Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXXXI

The Terrible 20s - that period of time where the USN will face the combined headwinds of budgetary pressure, lack of political advocacy, and the hangover from the lost decade of the Transformationalist - are almost upon us. What we will look like coming out the other end is a great unknown.

The rising naval power on the other side of the Pacific, on the other hand, seems poised to grow with more backing and enthusiasm.

When we come out the other end in 10-years time, what will the Chinese have waiting for us?

Rick Joe over at The Diplomat has the summary:
The growth of Chinese surface combatants in recent years has greatly enhanced the PLAN’s overall profile. The emergence of the 055 class destroyer and high production rates of 055 and 052D class destroyers at two major shipyards have greatly changed the projections of future PLAN surface combatant composition from as a recently as a couple of years ago.

To place this growth in perspective, in the eight years between 2010 and 2018, 24 destroyers were launched from Chinese shipyards, consisting of four 052Cs, 16 052Ds (the three most recent being extended length variants), and four 055 large destroyers. By contrast, in the 20 years between 1990 and 2010, only 10 destroyers were launched from Chinese shipyards (not including four Sovremenny-class destroyers purchased from Russia), of which only two were the Aegis-type, competitive 052C class.

Current rumors regarding PLAN destroyer production suggest about 12 baseline 055 class destroyers will be produced before moving onto a more advanced 055A class perhaps sometime in the early 2020s. Production of the 052D will likely continue to over 25 units before an improved 052E variant succeeds it. Both the notional 055A and 052E are thought to incorporate new propulsion technologies in the form of partial or full electric propulsion.
In summary, an early 2019 prediction for PLAN ships in service by 2030 are broken down as such:

16-20 055/A destroyers (12,000 ton category)
36-40 052D/E destroyers (7,000 ton category)
40-50 054A/B frigates (4,000-5,000 ton category)
Approximately 60 SSKs
Anywhere from 16 or more SSNs (including six to eight existing SSNs)
Anywhere from eight or more SSBNs (including four to five existing SSBNs)
At least four aircraft carriers (two ski jump, two catapult)
At least eight 071 LPDs (25,000 ton category)
At least three 075 LHDs (36,000 ton category)
Of the above, frigates, SSNs, SSBNs, and carriers are currently the most difficult to predict, with the most margin for error.

Other ships of note include the approximately 60 056/A corvettes that will complete its production run within the next year or so, as well as the 11 older “non-Aegis” type destroyers and dozen or so older frigates that will likely remain in service as “second line” surface combatants. The 25-30 ship fleet of 072s will likely be retained. It is unknown if the 60 odd fleet of 22 class missile boats will be retained.
Will we have a usable FFG(X)? What will our Large Surface Combatant look like? What will our allies in the area be building? What will replace the Super Hornet?

The PLAN will demand respect sooner more than later. We should act accordingly. 

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