Report: Chinese Navy’s Fleet Will Outnumber U.S. by 2020

China SubChina has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets, according to a new report.

The 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended to Congress the U.S. Navy respond by building more ships and increase its presence in the Pacific region – a strategy they U.S. military has already started.

The commission asked Congress to increase its Pacific fleet up to 67 ships and rebalance homeports such that 60-percent of the force is based in the region by 2020.

The commissions’ recommendations, which are based on Congressional testimony, expert assessments and open-source information on China’s military and U.S.-Chinese relations, are consistent with Pentagon’s stated plans for the region.

The Navy’s intended Pacific rebalance is designed to station 60-percent of the fleet in the area, rotate more ships and sailors through Pacific ports and move Marine Corps units through Darwin, Australia. Part of the Navy’s Pacific rebalance strategy includes plans to rotate up to four Littoral Combat Ships through Singapore, among other things.

Defense analysts have questioned where the U.S. Navy has the resources and funding to expand its presence in the Pacific adequately enough to meet the emerging Chinese threat. Critics point to the sweeping sequestration cuts as an example of the budgetary challenges that U.S. Navy officials face.

Opponents to this strategy point out that the U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers, the Chinese have one. And that one carrier still lacks an aircraft wing capable of operating off a carrier deck.

The commission cites a platforms and weapons systems the Chinese are developing, which change the strategic calculus regarding how U.S. carriers and surface ships might need to operate in the region. The report mentions the Chinese DF-21D, a precision-guided, land-launched anti-ship ballistic missile designed to reach surface targets at ranges greater than 900 nautical miles.

“China is pursuing a missile-centric strategy with the purpose of holding U.S. aircraft carriers at high risk if they operate in China’s near seas and thereby hinder their access to those waters in the event of a crisis. Given China’s growing navy and the U.S. Navy’s planned decline in the size of its fleet, the balance of power and presence in the region is shifting in China’s favor,” the commission states.

While the commission says the exact amount of Chinese military spending is difficult to identify, China’s projected defense spending for 2014 is cited at $131 billion, approximately 12.2 percent greater than 2013. This figure is about the sixth of what the U.S. spends annually.

The Chinese defense budget has increased by double digits since 1989, the commission states resulting in annual defense spending doubling since 2008, according to the report.

Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Virginia, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, cited the increase in submarine and surface navy patrols tripling since 2007 as an area of concern.

“What they are doing with patrols is just the tip of the iceberg. It is not just the number of the ships, but within five to eight years they will have about 82 submarines in the Asia Pacific area and we will have about 32 to 34,” he said.

“If you look at where we are today, they outnumber us about 60 to 32 in subs. If you look at their surface ships they can get us further out with their anti-ship missiles than we can hit them,” Forbes said.

The Chinese have used cyber espionage of the U.S. military to boost their weapons development programs, the report said. In particular, the review cited a 2012 Defense Science Board report which explains how Chinese cyber spying resulted in their learning details on a number of U.S. systems such as the Littoral Combat Ship, F-35, FA/18, Black Hawk helicopter, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, Patriot and Global Hawk.

Chinese Naval Power

While Chinese naval technology may still be substantially behind current U.S. platforms, the equation could change dramatically over the next several decades because the Chinese are reportedly working on a handful of high-tech next-generation ships, weapons and naval platforms.

These include the LUYANG III, a new class of Chinese destroyer slated to enter the fleet this year. The ship is being engineered with vertically-launched, long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, the commission said. The new destroyer will carry an extended-range variant of the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, among other weapons, the report says.

Furthermore, the Chinese may already be beginning construction on several of their own indigenous aircraft carriers. China currently has one carrier, the Ukranian-built Liaoning. It is not expected to have an operational carrier air wing until at least 2016, according to the report.

The Chinese are currently testing and developing a new, carrier-based fighter aircraft called the J-15.

Regarding amphibious assault ships, the Chinese are planning to add several more YUZHAO LPDs, amphibs which can carry 800 troops, four helicopters and up to 20 armored vehicles, the report said.

The Chinese are also working on development of a new Type 055 cruiser equipped with land-attack missiles, lasers and rail-gun weapons, according to the review.

“They are becoming a blue-water Navy,” said Larry Wortzel, a commissioner tasked with helping to oversee the compilation and publication of the annual review.

China’s surface fleet is also bolstered by production of at least 60 smaller, fast-moving HOBEI-glass guided missile patrol boats and ongoing deliveries of JIANGDAO light frigates armed with naval guns, torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.

The commission also says Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines, nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.

The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, the commission says.

The commission also specifically addresses areas of Chinese-Russian military developmental cooperation, saying the two countries are working on a joint deal to build new attack submarines.

“China is pursuing joint-design and production of four to six Russian advanced diesel-electric attack submarines containing Russia’s latest submarine sonar, propulsion, and quieting technology. The deal would improve the PLA Navy’s capabilities and assist China’s development of quiet submarines, thus complicating future U.S. efforts to track and counter PLA submarines,” the commission writes.

In addition, China is reportedly pursuing a new class of nuclear submarines, called the Type 095 SSGN, which could bring the country its first-ever submarine-launched, land-attack cruise missile.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • tudor

    crappy Europeans should unite already, make one big army and collaborate 1:1 with the US in the regional defense, cause on the long run, US can’t take all threats by itself….

    • ccc40821

      That requires a) that Europe and the US has common geopolitical goals (not always the case), and that it would be a true 1:1 relationship – which hasn’t been the case. With the current emergence of the European right in politics, the idea of a common EU army is as remote as ever.

    • blight_weroasdfl

      Regardless of European sovereignty, more NATO exercises would be nice. For the time being, the militaries of West Europe have extensive collaborative experience. We might as well capitalize on that until political union is possible.

    • rtsy

      There are still international currency issues at stake here in the US and with our NATO allies that are allowing the PLAN to balloon in numbers while the combined NATO fleet shrinks.

    • john

      We europeans could not organise a game of russian roulette.

  • rat

    These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.
    You can go about your business.
    Move along.

  • blight_weroasdfl

    Their ships are more numerous, while we have global deployments dispersing the force. Their vessels are likely smaller too, as they are unlikely to need to attempt global circumnavigation on nuclear power without surfacing.

    Let the finger-pointing begin.

  • Sev

    Helps to have a president that sabotages our military doesn’t it?

  • Dfens

    Wow, I guess this is what happens when you don’t use your Navy as a method of funneling tax dollars as welfare to the wealthy. We could go back to having the US Navy design their own ships again, as they did for over 200 years up until recently when big defense contractors such as Lockheed and General Dynamics discovered a new source of siphoning zero risk (to them) tax dollars out of the government coffers by dragging out the design of US Navy ships for decades. Then the ships they do design are crap and typically they get cancelled long before their planned production run ends, often because the vehicles are completely not seaworthy or because they lack basic weapons and armor required for even the lowest level of use. Today we think it’s natural that an LCS ship should cost as much as an Iowa Class Battleship or that a DDG-1000 should cost as much as 3 Mighty Mo’s. It’s all just a part of doing business with our favorite charities, the wealthy CEO’s of the defense contractor giants. Why should we ever go back to the US Navy designing their own ships when we can have less than half the ships for the same money as we spent for Regan’s 600 ship fleet?

    • Stan

      Well, the government allowed consolidations among defense contractors, this was bound to happen. On the other hand, considering how long we continue using equipment they could not have survived otherwise, I would imagine.

      • Dfens

        We design ships all the time. They rust. They aren’t like airplanes where we try to keep them flying for 50 to 100 years.

        • Stan

          What? Not a connoisseur of military history but didn’t the battleship Iowa lasted for about 50 years? What about the carriers? The capital ships last longer and longer. The only planes which come close to that are the B-52 and U-2.

    • Christopher

      Navy LCS mafia General: “Design our own ships? That’s crazy talk man! Now if your talk about yachts I’m totally game for that!”

    • ngineer

      just out of curiosity, when did the USN stop designing ships? the Arleigh Burke was contracted, and it’s considered a perfectly good design AFAIK.

      • Dfens

        I don’t know exactly. It happened sometime after 1992 when the FAR contracting rules changed to allow the government to pay contractors a profit on designing stuff. I think it took several years for the contractors to wrestle the design of ships away from the Navy’s design houses, but now they perform this function exclusively for everything that doesn’t have a nuclear reactor in it.

      • Tad

        It started as far back as 1966. If I can include a Wiki link, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bureau_of_Ships. Or just search for Bureau of Ships.

    • OriginalK

      Wow indeed. Which “wealthy” are you referring to? General Dynamics or Lockheed stock holders? Ever note that when there’s a defense downturn that defense stocks tend to go UP? Take a look at the last couple of years of their stock. As far as the CEOs of those companies are concerned, Obama’s “defense cuts” put 10s of millions in their pockets. And if you have a problem with the products defense companies turn out, I suggest you take it up with the Pentagon, who puts out the specifications, picks the winners and oversees the entire process in detail. Oh yeah, they also accept the risk that the new super duper high tech, must beat anyone else, bleeding edge of technology wonder weapon they demand might take longer to develop and be more expensive than a weapon system that’s behind the technology curve when it comes into service.

      = Jeffrey Immelt

      • blight_weroasdfl

        In practice the cuts mean that previous incremental increases year on year have been arrested. We’re still spending more inflation-adjusted than we did during the Cold War, however we had less gold-plate weapons systems on the books (just the B-2, the Dorito…)

      • Dfens

        I gave an example. Bob Stevens is, or I suppose was the CEO of Lockmart. These guys make $25 million a year. All their corporate VP’s make millions to tens of millions of dollars. Since most of these defense contractors have no other line of business other than the government, these are 100% your tax dollars that pay these exorbitant salaries. Those CEO’s make 50 times more than the president of the United States! Hell, they make more taking a crap than I make as an engineer in two weeks of designing crap for these bastards.

        Now if you think it is a vast conspiracy by the government that jacks up the prices of our weapons and ships and airplanes, well, in the first place you’re as nutty as the rest of the tin foil hat crowd. Second, why don’t they have the same problem in China or Russia? Third, why didn’t we have that problem when the US Navy designed their own ships instead of paying contractors to do it? Seems like there’s more opportunity for the government to jack up the price of ships when they are designing them than there is when someone else is designing them, don’t you think?

    • shipfixr

      Remember there was a time when U.S.Naval Shipyard BUILT a good percentage of the Navy’s ships…….that ended in the early 70’s when the private side of the house complained that the Navy building ships was depriving the shipbuilding industry of jobs (I guess they thought the Navy yards built their ships with robots). Once again, here are a few of my favorite numbers: when I joined the Navy in 1960, the nation had eleven Naval shipyards…now there are three. there were three shipyards, one public, two private that could and did build aircraft carriers…now there’s one (private). There existed six shipyards capable of building submarines, two public and four private….now there’s two (private)…..I would not be too surprised to see us outsourcing shipbuilding to Japan…one of the yards building the LCS is already a primarily foriegn owned corperation.

  • Stan

    More subs. And let’s get our own anti-ship ballistic missile warheads to put on those subs. Also conventional warheads with glide ability or other hypersonic weapons for stealthy land attack to perhaps soften up those new large anti-stealth radars China is advertising.

  • Aleksandar011

    Just thinking, why not creating A2D2 strategy? If China can built DF-21D, why not West building the same thing and place it in Philippines, Singapore and Japan, perhaps even Vietnam? From these countries such missiles can close the sea lanes and sink Chinese carrier in her own port. A new extended range Patriot, similar to Russian S-400 placed in Taiwan would cover parts of China, making an invasion almost impossible. A new stealth detecting radars, if Russia can build such so can America, and again place it near China to get timely info on incoming attack. And after decades it’s time to replace the Harpoon with something more powerful, say something similar to Brahmos just with longer range and better guidance system. An ideal solution would be hyper-sonic mach 5+, but if that’s impossible than build supersonic mach 2-3+ missile in large quantities.

    • blight_weroasdfl

      Any long range system without the eyes to use it at maximum range is a short range system. Until our foes have the requisite AEW aircraft or drones, or long range maritime patrol aircraft who provides the targeting information? Satellites? It’s a big ocean.

      OTOH, a potent area access denial tool may be if SSGN’s are configured to launch anti-ship missiles. If LRASM can be launched from the same tubes as TLAM, then we could turn SSGN’s into anti-ship boats /or/ land attack boats. Alternatively, you could use TLAM’s against ships but they are unlikely to be very effective.

    • Cactus Chet

      How would you place a Patriot in Taiwan? You think the Chinese would help break ground for that?

    • James Sword

      Good idea Aleks. There are two other choke points besides the Okinawa area in southern Japan to put a stranglehold on the upcoming carriers of China. The Bashi Channel and the Balabac Strait. Use Itbayat Island to control the Bashi Channel and Balabac Island to control Balabac Strait. A 200-mile range SSM will be sufficient enough to knock out any ship passing by. Balabac air strip was used by USAF during WWII to track Japan’s Imperial Naval ships such as Musashi and Yamato and the Batanes airport was used 24/7 by USAF during the 1991 Iraq war as a stop over from the mainland. These are your two main outlets to the Pacific besides going all the way South to Singapore or North at the mercy of Japanese forces.

  • DeltaBob

    We’d better make up as a nation! China has the capacity to man hundreds of warships, thousands of fighter jets, and raise a staggering 100 million-man army. And if anyone thinks China isn’t a greater enemy than Russia was during the Cold War, or that they do not have grand designs of world conquest, you’re living in a delusional fantasy world. The proof in the pudding of their military mindset rests in the fact that they are threatening Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam over their illegal claims that China alone “owns” the South China Sea as sovereign state territory. Romney was correct. We should build a military so powerful and so threatening that no nation on the face of the earth would dare bring armed aggression against us without suffering the devastating consequences – China included!

    • blight_weroasdfl

      Sounds like the mantra of the Soviet Union, which spent up to a quarter of its GDP on the military until it could no longer sustain such spending.

      • Dfens

        That’s true if you ignore the option of no longer paying these damn defense contractors $1.10 for every $1.00 they spend designing these crappy f’ing ships that don’t work. Damn, we should be demanding more for less, not accepting less for more every f’ing year. Remember when we used to expect more for less, back when we knew the difference between capitalism and welfare for the rich mf’ers?

        • blight_weroasdfl

          Wealthfare, brother.

          • Dfens

            Sounds like a title to a good book.

  • UK grant

    The same old modus operandi of the US military industrial complex over and over again … a new round of warmongering excuses, false information and arbitrary extrapolations to set the stage for continued, absurd military spending in the face of a collapsing economy and financial system.

  • “China’s projected defense spending for 2014 is cited at $131 billion, approximately 12.2 percent greater than 2013. This figure is about the sixth of what the U.S. spends annually.”

    I always chuckle at this type of comparison and statistic citing. What is never addressed is:

    How that figure is highly extrapolated because of Chinese (or Russian) defense spending secrecy or doesn’t include the cost of running defense companies totally owned by the gov’t..

    The exponential difference between what a Chinese dollar buys compared to a US one.

    • blight_weroasdfl

      Indeed. The purchasing power parity of the People’s Republic was 13.39 trillion in 2013, compared to 16.72 trillion in the United States. Their economy is growing, and they have the manufacturing,shipbuilding and technology sectors to catch up and surpass us; just as we surpassed the British after WW1 and in WW2.

      • Possible though the Chinese haven’t demonstrated substantial and real innovation in recent history.(unlike the US – UK comparison).

        Where did you find that purchasing power statistic? If it’s a straight currency valuation it still doesn’t capture how much farther a dollar (or equal Chinese currency) goes in China. E.G. Given the same specs, plans, etc., the Chinese can manufacture the same round, weapon or computer for substantially les than it costs to produce in the US. They can do a lot more with their $13 trillion than we can do with out $16 trillion.

        • ncb1397

          The 13 trillion dollar number is counting the difference in cost of goods between the U.S. and China. That is why the post above means by “purchasing power parity”. The monetary value of GDP is offset by a factor taking into the difference in prices between countries.

          • Thanks. I’d still like to see the source and determine how they come up with the number. There’s a myriad of ways that stats can be misleading which is why I always try to get to the source document that explains how the number was derived.

            Just looking at the two numbers is interesting but doesn’t explain how the Chinese can field a 3 million man military (larger than ours) at a fraction of the cost. This is my point about measuring militaries solely based on expenditures.

    • blight_weroasdfl

      Does anyone know how much money the Russians spend on the shadow side of thing? Bear in mind that even during the ’90s they were able to conceal much of Biopreparat from us.

    • Cactus Chet

      They want you to chuckle……you fell for it. Good job as you continue to finance them on a daily basis.

  • Lance

    Think htere doing more fear mongering. Yes China is modernizing. But a large number of its fleet is still either coastal patrol vessels or still obsolete designs. We can fix this also by scrapping not needed Army programs like JLTV and MHS for more Naval funding..

    • blight_weroasdfl

      Unless the plan is to export more older combatants to the Pacific navies this becomes our problem. Anything we send to the ROC provokes the PRC. Additionally, the ROC doesn’t really benefit from things we are good at, such as aircraft carriers.

  • James

    I’m confused how China is continually outdoing us in terms of our military and economic lifestyle yet none of the top brass/top suits have gone to china to see what they’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong… More power to em… capitalize off our poor leadership and build theirs up.

    • blight_weroasdfl

      Hagel already went, and I’m sure he isn’t the only officer. What’s wrong with the US and what’s right with China is somewhat complex.

      For starters, they haven’t adopted a Tigertank mentality when it comes to their weapons systems. This keeps costs down and requires high generational turnaround, resulting in a humming weapons industry. The Tigertank system tends to result in large research programs and smaller procurement.

      Maintenance of American shipbuilding depends on customers. We no longer have a merchant marine of significant size, thus the number of commercial shipyards has dropped to nothing. The only remaining shipyards serve the military, which means we don’t have much civilian shipbuilding to convert over to wartime use.

      Luckily we still have a car-manufacturing network in North America, that can probably be harnessed to make ground vehicles in wartime. We have a large civilian guns industry, which will aid in mass production of small arms and ammunition in wartime.

      For the time being, we still have aviation industries in the states. It could probably be harnessed to the production of military aircraft. The Lockheed plant in Texas that makes the F-22, F-35 and the F-16 would be a clear target for the Chinese in wartime that would cripple day zero fighter jet production.

      However, the spending to fight a World War would be exorbitant. I am unsure how many Americans are interested in paying for American victory.

    • ken

      China has a peace time military, we on other had have probably spent a trillion in the middle east.

      • blight_weroasdfl

        That’s a trillion that came out of loans, not the standard revenue stream (except in terms of interest). Disregarding the debt we picked up in Iraq, our yearly budget doesn’t give us much room to grow military spending, especially as Chinese PPP increases to give their renminbi more bang against our bucks.

  • joe

    Must be using the same math that said new york would be under water in 2010.

  • Big-Dean

    by 2020 it”ll be called the Work and Howard Navy. A Navy full of nothing but little crappy little ships that go around saying “I think I can I think I can” and “run away, run away”

  • Dr J

    Here comes Cold War 2.

  • orly?

    No one appreciates the Navy until it’s really needed it seems.

  • Wordell

    So? Think of it as a “target rich environment”. I remember the comments of General Giap…the man in charge of the VC and NVA during the Vietnam War in an interview he gave on PBS in the 1980’s. Many subjects were discussed, but I remember his comments about Americans at war. This will be paraphrased……but it goes something like this: “They have many rules and regulations that they completely disregard once combat starts. If you surround Americans and cut them off with a superior force, prepare to lose most of that superior force and be forced to retreat your forces or suffer defeat. Americans are slow to anger…but when finally engaged and in combat…are the most dangerous and ruthless combatants the world has ever seen so far. If I were able to have any military force in the world under my command…it would be Americans.” These words…from a Communist General ! This being said…yes…the Chinese will be a force to be reckoned with…and we would suffer losses we possibly couldn’t afford initially in engaging them…but they better have a meeting with the Vietnamese before they decide to take on the ones that are “slow to anger”. Is this bravado on my part, and we shouldn’t be worried about this Chinese fleet build up? No. But the Chinese should realize that they will be dealing with a ruthlessness that once begins in opposition to them…surpasses what they are capable of.

    • Guest

      The problem is, would we “anger” quickly enough to keep getting our butts handed to us by a fast moving, focused, well-planned enemy attack??

      • Guest

        …keep from getting …

  • shipfixr

    When you consider the entire Chinese PLA Navy would not only outnumber us but would be in ONE local while ours is spread out worldwide……..

  • Ben

    It’s funny that we’re so concerned about China having more ships in their own waters than us, like we’re supposed to somehow have everyone outgunned, everywhere, at all times.

    • Dfens

      Yeah, it would be hilarious if we weren’t spending like we should have everyone outgunned everywhere all the time.

    • Guest

      We SHOULD have everyone outgunned… all the time. Could you trust your safety to any other modern world, given the threat nature?

  • Doubtom

    As we go in search of enemies, we’ve settled on China, on which our government relies to remain fiscally viable. It therefor makes oodles of sense to bracket China as a the enemy and to shift our forces to the Pacific. All China has to do to cause us great grief, is to call in all of our markers and watch our financial system go belly up, along with everything else.

  • JSCS

    Just curious: How long did it take for the BB Iowa’s to go from clean sheet to commissioned ship? How are we doing with LCS?

    • Dfens

      The bill authorizing the battleships was passed in 1938. They were ordered, 1 July 1939, began construction 27 June 1940, launched 27 August 1942 and commissioned 22 February 1943.

      • Dfens

        Those dates are primarily for the Iowa, the first of the series of 4 ships that were completed.

    • todd

      Less than 3 years . And they were the best to ever sail.

  • bobbymike

    It’s Cold War II time to increase defense spending to 6% of GDP like the post WWII average giving us about $1.1 Trillion to spend.

    Think we can’t have 600 ships, 1000 F-22s (or new 6th Gen fighter), 200+ NGB and a completely modernized Triad and nuclear enterprise industrial base?

    • Dfens

      I don’t think throwing money at the problem has ever fixed anything. In fact, most of the time it makes things that much worse.

  • Mastro

    “within five to eight years they will have about 82 submarines in the Asia Pacific area and we will have about 32 to 34,” ”

    I call BS- they would have to be building like crazy to get those numbers.

    Any actual proof- or is someone just extending a graph line out at the same angle?

  • mineisbigger

    China’s Army is larger than ours too…so I guess that means the US needs to bring back the draft to beef up the numbers. FYI…the US defense budget is 4x larger than China’s…so the problem isn’t money…or dare I say, Pres Obama.

  • Jay

    Get the brains together make something good to make China’s Navy obsolete!!

  • FASnipeHT2

    Stop shipping American jobs overseas and stop buying Chinese made products. Problems solved.

  • todd

    How can the china spend much less and buld more. Rich food stamps just like the F35 turky.

  • Jack Mehoff

    In Obama’s Marxist world vision, China is our “partner” in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, right up until they shut off our oil imports. India’s days are numbered they are the only regional power standing in China’s way. Keeping it from going nuclear will be the real trick. I give India less than five years.

  • Willie

    The math doesn’t justify this article’s argument that China will have naval superiority over the US Navy. China is spending $100 plus billion on defense while the US is spending $577 billion dollars on defense which is 5 times what China is spending. This article is simply propaganda to increase military spending. We are spending enough already. Cut out the waste in defense and under the table shady deals with politicians and contractors and we will be fine.

  • Dustin Dewitt Engle

    underwater aquatic drones armed with focused super sonic sound frequency weapons.