Although the new Liaoning aircraft carrier has captured most of the limelight in the last couple of years, informed military analysts remain focused on the potential naval challenge posed by China’s rapidly improving submarine force. Indeed, one of the sharpest spears in China’s maritime arsenal is surely the Yuan-class conventional submarine, as perhaps a dozen or more have been built in the last few years. This submarine’s small size and stealth (augmented by air-independent propulsion) suggest that it is a good fit for the shallow waters of China’s “near seas.” Nevertheless, President Xi Jinping’s spring 2013 visit on board a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine highlights that this other segment of the submarine force should not be neglected by Western analysts.
Emerging from the Shadows
While details about China’s emerging nuclear-attack submarines are rare, contemporary articles published in Chinese naval magazines offer several hints.
By Lyle Goldstein