Type 09III/09IV (093/094) Nuclear Submarine Thread


Tam

Colonel
Registered Member
I just wonder. When the Type 096 comes into service. Could the older Type 094s be converted into dedicated Cruise Missile Submarines? Something similar to the older Ohio class submarines. China does not yet have dedicated nuclear cruise missile submarines at the moment.

These converted Type 094s would exchange their JL-2s for navalized CJ-10 LACMs, YJ-100 long range AshMs or YJ-18 AshMs.

In the Ohio class. Each Trident launch tube could accommodate 7 Tomahawk missiles. So using that as an estimate, the Type 094s could theoretically carry up to 84 cruise missiles. Not the biggest, but still a decent payload. And no need to build brand new cruise missile submarines in the short term.

These converted Type 94s would serve a role similar to the Soviet/Russian Oscar class submarines vs USN Carrier Battle Groups.
There is nothing that technically could stop them from doing this. But them actually doing it is another question. There are policy and doctrinal differences. You need to ask the people in charge.
 

Totoro

Captain
VIP Professional
Plus, even if that happens some day, it won't be anytime soon. PLA needs a sub based nuke delivery fleet. And 096 ships will still need time to be built, tested and fielded in sufficient numbers. The total number of boats and missiles on deployment planned for the future are likely higher than the numbers available now. So we're likely not talking about 6 096 boats but more, possibly as many as 12. Only then we might see the older 094 starting to get converted for other duties. So we might be some two decades away from that. A decade at least, if there's a huge surge in the arms race.
 

Lethe

Senior Member
Converting 094s for SSGN roles as 096s come online is an attractive notion at first glance, but loses some of its lustre on closer examination. First there is the issue of total SSBN force structure requirements, as noted by Totoro. I think a medium-term force structure of 12 boats is reasonable. The requirement for a large SSBN force is dictated by USN's large SSN fleet that is available for strategic ASW taskings. The more SSBNs you have, the more can be deployed on a regular basis and the greater surge capacity that exists, complicating USN SSN taskings considerably.

A robust SSGN capability is highly desirable mostly to hold the American carrier battle groups at risk. Land targets are secondary. Having achieved a force of 12 SSBNs consisting of 6x094s and 6x096s, the question becomes whether subsequent 096-series construction should continue to deliver SSBNs, with 094s retooled as SSGNs, or rather if future 096 boats should be delivered as SSGNs from the start. The advantage of the latter path is that not only does it deliver a superior SSGN capability, but it does so more efficiently than converting 094s, which takes both time and money. The disadvantage is a diminished nuclear deterrent.

One advantage of using 096 as the basis for an SSGN platform is that it removes the impetus to make future SSNs like 095 large and expensive "multipurpose platforms" and frees them to be optimised for the ASW role, with high speed, maneuverability, and large torpedo magazines to e.g. hold American SSBNs at risk. One disadvantage of using 096 as the basis for an SSGN platform is that it is unlikely to be as fast as would be desired. This weakness could be partly offset by making the 096-SSGN variant smaller by reducing the size of the missile compartment.
 

gelgoog

Senior Member
Registered Member
I think given the lack of SSBNs the Chinese Type 096 will be used strictly on that role. The existing SSBNs aren't particularly modern either.
I think the Type 094 is most suited for the SSBN role since those weapons have longer distance strike power. Hence they can operate further away from the frontlines. They should upgrade them to carry the JL-3 missile or an upgraded variant of the JL-2 missile however.

I think the land attack or anti-surface role will likely be related to attack submarines with smaller displacement. China has enough surface ships that large missile boats aren't as necessary and they just lack nuclear submarine hulls to use for such niche applications.
 

Sardaukar20

Junior Member
Registered Member
Plus, even if that happens some day, it won't be anytime soon. PLA needs a sub based nuke delivery fleet. And 096 ships will still need time to be built, tested and fielded in sufficient numbers. The total number of boats and missiles on deployment planned for the future are likely higher than the numbers available now. So we're likely not talking about 6 096 boats but more, possibly as many as 12. Only then we might see the older 094 starting to get converted for other duties. So we might be some two decades away from that. A decade at least, if there's a huge surge in the arms race.
Yes fully agree that SSBNs are a big priority now. SSGNs are nice to have, but it's a luxury that China can wait for in the future.

12 Type 096 is a good number for China's nuclear security. I thought at first that 6 boats would have been enough, because PLAN nuclear submarine building is the slowest of all its vessel types. It's likely to take many years to reach that 12 Type 096 boats.

The biggest issue for China's SSBN fleet is their perceived limited access to the Pacific unlike the USN and Russian Navy. The SCS is too crowded for SSBN patrols. So that is why I thought the PLAN planners put a lower priority on their SSBN program.
 

gelgoog

Senior Member
Registered Member
Yes fully agree that SSBNs are a big priority now. SSGNs are nice to have, but it's a luxury that China can wait for in the future.

12 Type 096 is a good number for China's nuclear security. I thought at first that 6 boats would have been enough, because PLAN nuclear submarine building is the slowest of all its vessel types. It's likely to take many years to reach that 12 Type 096 boats.

The biggest issue for China's SSBN fleet is their perceived limited access to the Pacific unlike the USN and Russian Navy. The SCS is too crowded for SSBN patrols. So that is why I thought the PLAN planners put a lower priority on their SSBN program.
China now has new submarine construction facilities which should enable them to build at least 2-3 nuclear submarines a year.

Depending on the submarine design and the miniaturization of the missiles it uses they might be able to do with less submarines.
Current Type 094 submarines carry 12x JL-2 SLBMs. Compare that with Russian, French, or British submarines which can carry 16x SLBMs.
That's like 33% more missiles per submarine so to carry the same amount of missiles you would need 8 submarines instead of 12.
Current US SSBNs built in the late Cold War are even larger but that does not seem cost effective to me.

It is possible to share the same nuclear reactor design between the SSBNs and the Attack submarines and use some common sections. The SSBNs would be basically an extended and slightly enlarged attack submarine hull. The main issue with the JL-2 is lack of range compared with other SLBMs. That could be solved by using composite materials for the rocket casing instead of the metal which it likely uses now.
 

Sardaukar20

Junior Member
Registered Member
China now has new submarine construction facilities which should enable them to build at least 2-3 nuclear submarines a year.

Depending on the submarine design and the miniaturization of the missiles it uses they might be able to do with less submarines.
Current Type 094 submarines carry 12x JL-2 SLBMs. Compare that with Russian, French, or British submarines which can carry 16x SLBMs.
That's like 33% more missiles per submarine so to carry the same amount of missiles you would need 8 submarines instead of 12.
Current US SSBNs built in the late Cold War are even larger but that does not seem cost effective to me.

It is possible to share the same nuclear reactor design between the SSBNs and the Attack submarines and use some common sections. The SSBNs would be basically an extended and slightly enlarged attack submarine hull. The main issue with the JL-2 is lack of range compared with other SLBMs. That could be solved by using composite materials for the rocket casing instead of the metal which it likely uses now.
Yes, there is a new facility to produce 2-3 nuclear subs per year. I think it has been like 2 years or more since that news, and no new submarines announced yet. It looks like the type 095 and 096 are going to take their time to develop and complete.

While in the meantime the PLAN are going nuts with DDG and CVN production. I don't know, maybe the PLAN is perusing the Soviet "Bastion" doctrine of SSBN deployments? To have ready CBGs provide protective escorts for their SSBNs.

There was news of a JL-3 tested from a Type 094 boat. So I think the JL-3 can solve the range issue for the existing Type 094s.

I too think that 12 missiles per boat is kinda small for a modern SSBN. Would need to deploy larger numbers of boats in nuclear emergencies. More costly, slower to deploy, and can be quite obvious for the enemy.

Hopefully the new Type 096s will have at least 16 missile tubes. Though I would personally hope that they would have 24 missile tubes instead as per the old rumours. There are pros and cons for that. But it'll at least put China in the elite SSBN club.
 

Lethe

Senior Member
Depending on the submarine design and the miniaturization of the missiles it uses they might be able to do with less submarines.
Current Type 094 submarines carry 12x JL-2 SLBMs. Compare that with Russian, French, or British submarines which can carry 16x SLBMs.
That's like 33% more missiles per submarine so to carry the same amount of missiles you would need 8 submarines instead of 12.
Current US SSBNs built in the late Cold War are even larger but that does not seem cost effective to me.
Putting more missiles/warheads on fewer boats is undoubtedly more efficient than fewer missiles/warheads on more boats, but such efficiency is a relatively low priority in creating an effective Continuous At-Sea Deterrent. The greater priority is ensuring that the SSBN force is survivable in the first place. Missile capabilities contribute to that, and the technical characteristics of the boats are obviously of great significance. But numbers are almost as important. More boats translates to more at sea at any given point, and greater surge capacity, and this matters because USN, JMSDF, etc. have considerable but nonetheless finite resources that they can devote to tracking those SSBNs. If USN is confident that it can track and neutralise China's small SSBN force, the nuclear deterrent is compromised and this would allow the United States to take actions against China that it might otherwise be deterred from.

All else being equal, an SSBN force of 8 boats with 12 missiles each is a more survivable and therefore more credible deterrent than a force of 4 boats with 24 missiles each.

I think the land attack or anti-surface role will likely be related to attack submarines with smaller displacement. China has enough surface ships that large missile boats aren't as necessary and they just lack nuclear submarine hulls to use for such niche applications.
Surface ships (or land-based rockets/missiles) cannot substitute for the SSGN in the anti-carrier role because their locations are likely to be known to the carrier battle group well in advance. This knowledge, coupled with the high speed of the carrier group, means that it is the carrier group that dictates the engagement, i.e. if, when and how it is to occur. If a surface action group engages a carrier group, it is because the carrier group allowed it to happen, which bodes ill for its chances of success. The SSGN changes all this. It can approach within launch range with a good prospect of not being detected. It can approach and attack from unexpected directions. In short, within limits an SSGN can dictate the engagement.

Yes, China lacks nuclear submarine hulls. A modest expansion will not suffice. Massive investment is required in SSNs, SSGNs, and SSBNs. Nuclear submarines are ultimately far more important to China's security than aircraft carriers.
 
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gelgoog

Senior Member
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.
 

Sardaukar20

Junior Member
Registered Member
All else being equal, an SSBN force of 8 boats with 12 missiles each is a more survivable and therefore more credible deterrent than a force of 4 boats with 24 missiles each.
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.

Surface ships (or land-based rockets/missiles) cannot substitute for the SSGN in the anti-carrier role because their locations are likely to be known to the carrier battle group well in advance. This knowledge, coupled with the high speed of the carrier group, means that it is the carrier group that dictates the engagement, i.e. if, when and how it is to occur. If a surface action group engages a carrier group, it is because the carrier group allowed it to happen, which bodes ill for its chances of success. The SSGN changes all this. It can approach within launch range with a good prospect of not being detected. It can approach and attack from unexpected directions. In short, within limits an SSGN can dictate the engagement.

Yes, China lacks nuclear submarine hulls. A modest expansion will not suffice. Massive investment is required in SSNs, SSGNs, and SSBNs. Nuclear submarines are ultimately far more important to China's security than aircraft carriers.
Which comes back to my earlier point. SSGNs are now a missing component in China's arsenal. They have their value against USN CBGs.

But with the Type 096 construction program taking at least a decade to complete. Having some converted Type 94s (after a sufficient no. of Type 096s have been commissioned) can be a decent stopgap. That would by China enough time to build more modern SSGNs.
 

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