ICS Occasional Papers

Understanding China’s submarine capabilities: Undersea competition in the Indo-Pacific

The People’s Liberation Army Navy’s submarine fleet has, over the last few decades, undergone dynamic changes in operational capabilities as well as size. China still has a long way to go in counterforce capabilities vis-à-vis the US, which vehemently opposes its militarization of the South China Sea (SCS). With China’s position as a strong military power in East Asia and an economic powerhouse, the PLAN’s capabilities are instrumental in its power projection capabilities and in defence of its offshore interests. In this regard, its submarine fleet would play a big role in supplementing the PLA’s capabilities in the SCS and would enable the PLAN to break through US defences along the First Island Chain and in its sea based nuclear deterrence role to ensure a second strike capability. 

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