Rebuttal of Stratfor’s false claims on China’s nukes

The open-sources-based Stratfor think-tank has recently published an article on China’s ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) that downplays the threat these submarines, and China in general, pose to the US. Because of this, and because it contains numerous factual errors, I’ve decided to pen this rebuttal.

The article begins by repeating the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s laughable understatement that China is merely “on the cusp of having a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent”, as opposed to already having one (which it does), and falsely claims that China “still lags considerably behind the leading powers, notably the US.”

Those are blatant lies which serve no purpose but to downplay the Chinese threat and mislead the American public about it.

China is not lagging behind the leading powers; it is among them and is keeping pace firmly with them.

The article first wrongly claims China has only “three or four” Jin class SSBNS in addition to its Xia class boat. In fact, China has five Jins already in commission and a sixth one under construction. Stratfor then wrongly claims that the Jins are more noisy than Russian Delta III class submarines. This is not true, but even if it were, remember that by today’s standards, the US Navy’s Ohio class SSBNs and Los Angeles class attack submarines are also quite noisy, too, and need to be replaced.

Stratfor also wrongly claims that the old JL-1 ballistic missiles are still the mainstay of the Chinese SSBN fleet, and further falsely claims that the newer JL-2 missile has not yet entered service, will not do so until next year, and will have a range of only 7,000-8,000 kms.

This is totally false. The basic variant of the JL-2 has already entered service and IT (the JL-2) is the main armament of China’s SSBN fleet – NOT the old JL-1 missile, deployed only on the single Xia class boat.Moreover, only the basic variant of the JL-2 missile has a range of 8,000 kms (quite a significant range, BTW).

China is now developing two new variants of the missile – the Jia and the Yi – which will have ranges of 12,000 and 14,000 kms, respectively, and will be able to carry up to 8 and 12 warheads, respectively. Source: DOD 2012 report to Congress on China’s military power.

Such a range – or even a range of just 10,000 kms, which both missile variants will greatly exceed – would allow Chinese SSBNs to target all of the US and Western Europe while staying in Chinese territorial waters or even in homeport.

And these newer variants of the JL-2 missile will enter service within the next few years, perhaps next year, so China’s nuclear striking power will grow significantly in the near future.

Thus, while Stratfor is technically correct – for now – that “”, that will cease to be true as soon as the JL-2 Jia variant, with its range of 12,000 kms, enters service. That will happen within the next few years.

And when it does, Chinese SSBNs will be able to target the US from their territorial waters or even their homebases – a capability the Soviet Navy did not achieve until the late 1980s.

But even now, Chinese ballistic missile subs and their JL-2 “Basic Variant” missiles, with a range of 8,000 kms, can reach virtually any target on the West Coast and anywhere in the northwestern CONUS. Keep in mind that China has FIVE submarines each armed with 12 such missiles – each missile, in turn, carrying 4 independently targetable warheads.


Stratfor also falsely claims that for the near future, China will have to rely on its land-based missile force to deter the West.

That is patently false given all the facts about its SSBN fleet listed above, and given the fact that China’s bomber fleet is also very potent. With cruise missiles that have a range of 3,000 kms, it can obliterate any target in the First and Second Island Chain and well beyond them, including anywhere in Australia or Russia. China is also now developing a stealthy intercontinental bomber that will be capable of striking the CONUS.

But leaving all these facts aside, China’s land-based missile force is quite a potent one, and in some respects stronger than America’s. It consists of:

  • 36 DF-5 ICBMs (up to 10 warheads each), over 30 DF-31/31A ICBMs (4 warheads each), at least one DF-41 ICBM (10 warheads), and 20 DF-4 ICBMs/IRBMs (3 warheads each);
  • 100 DF-21 and 20 DF-3 MRBMs (one warhead per missile);
  • over 1,200 SRBMs; and
  • untold hundreds of ground-launched cruise missiles, 500 of them nuclear armed.

By contrast, the US has no SRBMs, MRBMs, IRBMs, or ground-launched cruise missiles, and no plans to develop any. It is, moreover, barred from fielding any ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles of a range between 550 and 5,500 kms by the INF treaty. China, not being a party to the treaty, has a free hand in procuring such missiles.

China’s ICBMs alone could deliver 510 warheads to the US, including 490 to the CONUS alone. So China’s land-based missile force must not, on any account, be dismissed.

But, as I said earlier, China no longer needs to rely solely on its land-based missiles for deterring the West. Its SSBN and bomber fleets are already quite potent, and as their number and sophistication grow, their credibility will, as well. Within the next few years, when the JL-2 Jia missile enters service,  China’s SSBNs will be able to target any point in the US from their homeports. And that will be a gamechanger.


7 thoughts on “Rebuttal of Stratfor’s false claims on China’s nukes”

  1. Keep up the fearmongering

    China has had a lot of problems with the JL-2, which was supposed to have entered service years ago but kept failing test launches.

    Also no Chinese SSBN has ever gone on a combat cruise. Chinese subs are horribly unreliable. China has so far produced two generations of SSBNs. The Type 92 was launched but had a lot of problems and never made a patrol. It only went out for training in Chinese coastal waters. Only one was built. In the last decade the Type 94 showed up. This was believed, in the West, to be the Chinese SSBN that would go on patrol but that never happened. Turns out that the Type 94 also had lots of technical problems. They then built the type 93 again another disaster.
    The Chinese threat is a made up threat but keep pushing the “we need a large military” bogus line.

    1. You clearly don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

      The JL-2 has been tested dozens of times since the late 1990s and has passed the vast majority of those tests, including the most recent one. It works. DOD says it entered, or at least was slated to enter, service this summer (2013). I suspect it actually entered service even earlier than that. It is America’s missile defense systems that keep failing test after test.

      Your claim that no Chinese SSBN has ever gone on a patrol is also likely false (though there is no hard data pointing either way here – we just don’t know, bc China keeps that info secret, as any great power would).

      The Jin class is not nearly as noisy as you and the ONI claim. The ONI is nothing but a propaganda department of the Navy, and it was created as such during WW2. Even if the Jin class is noisy – which it is not – the fact is that the USN can’t detect even the noisiest, oldest submarines in the world. It can’t even detect old, noisy Russian nuclear-powered subs. In 1981 and 1983, it utterly failed to detect a hopelessly obsolete, 1960s-vintage Canadian submarine that “killed” two aircraft carrier groups in 1981 alone (in NATO exercises). Let’s face the facts: the USN SUCKS at ASW.

      The Jin class is not noisy, but even if it were, it could (and would) simply conduct patrols in the open Pacific Ocean, where, due to the vastness of that ocean, it would be hard, nigh impossible, to find it.

      The Chinese threat is not made up – it is your claims that are completely made up and bogus.

  2. By the way SOSUS can and does tract submarines so if the Chinese Navy ever did go on patrol they would be tracked. Also the T-AGOS class vessels operating in the Pacific have the capability of tracking submarines and IF the Chinese had an operational sub it would be tracked.
    It’s highly laughable to believe that the US Navy wouldn’t be all over tracking a Chinese SSBN. You should read up on the history of the Soviet Alpha Sub.

    1. SOSUS is dead. The US dismantled the system after the end of the Cold War. It is no longer operational, neither in the GIUK gap nor in the Pacific. As for USN ASW capabilities, don’t make me laugh. The USN’s ASW capabilities, as documented by Professor Roger Thompson in his book, The Status Quo Culture of the United States Navy, are nearly extinct. The USN SUCKS at ASW. The USN can’t even detect 1960s-vintage Canadian subs, let alone the Jin class. And they’d have a very hard time finding anything, let alone a Jin class sub, in the vast swathes of the Pacific. You can debate me all you want, but you can’t debate geography. Fact.

  3. Some more expert reviews.
    Kanwa Defense Review states that the Type 094 Jin-class submarine of the Chinese navy is unable to compete with its counterparts from the United States and Russia.

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