Type 093/094 Nuclear Submarine Thread


Registered Member
Nuclear submarines are a poor fit for China at this time.

While China remains constrained to the First Island Chain their submarines will be confined to shallow waters.
This favors the construction of smaller conventional submarines powered with modern batteries.

AFAIK China uses a bastion strategy for its strategic submarines but it doesn't use it exclusively.
The Type 003 carrier makes no sense for a strategy strictly like that.

Until China breaks out of the First Island Chain, for example by annexing Taiwan, this situation won't change.

The fact is the Chinese have more strategic depth in their own terrain than in the confines of the coastal area behind the First Island Chain.
This favors the construction of land-based mobile ICBM brigades rather than strategic submarines.

I think they need a minimum amount of SSBNs and to focus more on Attack submarines to escort the task forces of the carrier groups once those become available.
That isn't accurate.

At any time, the US has 3 nuclear submarine on patrol from Pacific Fleet and another 3 from Atlantic Fleet.

But if China commissions a fleet of 30 nuclear submarines, then China could have 3 on patrol at any time AND be able to surge 20 submarines within a few days. The majority of these submarines would be past the 1st Island Chain before opposing nuclear submarines could reach the Western Pacific. Nothing else is able to follow those Chinese nuclear submarines into the Deep Pacific.

So you would end up with a situation where many Chinese nuclear submarines have disappeared and could be anywhere in the world.
Then there are lots of soft targets and maritime chokepoints, in addition to naval ships.


Some discussion on Chinese nuclear submarine click CC to get translation
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Senior Member
I get your argument. Personally I would prefer a force of 4 boats with 24 missiles each. SSBNs are expensive luxuries to have with the hope for not using them ever. So having less boats at sea is cheaper on the operational budget. Plus each boat is now a true nation killer. Just like each one Ohio class submarine. Imagine having 12 boats with 24 missiles each. The US and friends will not ever think of trying their luck with pushing that button.
I think that China's "minimal deterrence" posture is both ethically praiseworthy and strategically sensible and I would certainly not endorse building nuclear capabilities to excessive levels. For as you say, SSBNs and other nuclear armaments are expensive tools that one hopes will never be used. But they are not luxuries. They have a very limited purpose, but that purpose is of the utmost importance: to prevent nuclear blackmail by another nuclear-armed state. Reducing the cost of the nuclear weapons capability, making it efficient, is a laudable goal but one that should be pursued only after a credible deterrent has been established, and the credibility of the SSBN force is in part about numbers. Having more boats both increases the CCP's confidence in the efficacy of its nuclear deterrent, and reduces an adversary's confidence that they could effectively neutralise that deterrent.

To be clear, in terms of enhancing the credibility of China's nuclear deterrent I think that the number of SSBN hulls is a distinctly lower priority than increasing the survivability of each of those hulls and the performance of their missiles. But if we assume that 096 and JL-3 are more or less complete from a design perspective and will get China most of the way towards addressing those high priority areas, the next area to be addressed is the size of the SSBN force. The number of SSBNs that are required depends on the deployment, maintenance and crewing patterns that are envisaged, which are informed by strategic doctrine in the context of geography, etc. But in any case I think 12 is a reasonable medium-term upper bound, for that is roughly the number that USA and Russia will be operating in the 2030s, and China should not be escalatory in the nuclear domain.


Registered Member
China's SSBN force is woefully inadequate compared to the US and Russia. I don't think the CCP had/has any intention of stifling an SSBN build up. If not for an assumed qualitative dissatisfaction with 094 and JL-2, the idea of going down some restrained, efficient deployment path of nuclear arms, would not be the preferred reason for explaining China's missile policy which heavily favours ICBMs.

Submarines are much more expensive to build and maintain sure but relying on just two? Yeah that won't stay the case for long. They're complex, take a long time to build, and probably cost a lot more than 12/24 DF-41 TEL launchers but they offer a much better second strike capability. China has just been waiting for better submarine technology and a longer ranged and more survivable SLBM capable of carrying more MIRVs or MARVs.

The naval buildup has been following the same model - build one or two test platforms for evaluation. In the case of 094 and JL-2, I suspect it wasn't because they were underwhelming. Well they are underwhelming compared to the latest and greatest Russian, American, French, and British equivalents. Perhaps even compared to their second tiers. I think the PLAN just understood that better technology was just around the corner so it really wasn't worth gearing up for "mass" production like the 055 is for example. The 096 is probably moving into production soon if it hasn't already been and the JL-3 has been test fired multiple times now. A JL-3 armed 096 is no doubt preferable to the DF-31 based JL-2.