The challenge of facing US and Japanese submarines operating within disputed territorial waters, the People's Liberation Army Navy is preparing for a three-dimensional anti-submarine system consisted of aircraft, surface combat vessels and submarines, according to the Chinese Internet.
Meanwhile, the Tokyo-based Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force plans to increase the number of its submarines from 16 to 22 by 2021. Using Soryu-class diesel-electric submarines as an example, the paper stated that the size of the new Japanese submarines will become larger. As the first class of Japanese submarines to be equipped with air-independent propulsion system, the Soryu-class diesel-electric submarine can operate under water for nearly two weeks.
The Soryu-class is also much more powerful than its predecessors, the Harushio and Narushio-class submarines, as it is equipped with Type 89 torpedoes and UGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Even though Japan is not permitted under its constitution to have its own nuclear-powered submarine, conventional submarines like the Soryu-class are already a dangerous threat to China's maritime communication lines, the paper said, adding that Japanese submarines have a longer patrol range and more powerful weapons systems.
|Gaoxin-6 anti-submarine aircraft|
In addition, the United States is deploying more submarines to the Asia-Pacific region. At the US military base in Yokosuka, there are between five and six submarines under the command of the Seventh Fleet. Next year, the US will deploy four more nuclear-powered submarines to Guam, while strategic targets in China are in range of the 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles equipped by a single Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine.
To counter Chinese submarines in a potential conflict, Japan recently purchased 70 P-1 jet planes from Kawasaki Heavy Industries to replace its US-built P-3C jet. The delivery of the first two P-1 aircraft to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force took place on Mar. 26. In addition to fixed-wing aircraft, the country's new helicopter carrier, the Izumo, is able to carry 14 SH-60K anti-submarine helicopters into battle.
Ships of the World, a Japanese military magazine, indicated that the Self-Defense Force currently has 44 destroyers and nine frigates to form the nation's surface combat fleet against the PLA Navy. While some of those destroyers are used in air defense operations, more of them are designated to combat Chinese submarines. Facing this new challenge, the PLA Navy must adopt new tactics to defend its submarines against a potential joint anti-submarine operation launched by the US and Japan.
Cheng Chi-wen, chief editor of the Taipei-based Asia-Pacific Defense, said that what the PLA Navy needs most is fixed-wing aircraft for anti-submarine operations. Currently, China can only rely on its Y-8 transport aircraft for such a mission as it is capable of carrying torpedoes, depth charges and mines.
Shi Hong, a Chinese military analyst, said China needs more fixed-wing aircraft because the patrol range for helicopters is too short. He added that several Y-8 transport aircraft have been modified into Gaoxin-6 anti-submarine aircraft. With more advanced systems and greater range, the PLA Navy Air Force can conduct anti-submarine operations as far as the Second Island Chain — a series of island groups that runs north to south from the Japanese archipelago to the Bonin and Marshall islands.
In addition to maritime patrol aircraft, anti-submarine helicopters, surface combat vessels and submarines, an Underwater Sound Surveillance System will be a crucial weapon for the PLA Navy to monitor the movements of American and Japanese submarines, Shi said. However, China does not yet have such a sophisticated surveillance system, he added.