Future PLAN orbat discussion


what are "small (unmanned) submarines" in the context
We are now going into a situation where there is real-time satellite surveillance of the oceans, which means it is possible to identify ships.

Plus look at an AIS map. You can see there are barely any ships around Guam or Hawaii or Wake Island.
These are all small islands which do not generate much ship traffic.
Therefore any ship traffic is either military or critical to the civilian economy of those islands.

As for a Japan blockade, remember all cargo ships eventually end at a Japanese port only 800km-1300km from mainland China. There's no point using submarines for these targets. It's easier and cheaper to use sea-mines, land-attack missiles or small (unmanned) submarines.

So there's no need for Chinese nuclear submarines to go after your *6000* civilian cargo ships in the middle of the Pacific.

And it is only a few ships.
Consider that Japan only receives 40-50 shipments from crude oil tankers per month.
And that oil tankers are big, easily identified ships, which have to be docked at ports on the Japanese Home Islands.

This all goes back to the question - what does Japan gain from joining the US in a war against China?

perhaps vessels of the type
HSU001 unmanned submarine
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!



Registered Member
what are "small (unmanned) submarines" in the context

perhaps vessels of the type
HSU001 unmanned submarine
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!

China also has a fleet of 60 conventional submarines. Some of these can AIP for the entire duration of a 30 day patrol within the 1st Island Chain.

Yes, there are also unmanned submarines like the HSU001 which are also in service.
A modified version could lay mines or smart torpedoes outside Japanese ports.

Both means would be a lot cheaper than using nuclear submarines.


Registered Member
US has 50 something SSNs today. Assuming two thirds are out of maintenance and one third is on deployment, that's some 16 subs. Transit time from US western coast (most would be relocated there, though some would be homeported even closer) is some 18 days, leaving some 72 days of patrol time on station. So roughly 13 subs available in area for combat.
And once US submarines reach the Western Pacific, they have to face off against 60 Chinese conventional submarines, Chinese nuclear submarines and whilst operating under conditions of Chinese control of the air and the surface.

If China does add 30 new nuclear submarines by 2030, then we are looking at 17 nuclear submarines that can surge within a few days, and be past the 1st Island Chain within another day. There is no way US submarines can get to the Western Pacific fast enough from the US West Coast. And remember 40% of US submarines are actually located on the US East Coast, which is even further away.

So most Chinese nuclear submarines can disperse across the Pacific Ocean or Indian Ocean or even the Atlantic Ocean.
US nuclear submarines then have to follow as well, if they want to hunt these submarines.

I really don't advise mixing the timelines. Some aspects of the discussion seem to be for today, others 10 years into the future, others still 20 or more years. That's not way to discuss anything. Since predicting future is hard, i'd personally advise to stick to today.

Today China has perhaps 9 SSNs. 6 would be out of maintenance and 3 would be on deployment. Since distance to combat area, if the combat area is 1st to 2nd island Chain area, one could say that almost all 3 subs would be available.

Sure, in 10 years time there MAY be a fleet of 35 SSNs. Just like the US MAY have a fleet of 60 subs. or in 20 years time China MAY have 70 SSNs. And US MAY have 80 subs. But that's even silly to try to predict.
It's not silly to predict, because the size of the Chinese nuclear submarine fleet in 2030 is one of the biggest questions that the US military faces.

We have the following data points:

  • The US Navy is planning on buying the equivalent of 3 SSNs per year for the next decade.
  • SIPRI have estimated that US military procurement spending is roughly 2x than of China (in exchange rate terms)
    But we also see US surface warships are 2-3x more expensive than their Chinese equivalents eg. Destroyers/Frigates/LCS.
    So if US nuclear submarines are 2x as expensive as their Chinese equivalents, it already means China is already matching actual levels of US equipment procurement.
  • SIPRI also estimate that China devotes a modest 1.9% of GDP to the military. The US figure is a lot higher at 3.2%.
    So there is a lot of scope for Chinese military spending to increase, if China chooses to.
  • We also see the new submarine construction hall at Huludao, which is ridiculously large and could theoretically assemble 24 SSNs per year.
When you look at all these factors, and combine them with the strategic benefits of a Chinese nuclear submarine force that can project power globally, an estimate of 3 Chinese SSNs is not unreasonable and is already affordable today.

Furthermore, we can expect Chinese economic growth to still be faster than the US in the next 10 years to 2030, and beyond.
So past 2030, we can also expect China to continue building the equivalent of 3 SSNs per year.


Registered Member
Who knows where China could operate its tankers with impunity and for how long. 600 km from chinese coastline personally seems to far away, and too close to various possible bases in Japan. But i'm sure different people will have different ideas about that.

Establishing continuous CAP anywhere, by any air force, especially so far away from a base, 1000+ km is extremely costly. Perhaps a small group of planes could be maintaned on cap, depending on air force size. But realistically CAPs are not the way to control an area. A cap 1250 km away from a base, for example, needs one full refueling and roughly 3 hours of transit time as well as 3 or so hours of patrol time. Over a long time period, meaning weeks or more, a plane participating in such CAP would be able to do one sortie per day. So, for each one of those planes on CAP, there would have to be 8 planes in total available. For 12 planes on CAP, for example, one large tanker would be needed to support them, and 96 combat planes would be needed overall. To maintain a huge CAP of 100 planes, one would need 800 fighters. With 6 hours of flight per day, within a few months the fighters would get worn out enough that they'd need maintanenace that can't possibly be done within the 18 hours remaining between missions. So more fighters would be needed to upkeep such a CAP. Possibly even a 1000, to upkeep those 100 planes. Right now, entire Chinese air forces have roughly 1050-1100 decently ranged and decently modern fighters.
In the East China Sea, initially I don't see Chinese tankers operating any further than 100km.
There's no point, because the operating distances are so close anyway.

But after some time I would expect them to operate further into the East China Sea.

In the South, where there is no airborne resistance, it is possible for Chinese tankers to operate 600km offshore, because they would be operating with AWACs and fighter cover.

I never said anything about operating a huge CAP at a distance of 1000km+ deep in the Pacific Ocean
Any CAP is going to be composed of only a few J-20s. They would protect AWACs, surveillance aircraft, bombers and also go after opposing aircraft.

We would see occasional fighter/airborne sweeps (in force) up to a distance of 1500km-2000km.
A ship travelling at 20knots only travels 300km in 8hours.
And if US ships have to stay 1500-2000km away, then the Chinese military have achieved their objective.


Registered Member
It takes hundreds or thousands of bomblets detonated to make sure that enough of them hit an aircraft and that enough of those hit areas where they would seriously damage the plane. Desert war had situations where planes regularly flew with dozens of small holes from various shrapnel.
The big difference today is that modern stealth fighters are no longer stealthy if they have holes in the airframe.
And a bomber or tanker is most likely going to be hit in the wing, and start a fuel fire.

Plus there will be thousands of bomblets or kinetic rods or ball bearings available.
A 300kg payload would have 1300 M77 bomblets for example.
But it makes more sense for a hypersonic warhead to use kinetic rods or ball bearings.
Last edited:


Registered Member
For one area, sure. For multiple, hundreds of targets at the same time, no. Plus there's cloud cover muddying up the picture. Over Tokyo, for example there's cloud cover roughly 50% of the days in the year. Then there's the issue of analyzing all those targets and the subtargets in each area. Getting the data to strike force. The force needs to do a mission plan, brief the pilots. The kill chain may've been brought down to under an hour for select high priority targets where a disproportionate portion of resources are following that target. But in a total war with so many targets, average kill chain time from detection to strike would still be many hours.
For fixed targets such as runways and airbases, a kill chain lasting many hours is perfectly fine.
You only need 1-2 attacks per day to ensure the aircraft based there are destroyed.

Analysing masses of data is now straightforward with commercial image recognition algorithms, once they have been trained.

In addition to visual satellites, we also have commercial SAR satellites within a resolution of 1m now, which should be able to pick up aircraft shapes on the ground.


Registered Member
Both sides would run out of their "big" missiles very quickly. While perhaps shutting down several dozen of targets for a limited time. It's hard to quantify really. A powerplant
can be shut down with several hits for several weeks in theory. A base with 3 runways would take probably 50+ missiles per day just to keep those runways shut down.
If we take a really large base like Guam with 2 runways as an example, a back of the envelope calculation indicates there is a perimeter encompassing 3,200,000m2 where aircraft could be parked.

A 17gram tungsten ball bearing travelling at Mach 5 has the same energy as a M77 cluster bomblet.
So a 300kg warhead on a single ballistic missile could carry 18000 ball bearings.

Theoretically, a single missile payload could cover the entire airbase, with a ball bearing hitting every 177m2.
A large bomber like the B-2 has a wing area of 478m2.
A tanker like the KC-46 has a wing area of 283m2 plus fuselage.

So we could typically expect 2 ball bearings to hit each large aircraft.
And you only need to do this once a day.

Smaller fighter jets fare better because of the smaller wing area.
But if China/US/Japan are all restricted from using large aircraft, that suits the Chinese military just fine.

China can achieve its objectives just with small aircraft, whilst USA/Japan are dependent on bombers and tankers, if they want to block the Chinese from achieving their objectives.


This is part of why I think Chinese military objectives can mostly be achieved with land-based missiles and aircraft.
And that building a large fleet of aircraft carriers for blue-water operations can wait.


VIP Professional
The discussion has ballooned into way too many directions for me to keep interested and even have time to continue. And we're really repeating ourselves, which is never a good sign. On top of that, it was brought to my attention that the policy of this forum is not to allow such discussions... Anyway, I'm just informing you that we'll agree to disagree and I won't be replying further to these posts.


New Member
Registered Member
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!
on USNI about the growth about the blue water section till 2035 of the PLAN by retired Rear Admiral Michael A. McDevitt. There is relatively little specific speculations and estimates by him about what exact class specific growths the chinese navy will notice but these are the interesting bits in my opinion:

[...] it is not unreasonable to forecast that over the next 15 years [the PLAN] could commission or launch 140 more blue-water ships to grow its far-seas capacity and to replace some of today’s blue water ships that were commissioned between 2005 and 2010. In sum, I predict the PLAN’s blue water capable ships in 2035 will number around 270 warships.
This mix will include many more submarines, perhaps doubling the size of the PLAN’s current submarine force. Submarines will increasingly be valued by the PLAN because they cannot, at least not yet, be tracked from space. The number of nuclear attack submarines will be a larger proportion of the PLAN’s overall submarine force. If the nuclear submarine construction hall at Huludao has the capacity analysts suggest, over the next 15 years the PLAN could commission an average of 1.5 SSNs annually.
If one assumes a six-year building and outfitting period and the design remains relatively stable, the PLAN could have five to six carriers by 2035. By that time Liaoning, if it is still in commission, will probably have been relegated to the status of an aviation training ship.
Turning to the near-seas category of warships, I estimate PLAN strength will remain constant. It is currently in the range of 160 ships (144 of which were commissioned since 2005). The biggest change will be replacing the 60 or so single-mission Houbei class fast-attack craft with frigates or corvettes that retain the same antiship cruise missile punch but also add antisubmarine warfare capability.
In summary, in 2035 the PLAN will consist of approximately 270 blue-water ships of the classes listed in the table above, plus another 160 smaller ships, or special mission units. (This total does not include minesweepers, small amphibious craft, and sundry auxiliaries.) The result will be a 430-ship PLA Navy that will be the world’s largest, by far. By any measure this navy will have to be judged “world class.”
I had trouble opening the link above when I was writing this so in case it doesn't work:
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!