The report, published on Sunday by the South China Morning Post, said the Type 094A, or Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), was presented last Friday as part of the celebration to mark the 72nd anniversary of Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy.
The new submarine is capable of firing the JL-3, or Julang (Big Wave) SLBM with a range over 10,000 km (6,200 miles), said a source close to the navy, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
The unnamed source added, “Before the upgrade, the submarine was armed with the inferior JL-2 that could only hit the northeast United States, but now it’s able to cover the whole American continent.”
The JL-3 is able to deliver the same multiple warheads, including nuclear warheads like the JL-2 does, the source added without giving more details.
According to Forbes, before entering striking distance of the continental United States, the Type 094A subs would have to slip past a cordon of US military bases in the Pacific dubbed the first island chain – exposing the subs to detection and attack by American P-8 anti-sub patrol planes, surface warships and other undersea reconnaissance capabilities.
Each JL-2 missile can be armed with either a single megaton-yield warhead 67 times more powerful than the Little Boy bomb dropped on Hiroshima – or three to eight smaller multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) that can each strike different targets, according to a Forbes report in May last year.
Former PLA instructor Song Zhongping did not say what type of SLBM the Type 094A was armed with, but said it would boost China’s second-strike capability – its ability to retaliate after a nuclear strike.
“The new SLBM with MIRVs with a firing range over 10,000km is the basic technical requirement for an upgraded Type 094 SSBN to cause nuclear deterrence,” Song said, adding, “China promises not to use a nuke first, but a powerful SSBN fleet will help the PLA strengthen their second-strike power against rivals.”
China has six Type 094 and Type 094A SSBNs and plans to build a further two to replace the Type 092 SSBNs, according to the source.
China’s President Xi Jinping in March called on the country’s military to be prepared to confront any threat in a “largely uncertain” security environment.
“The current security situation of our country is largely unstable and uncertain,” President Xi said during a panel discussion attended by armed forces representatives. “The entire military must coordinate the relationship between capacity building and combat readiness, be prepared to respond to a variety of complex and difficult situations at any time.”
The Chinese president’s remarks come amid simmering tensions between Beijing and the new US administration. And they follow a series of similar remarks by top officials.
The Chinese president himself said last week that the United States was the “biggest threat” to China’s economic and political growth and stability.