FPI / June 4, 2019
The modernization of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has resulted in China having a fleet size larger than that of the United States.
PLAN is now the world’s largest navy with 300 warship hulls, according an analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) ChinaPower project.
The analysis counted aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, corvettes, submarines, and amphibious assault ships.
The U.S. Navy trails at 287 hulls, Russia has 83 hulls, the UK 75 hulls, and Australia at 48 hulls.
According to CSIS, the Chinese Navy has more ships than “Germany, India, Spain, and the United Kingdom” combined.
The bulk of Beijing’s Navy includes 23 destroyers, 59 frigates, and 37 corvettes, or a total of 119 surface ships. Under the surface China has 76 submarines.
The major problem with China’s naval buildup? “China lacks the major power projection platforms essential to any navy destined to conduct long-range operations. China has just one aircraft carrier,” Kyle Mizokami noted in a May 20 report for Popular Mechanics.
The U.S. Navy also has 22 guided missile cruisers. China has none.
China is currently putting the finishing touches on a second aircraft carrier, Type 002, and is simultaneously building two more Type 003 improved carriers. At least one Type 075 amphibious assault ship roughly equivalent to the Wasp and America-class ships is under construction. Finally, China is building at least four Renhai-class Type 055 warships, which the Pentagon classifies as guided missile cruisers.
China’s 2015 defense white paper declared the “traditional mentality that land outweighs sea must be abandoned, and great importance has to be attached to managing the seas and oceans and protecting maritime rights and interests.” This message was reiterated in April 2018 when supreme leader Xi Jinping suggested that “the task of building a powerful navy has never been as urgent as it is today.”
China is adding new ships to its fleet an impressive rate. Between 2014 and 2018, China launched more submarines, warships, amphibious vessels, and auxiliaries than the number of ships currently serving in the individual navies of Germany, India, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Eighteen ships were commissioned by China in 2016 alone and at least another 14 were added in 2017.
By comparison, the U.S. Navy commissioned 5 ships in 2016 and 8 ships in 2017. Should China continue to commission ships at a similar rate, it could have 430 surface ships and 100 submarines within the next 15 years.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, a significant focus of the PLAN’s modernization is upgrading and “augmenting its littoral warfare capabilities, especially in the South China Sea and East China Sea.” In response to this need, China has ramped up production of Jiangdao-class (Type 056) corvettes. Since being first commissioned in 2013, more than 41 Type 056 corvettes had entered service by mid-2018.