The US Department of Defence’s 2020 annual report to Congress on Chinese military power has revealed the latest figures on China’s navy influence. The report states: “The People’s Republic of China has the largest navy in the world, with an overall battle force of approximately 350 ships and submarines including over 130 major surface combatants.
“In comparison, the US Navy’s battle force is approximately 293 ships as of early 2020.”
But the US fleet is superior in tonnage due to having larger warships.
It includes 11 aircraft carriers that weigh in at 100,000 tons apiece.
However, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been improved through extensive spending.
China’s intentions to rejoin Taiwan to the mainland as well as its resolution to gain dominion over the Western Pacific have led to such improvements to its fleet.
The report states: “Over the next decade, China’s nuclear warhead stockpile—currently estimated to be in the low- 200s—is projected to at least double in size as China expands and modernises its nuclear forces.”
It adds that the number of warheads on Chinese land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles that are “capable of threatening the United States is expected to grow to roughly 200 in the next five years.
“China’s nuclear forces will significantly evolve over the next decade as it modernises, diversifies, and increases the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms.”
China is also one of the few countries that owns ICBM-armed nuclear ballistic missile submarines.
The report predicts that “China’s next-generation Type 096 SSBN, which will likely begin construction in the early-2020s, will reportedly carry a new type of SLBM.
“The PLAN is expected to operate the Type 094 and Type 096 SSBNs concurrently and could have up to eight SSBNs by 2030.”
China’s increasing ability to launch land-attack cruise missiles would allow Chinese surface ships and submarines to hit key bases.
The report adds: “In the coming years, the PLAN will probably field Land Attack Cruise Missiles (LACMs) on its newer cruisers and destroyers and developmental Type 093B nuclear attack submarines.
“The PLAN could also retrofit its older surface combatants and submarines with land-attack capabilities as well.
“The addition of land-attack capabilities to the PLAN’s surface combatants and submarines would provide the PLA with flexible long-range strike options.
“This would allow the PRC to hold land targets at risk beyond the Indo-Pacific region.”
The PLAN is also developing a variety of support vessels, including oilers, intelligence collection ships.
China’s first polar icebreaker is also on the cards.