China Unveils Nuclear Submarines That Could Reportedly Reach U.S.

Earlier this week China unveiled its first-generation nuclear submarine, which it was decommissioning after more than 40 years. But later iterations of warhead-equipped submarines operated by the country’s People’s Liberation Army were also revealed to have the capability to strike the United States, according some reports.

This undated picture shows a nuclear-powered submarine of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s North Sea Fleet preparing to dive into the sea. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Want China Times, the English news website of the Taiwan-based China Times News Group, pointed out that the photos released of the country’s submarine fleet by the state-run news agency focused more on the older Xia-class nuclear submarines than the newer Type 094 Jin-class ballistic missile submarine.

Global Times, a paper published by the country’s Community party, noted military expert Du Wenglong saying that the release of the photos served to show the world that China is capable of launching ballistic missiles like other world powers.

Although not mentioned in the Global Times article, Want China Times reported that a JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile could reach the western United States if fired from the Bohai Sea. In a separate article, the same publication elaborated that the range of a JL-2 missile is 8,000 kilometers, making them a “considerable threat to U.S. national security.”

The Washington Times gave even more details about attacks on the U.S. from Chinese submarines, sourcing a Global Times article that inexplicably did not appear available on the site:

In 2010, a new class of missile sub, the Type 094 Jin class, entered the service. It is capable of launching 12 to 16 JL-2 missiles with a range of about 8,700 miles, covering much of the continental U.S. with single or multiple, independently targetable re-entry vehicle warheads.

Chinese calculations for nuclear attacks on the U.S. are chillingly macabre.

“Because the Midwest states of the U.S. are sparsely populated, in order to increase the lethality, [our] nuclear attacks should mainly target the key cities on the West Coast of the United States, such as Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego,” the Global Times said.

“The 12 JL-2 nuclear warheads carried by one single Type 094 SSBN can kill and wound 5 million to 12 million Americans,” the Global Times reported.

map showing radiation range
The Washington Times included this map from the Global Times report showing what could represent the range of radiation if a nuclear missile were to be launched against the western United States. (Image source: Washington Times via Global Times)

The Foreign Times reported Xinhua issued photographs about the “declassified” the Xia-class submarines Sunday, saying they could “gallop to the depths of the ocean, serving as mysterious forces igniting the sound of thunder in the deep sea.” Xinhua added that the subs are like “assassin’s mace that would make adversaries tremble.”

China Nuclear Submarine Fleet
This black and white photo taken in 1977 and released by the Chinese Navy on Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, shows China’s Long March 2 nuclear submarine during a launch ceremony in China. (AP Photo)

The country was decommissioning these first-generation submarines, which were launched in the 1970s. According to the Global Times, Chairman Mao Zedong in the 1950s initiated the program to build nuclear submarines to prevent “nuclear blackmailing and monopoly.”

China Nuclear Submarine Fleet
In a sign of growing confidence, China’s navy gave Chinese media on Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013 unprecedented publicity on its first nuclear submarine fleet, one of its most secretive military programs. (AP)

While some considered this show a statement of the country’s military muscle, China Daily reported it was intended as an opportunity for transparency:

As a responsible power and peace-loving country, China is increasing its military transparency step by step. In its national defense white paper in April, the Chinese military for the first time made public its military strength and composition, and the media coverage of the nuclear submarines is another step toward greater transparency. It’s really ridiculous for some countries and their media to call on China to increase its military transparency on the one hand, and criticize China’s efforts to do so as flexing its military might on the other.

In fact, this week’s coverage was not the media debut of the nation’s nuclear submarine fleet. As early as the 1980s, the People’s Daily reported on the fleet and its underwater rocket launching capabilities.

Hence, the latest reports are not China’s military suddenly revealing their muscles, as the fleet and its capabilities are not some secret weapon suddenly being revealed to scare other countries.

china submarine
This undated picture shows Chinese navy soldiers standing on a nuclear-powered submarine of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s North Sea Fleet at an undisclosed location. Beijing has put its nuclear-powered submarine fleet on public display, with state media on Oct. 29, 2013 touting the move as unprecedented and necessary to show other countries China’s strike capabilities as territorial tensions mount. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Check out this footage released from China showing the fleet:

Taylor Fravel, a Chinese security expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the Foreign Times he believes this transparency showed that the People’s Liberation Army “has become more willing to discuss its capabilities.”

A Pentagon spokesperson told Foreign Times it “welcomes increased transparency from China as it helps reduce regional tensions and promotes stability.”

This year, the Chinese navy completed is fourth-generation nuclear submarines.

(H/T: Washington Times)