Below are some info-graphics provided by Sarah Kirchberger on the CIMSEC Internal Discussions Facebook page. I wanted to share them with you. (Not included in the listings are Chinese aircraft carriers, amphibs, and numerous frigates, corvettes, and other small combatants.) I have also provided her notes included with the three Facebook posts, but first some observations.
What does this have to do with the Coast Guard?
My expectation is that, if there is a major prolonged conflict with the Chinese, that the primary theater of operations will be inside and around the “First Island Chain” with Taiwan the critical center (Think Malta in the Mediterranean during WWII). The Chinese surface fleet is not likely to make significant operations outside this area. Chinese conventional submarines will also concentrate in this area but will also operate in the Straits that access the South and East China Seas.
The Chinese will make air and missile attack out to at least the “Second Island Chain,” including Guam.
The Chinese will want to attack US logistics and underway replenishment ships outside the Second Island Chain, both for the direct effect of reducing logistics available and for the secondary effect of drawing off units from the primary theater of action.
In the initial phase, the Chinese merchant and fishing fleets might be used to lay mines or even directly attack unarmed logistics and underway replenishment ships using containerized weapon systems supported by satellite targeting. (They might also launch cruise missiles into US ports as an opening salvo.) The Coast Guard Maritime Domain Awareness systems and cargo tracking programs will have a role in neutralizing the Chinese Merchant and distant fishing fleets.
The Chinese will operate at least some of their nuclear submarines (SSNs) (which would have difficulty dealing with USN SSNs) outside the Second Island Chain, perhaps as far East as the US West Coast. While MSC has been told not to expect escorts, the benefits of cutters with embarked Navy (probably Navy Reserve) ASW helicopters (and ultimately towed array systems) within effective helicopter range of a dispersed group of logistics ships to provide at least minimal ASW protection and rescue for the crews of the ships that are inevitably sunk, will quickly become evident. The cutters would hopefully be aided by Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and any combatants making the transit trans-Pacific.
(None of the above reflects anything official, it is just the logic of the geography and the capability of the participants.)
Incidentally the format use below would be a good way for the Coast Guard to present its plans for major cutters.
Now to the Kirchberger posts:
After a long pause in making these info graphics, here is an overview of the *approximate* type and age structure of Chinese nuclear-powered submarines. I am decidedly less confident than with the surface fleet graphs about the accuracy of the information, which is why it took so long. Basically, I have decided to just visualize the data given in Manfred Meyer’s book ‘Modern Chinese Maritime Forces’ (March 2023 update) with some minor adjustments based on cross-checking with own research in Chinese newspaper reports. Despite the caveat, the graph might be useful to some, therefore posting it. I will periodically update as more information becomes available.
Blue arrow means boat is (most likely) in service as of April 2023, white means not yet or not any more in service, but may already be launched. Striped means: status unknown.
Feel free to use and republish (unaltered) with attribution. In case you find mistakes, I’d appreciate a note so I can make corrections during the next round!
Here is now also a visual overview of the PLA Navy’s conventionally powered submarine fleet. Blue arrow means boat is most likely in service as of April 2023, white arrow means not yet, or not any more, but may already be launched. The teal color indicates boats equipped with a (Stirling) AIP. Does not include test submarines (such as the Type 032), the unknown type sailless submarine, nor midget submarines.
The speed of naval shipbuilding in China is such that it is easy to overlook that China has earlier this year commissioned the eighth and last of Flight 1 of its new cruiser, the Type 055 (never mind that the PLAN refers to it as a destroyer – at >12,000t full load, 180m length, and given its armament, it looks like a cruiser more than a destroyer).