Thursday, December 7, 2023

Facing the Chinese Navy, the US Navy aims for an asymmetrical balance of power in the Pacific

With three times as many large combat ships entering service in the Chinese Navy each year, the US Navy is now betting on an asymmetrical balance of power based on its numerically and technologically superior naval aviation and submarine fleet.

A few days ago, the Dalian shipyards, in the northeast of the country, in the province of Liaoning, simultaneously launched 2 new Type 052D destroyers, the 27th and 28th units of this class designated within NATO under the Luyang III code, while five other hulls were observed at various levels of finish on this site.

As in previous years , there is little doubt that the year 2023 will see the arrival of 7 to 9 new destroyers within the People's Liberation Army Navy.

157 meters long and with a displacement of 7,500 tonnes, these ships are both modern and very well armed, with 64 vertical silos accommodating long-range HHQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 cruise missiles and missiles CY-5 anti-submarines, as well as a 130 mm cannon, and two self-protection systems CIWS HQ-10 (equivalent to the American RAM) and Type 1130 (equivalent to the Phalanx).

Although they are less well equipped and armed than the Arleigh Burke Flight IIa and Flight III destroyers currently being manufactured across the Atlantic, they are nevertheless produced more than three times faster. In fact, within eight years, the Chinese fleet will field more large surface combatant units than the US Navy, and the gap will only widen beyond that.

To respond to this major challenge, the US Navy took several measures to challenge the evolution of this balance of power as effectively as possible, by increasing production of Arleigh Burke to 2.5 units per year, by having ordered around twenty Constellation class heavy frigates, and above all creating even closer links with the allied navies in the Pacific zone, such as Japan, Australia, South Korea, as well as having convinced the Europeans to intensify their efforts and deployments in this theater.

But the most significant decision, to anticipate this balance of power, lies not only in the extension of the fleet of surface combatant units, a trajectory probably doomed to failure given the industrial, economic and demographic potential of Beijing , but by engaging in the construction of an asymmetrical naval balance of power with the Chinese navy.

This refusal to respond to the Chinese standoff is reflected in the preparation of the US Navy's 2024 budget, which only provides a budget of $187 million for the development of the DDG(x) program to enter production instead. Arliegh Burke Flight III destroyers in the middle of the next decade.

The Chinese Navy admits around ten new destroyers and frigates into service each year
The two Type 052s launched at the start of the week in Dalian are the 27th and 28th units of the class

To do this, Washington relies on three capabilities in which the US Navy maintains an advantage not only technologically, but also numerically and operationally. The first of these is still in its infancy , and will be based on the creation of a large fleet of autonomous surface ships and submarines, acting for the benefit of American surface ships and submarines. to extend its performance, detection capabilities and firepower.

For the moment, the development of these autonomous buildings remains in the experimental phase, and it is likely that the first truly operational units will only enter service at the end of this decade, or more likely at the beginning of the next.

In the shorter term, and as recent news shows with the announcements made at the beginning of the week regarding the Aukus alliance , the American, but also allied, submarine fleet is the subject of all the attention of the US Admiralty.

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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.

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  1. I remain perplexed about the so-called quality of Chinese boats.
    For comparison, Chinese quality made in China by Chinese in the civilian sector is simply catastrophic (not to be confused with Western made in China).
    I don't see how, based on Russian architecture and Western industrial plundering, we can come to the conclusion that these boats are great...
    I have the impression of seeing the same ultra-positive evaluation of the Russian before Ukraine.

    • There are very objective criteria on which we can base our reflection.
      For example, Chinese ships operating on long missions in the Pacific or Indian Ocean often leave for 4 to 6 months without a support tug (unlike the Russians) even though they have very few accessible relay naval bases. Furthermore, nothing indicates a particularly high incident rate during maneuvers and training, which are very numerous. In the air domain, we can rely on international exercises in which certain Chinese units participate.
      Thus, a few years ago, the Thai JAS39 C/Ds were defeated by Chinese J-10Cs during a joint exercise. Finally, China is rather very discreet about the performance of its weapons, and what we learn comes mainly from international exercises, export clients or certain indiscretions of intelligence services, for example during congressional hearings.
      The difference with Russia is that Moscow has never seriously considered a confrontation with NATO, while Beijing and Washington consider a Sino-American confrontation almost inevitable in the years to come. Moreover, the Pentagon has never modified its planning with regard to Moscow, while all of its planning since 2018 has been focused on Beijing.

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