James Fanell, the former director of the US Pacific Fleet’s intelligence and information, predicted China will eventually have about 415 warships including four aircraft carriers and 100 submarines in the near future while attending a two-day conference held by the US Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute in Newport, Rhode Island last week, reports the Defense News.
The event was held to discuss the PLA Navy’s shipbuilding progress and challenges. It concluded that the PLA Navy is making achievements and will continue to grow. Most experts and scholars attending the conference agreed that the PLA Navy has devoted more resources to develop new vessels including destroyers, frigates and submarines armed with with the capability to hit and destroy enemy warships.
“Both surface vessels and subs seem to be largely focused on anti-surface warfare,” said Andrew Erickson, one of the experts attending the event. “That doesn’t mean they’re not working to progress in new directions, but it doesn’t seem to have borne as much fruit that we can easily see.” A lot of the anti-ship missiles equipped by the Chinese warships or submarines have ranges far in excess of similar missiles in service with the US Navy.
With such a large number of long-range surface-to-surface missiles in hand, the PLA Navy is altering politics and strategies throughout the Asian theater. “The PLA Navy will continue to expand for the next 15 years,” said Fanell. He added that the PLA Navy’s active defense in the near seas are going to grow while far seas operations will increase. At the same time, Fanell believes that more goodwill deployments will take place.
Along with continued improvements in modular construction, the use of robotics and virtual 3D manufacturing, and a growing preference for indigenous designs of improving quality, Fanell said that the PLA Navy can certainly increase the number of surge deployments and ballistic missile submarine patrols. More carrier strike groups will be established as well. To accomplish this task, China needs about 415 warships by year of 2030.
Fanell said those 415 warships include 99 submarines, four aircraft carriers, 26 corvettes, 73 amphibious ships, three missile craft, and 102 destroyers and frigates. China’s Type 052D guided-missile destroyer may not be as good as the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, but Fanell believes that it is good enough for the PLA Navy since it is fitted with a vertical launch system, the YJ-18 anti-ship missile and an active array radar system.