With its expanding Naval fleet and the induction of a new class of nuclear submarines,China has doubled the number of patrols carried out by its attack submarines outside the country’s territorial waters,showing that it is capable of sending its stealthy nuclear powered subs on extended deployment far away from the mainland.
In an indication of the country’s growing naval prowess,latest reports by American intelligence agencies have revealed that China’s fleet of over 50 submarines carried out 12 extended patrols in 2008,double the number that the Chinese Navy carried out in the previous year.
While the number of patrols carried out by Chinese submarines is nowhere close to what the US does,it has exceeded the number of patrols carried out by Russia’s comparatively larger fleet of nuclear powered submarines.
Analysts say that the increased number of patrols is an indication that China is testing its abilities to deploy naval assets far away from home land which would enhance its capability of projecting power in any part of the world.
According to information obtained by the Federation of American Scientist (FAS) under the US Freedom of Information Act,China has been steadily increasing its patrols in the past few years,from two in 2005 to six in 2007.
The implications of the increased Chinese submarine activity would be drawn by Indian analysts but Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta has been on record to say that the increasing number of nuclear submarines in the region is a strong cause of concern for the country.
While it has not been revealed the regions in which the Chinese submarines conducted patrols,the country last year deployed its latest ‘Jin’ class nuclear submarine at a massive new military facility on the Hainan Island in South China Sea its nearest naval base to India.
However,the US Naval report has made it clear that while Chinese nuclear powered attack submarines have increased the number of patrols,the country has yet to send out submarines that have nuclear tipped missiles onboard out on patrols.
While nuclear attack submarines are feared by navies throughout the world due to their virtually unlimited range and stealthy nature that allows them to sneak up on enemy vessels,submarines equipped with nuclear tipped missiles (SSBN) are of strategic value as it gives the country the capability of launching a nuclear attack from any part of the world.
The report says that the Chinese ‘Jin’ class SSBN,that carries 12 nuclear tipped missiles,was spotted in February last year at Hainan but did not carry out any extended patrol the entire year.