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Chinese Building Boom Goes Bust, On Purpose

James Dunnigan

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Type 051C, Shenyang Class Destroyer. These 7,200 ton ships are mainly for air defense.

Type 052C, Lanzhou Class Destroyer. These 6,500 ton ships are for air defense, and use a phased array radar similar to the Aegis system used in many American warships.

Type 052B Guangzhou Class Destroyer. These 6,500 ton ships are general purpose, with anti-ship/submarine/aircraft capabilities.

Hangzhou Class Destroyers are Russian built Sovremenny Class ships. These 8,000 ton ships are similar to the American Arleigh Burke class destroyers.

Type 054 Jiangkai Class Frigates. These 3,600 ton ships are similar to the French La Fayette class frigates.

Type 054A Class Frigates are similar to the 054, but heavier (probably closer to 3,900 tons) and with vertical launch cells for missiles (similar to U.S. ships.)

Type 093 SSN, a new nuclear powered attack submarine displacing about 6,000 tons on the surface.

Type 094, SSBN, a new nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine displacing about 9,000 tons on the surface.

Type 039, Song class SSK, a 1,700 ton diesel electric attack submarine, some of which are equipped with AIP (Air Independent Propulsion).

Yuanzheng Class SSK, Russian Kilo Class diesel electric attack submarine. A modern, 2,400 ton boat.

Type 42, Yuan Class SSK, a 1,900 ton diesel electric attack submarine designed for Air Independent Propulsion (AIP), and China's first diesel-electric sub with a tear drop hull.

Type 072-II Class Large Amphibious assault ship, displacing about 5,000 tons.

Type 071 Class LPD Amphibious assault ship, displacing about 17,000 tons.

Type 2208 , similar to the U.S. LCS (Littoral Combat Ship), but much smaller (220 tons) and more of a patrol boat than a flexible ship (as the U.S. LCS is). The 2208 is a stealthy, wave-piercing catamaran.

As scary as the lineup appears, there are factors that make it much less so. Chinese ships are much less capable and reliable than their American counterparts. The sailors are less experienced, less well-trained and led by less capable officers. Many of the ships under construction are experimental. Well, not always intentionally experimental (like the Type 2208), but the Chinese are still working on their warship building techniques, and experimenting with new design and construction ideas.

Not all of these efforts work out. There are also problems with poor workmanship. As a result of all this, Chinese ship classes tend to me much smaller, often only two or three ships. If something doesn't work out, the Chinese stop building it, and move on to a new and improved design. In short, China's current building program is mainly intended to develop skill and expertise. The Chinese are building today for the future, as in 20-30 years down the road.