aircraft and anti-ship defense.

There is no indication that this frenetic pace of production is set to slow down. Thus, today, there are no less than 12 destroyers at different stages of construction in Chinese shipyards, while production of Type 054A or B frigate seems destined to resume at an average rate of 2 to 3 new ships per year.

In fact, at this rate, the Chinese Navy will field, in 2035, 20 to 25 cruisers, 60 to 65 destroyers, as well as around fifty frigates, essentially the same format as that targeted by the US Navy, but in 2045.

In this dynamic, as long as Beijing maintains its efforts in this area, in 2045 it will have more than 50 cruisers, more than 125 destroyers and 80 to 100 frigates, i.e. a fleet twice as large as the entire the US Navy's surface combatant fleet on this date. It would even be on par with the agglomeration of the American, Australian, New Zealand, Japanese and South Korean allied fleets.

A hundred Chinese submarines in 2040

The situation will probably be similar regarding submarine fleets, with around a hundred submersibles on both sides, although China will most likely have fewer nuclear-powered ships than the Pacific alliance.

On the other hand, there is no reason to believe that Beijing would aim to match the US Navy and its allies in terms of the number of aircraft carriers or amphibious ships, with a probable objective closer to 7 to 8 aircraft carriers and a twenty large amphibious ships, half as many as the United States and its regional allies will have.

It therefore seems obvious that Beijing is actively preparing for a tense naval standoff with the United States and its allies, but in a relatively small area far from the Chinese coast, as confirmed by Beijing's more moderate investments in other areas. , such as that of the construction of armored vehicles, or even combat aircraft.

Indeed, if Chinese shipyards today produce three times faster than their equivalents in the Pacific zone , aircraft manufacturers deliver their new combat aircraft at a pace much closer to those applied in Europe, and not in the USA.

D-10, D-15, D-16, D-20: Chinese aeronautical production handicapped by delays in developing national turbojets

LOGO meta defense 70

The rest of this article is reserved for subscribers -

Classic subscriptions give access to all Flash articles, Analyzes and Syntheses, without advertising , from €1.99.

Premium subscriptions also provide access to articles over two years old in the archive, as well as advanced research tools , and to publish two press releases or job offers per month for free in the Partners section ( + Push social networks / application).

Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

For further


Comments are closed.


Last articles