China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress




China Naval Modernization: Implications for
U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and
Issues for Congress

Updated December 17, 2020
Congressional Research Service
https://crsreports.congress.gov
RL33153




China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities

Summary
In an era of renewed great power competition, China’s military modernization effort, including its
naval modernization effort, has become the top focus of U.S. defense planning and budgeting.
China’s navy, which China has been steadily modernizing for more than 25 years, since the early
to mid-1990s, has become a formidable military force within China’s near-seas region, and it is
conducting a growing number of operations in more-distant waters, including the broader waters
of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and waters around Europe.
China’s navy is viewed as posing a major challenge to the U.S. Navy’s ability to achieve and
maintain wartime control of blue-water ocean areas in the Western Pacific—the first such
challenge the U.S. Navy has faced since the end of the Cold War—and forms a key element of a
Chinese challenge to the long-standing status of the United States as the leading military power in
the Western Pacific. Some U.S. observers are expressing concern or alarm regarding the pace of
China’s naval shipbuilding effort, particularly for building larger surface ships, and resulting
trend lines regarding the relative sizes China’s navy and the U.S. Navy.
China’s naval modernization effort encompasses a wide array of ship, aircraft, and weapon
acquisition programs, as well as improvements in maintenance and logistics, doctrine, personnel
quality, education and training, and exercises. China’s navy has currently has certain limitations
and weaknesses, and is working to overcome them.
China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is assessed as
being aimed at developing capabilities for addressing the situation with Taiwan militarily, if need
be; for achieving a greater degree of control or domination over China’s near-seas region,
particularly the South China Sea; for enforcing China’s view that it has the right to regulate
foreign military activities in its 200-mile maritime exclusive economic zone (EEZ); for defending
China’s commercial sea lines of communication (SLOCs), particularly those linking China to the
Persian Gulf; for displacing U.S. influence in the Western Pacific; and for asserting China’s status
as the leading regional power and a major world power.
Consistent with these goals, observers believe China wants its navy to be capable of acting as part
of a Chinese anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) force—a force that can deter U.S. intervention in a
conflict in China’s near-seas region over Taiwan or some other issue, or failing that, delay the
arrival or reduce the effectiveness of intervening U.S. forces. Additional missions for China’s
navy include conducting maritime security (including antipiracy) operations, evacuating Chinese
nationals from foreign countries when necessary, and conducting humanitarian assistance/disaster
response (HA/DR) operations.
The U.S. Navy in recent years has taken a number of actions to counter China’s naval
modernization effort. Among other things, the U.S. Navy has shifted a greater percentage of its
fleet to the Pacific; assigned its most-capable new ships and aircraft and its best personnel to the
Pacific; maintained or increased general presence operations, training and developmental
exercises, and engagement and cooperation with allied and other navies in the Indo-Pacific;
increased the planned future size of the Navy; initiated, increased, or accelerated numerous
programs for developing new military technologies and acquiring new ships, aircraft, unmanned
vehicles, and weapons; begun development of new operational concepts (i.e., new ways to
employ Navy and Marine Corps forces) for countering Chinese maritime A2/AD forces; and
signaled that the Navy in coming years will shift to a more-distributed fleet architecture that will
feature a smaller portion of larger ships, a larger portion of smaller ships, and a substantially
greater use of unmanned vehicles. The issue for Congress is whether the U.S. Navy is responding
appropriately to China’s naval modernization effort.
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Contents
Introduction ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Issue for Congress ..................................................................................................................... 1
Sources and Terminology .......................................................................................................... 1

Background ..................................................................................................................................... 2
Brief Overview of China’s Naval Modernization Effort ........................................................... 2
Selected Elements of China’s Naval Modernization Effort ...................................................... 4
Anti-Ship Missiles .............................................................................................................. 5
Submarines .......................................................................................................................... 8
Aircraft Carriers ................................................................................................................. 11
Surface Combatants .......................................................................................................... 17
Amphibious Ships ............................................................................................................. 22
Operations Away from Home Waters ................................................................................ 27
Numbers of Ships; Comparisons to U.S. Navy ....................................................................... 27
Ultimate Size and Composition of China’s Navy Not Publicly Known ........................... 27
Number of Ships Is a One-Dimensional Measure, but Trends in Numbers Can Be
of Value Analytically ..................................................................................................... 28
Three Tables Showing Numbers of Chinese and U.S. Navy Ships ................................... 28
U.S. Navy Response ................................................................................................................ 33
Issues for Congress ........................................................................................................................ 34
Overview ........................................................................................................................... 34
Discussion ......................................................................................................................... 35
Legislative Activity for FY2021 .................................................................................................... 37
Coverage in Related CRS Reports .......................................................................................... 37
FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 6395/S. 4049) ........................................ 38
House ................................................................................................................................ 38
Senate ................................................................................................................................ 44
Conference ........................................................................................................................ 48

Figures
Figure 1. DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) .................................................................. 5
Figure 2. DF-26 Multi-Role Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) ................................... 6
Figure 3. Reported Image of Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) .................................................... 7
Figure 4. Reported Image of Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) .................................................... 7
Figure 5. Reported Image of Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) .................................................... 8
Figure 6. Yuan (Type 039) Attack Submarine (SS) ......................................................................... 9
Figure 7. Shang (Type 093) Attack Submarine (SSN) .................................................................. 10
Figure 8. Jin (Type 094) Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN) ...................................................... 11
Figure 9. Liaoning (Type 001) Aircraft Carrier ............................................................................. 12
Figure 10. Shandong (Type 002) Aircraft Carrier ......................................................................... 13
Figure 11. Type 003 Aircraft Carrier Under Construction ............................................................. 14
Figure 12. J-15 Flying Shark Carrier-Capable Fighter .................................................................. 16
Figure 13. Renhai (Type 055) Cruiser (or Large Destroyer) ......................................................... 18
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Figure 14. Renhai (Type 055) Cruiser (or Large Destroyer) ......................................................... 18
Figure 15. Luyang III (Type 052D) Destroyer .............................................................................. 20
Figure 16. Jiangkai II (Type 054A) Frigate .................................................................................. 21
Figure 17. Jingdao (Type 056) Corvette ....................................................................................... 22
Figure 18. Yuzhao (Type 071) Amphibious Ship ........................................................................... 23
Figure 19. Type 075 Amphibious Assault Ship ............................................................................. 24
Figure 20. Type 075 Amphibious Assault Ship ............................................................................. 25
Figure 21. Type 075 Amphibious Assault Ship ............................................................................. 25
Figure 22. Notional Rendering of Possible Type 076 Amphibious Assault Ship .......................... 26
Figure 23. Notional Rendering of Possible Type 076 Amphibious Assault Ship .......................... 26

Tables
Table 1. Numbers of Certain Types of Chinese and U.S. Ships Since 2005 ................................. 30
Table 2. Numbers of Chinese and U.S. Navy Battle Force Ships, 2000-2030 .............................. 32
Table 3. Numbers of Chinese and U.S. Navy Ships, 2020-2040 ................................................... 33

Appendixes
Appendix A. Comparing U.S. and Chinese Naval Capabilities .................................................... 53
Appendix B. U.S. Navy’s Ability to Counter Chinese ASBMs .................................................... 56

Contacts
Author Information ........................................................................................................................ 59

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China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities

Introduction
Issue for Congress
This report provides background information and issues for Congress on China’s naval
modernization effort and its implications for U.S. Navy capabilities. In an era of renewed great
power competition,1 China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization
effort, has become the top focus of U.S. defense planning and budgeting.2 The issue for Congress
for this CRS report is whether the U.S. Navy is responding appropriately to China’s naval
modernization effort. Decisions that Congress reaches on this issue could affect U.S. and allied
security, Navy capabilities and funding requirements, and the defense industrial base.
Sources and Terminology
This report is based on unclassified open-source information, such as the annual Department of
Defense (DOD) report to Congress on military and security developments involving China,3 a
2019 Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report on China’s military power,4 a 2015 Office of
Naval Intelligence (ONI) report on China’s navy,5 published reference sources such as IHS Jane’s
Fighting Ships
,6 and press reports.
For convenience, this report uses the term China’s naval modernization effort to refer to the
modernization not only of China’s navy, but also of Chinese military forces outside China’s navy
that can be used to counter U.S. naval forces operating in the Western Pacific, such as land-based
anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), land-based surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), land-based Air
Force aircraft armed with anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), and land-based long-range radars
for detecting and tracking ships at sea.
China’s military is formally called the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Its navy is called the
PLA Navy, or PLAN (also abbreviated as PLA[N]), and its air force is called the PLA Air Force,

1 For further discussion of the shift to an era of renewed great power competition, see CRS Report R43838, Renewed
Great Power Competition: Implications for Defense—Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
2 See, for example, Mark Esper, “The Pentagon Is Prepared for China,” Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2020; Tom
Rogan, “Defense Secretary Mark Esper: It's China, China, China,” Washington Examiner, August 28, 2019; Melissa
Leon and Jennifer Griffin, “Pentagon 'Very Carefully' Watching China, It’s ‘No. 1 Priority,’ Defense Secretary Mark
Esper Tells Fox News,” Fox News, August 22, 2019; Missy Ryan and Dan Lamothe, “Defense Secretary Wants to
Deliver on the Goal of Outpacing China. Can He Do It?” Washington Post, August 6, 2019; Sandra Erwin, “New
Pentagon Chief Shanahan Urges Focus on China and ‘Great Power Competition,’ Space News, January 2, 2019; Ryan
Browne, “New Acting Secretary of Defense Tells Pentagon ‘to Remember China, China, China,’” CNN, January 2,
2019; Paul McCleary, “Acting SecDef Shanahan’s First Message: ‘China, China, China,’” Breaking Defense, January
2, 2019.
3 Department of Defense, Annual Report to Congress, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s
Republic of China 2020
, generated on August 21, 2020, released on September 1, 2020, 173 pp. Hereinafter 2020 DOD
CMSD
.
4 Defense Intelligence Agency, China Military Power, Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win, 2019, 125 pp.
Hereinafter 2019 DIA CMP.
5 Office of Naval Intelligence, The PLA Navy, New Capabilities and Missions for the 21st Century, undated but released
in April 2015, 47 pp.
6 IHS Jane’s Fighting Ships 2018-2019, and previous editions. Other sources of information on these shipbuilding
programs may disagree regarding projected ship commissioning dates or other details, but sources present similar
overall pictures regarding PLA Navy shipbuilding.
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or PLAAF. The PLA Navy includes an air component that is called the PLA Naval Air Force, or
PLANAF. China refers to its ballistic missile force as the PLA Rocket Force (PLARF).
This report uses the term China’s near-seas region to refer to the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and
South China Sea—the waters enclosed by the so-called first island chain. The so-called second
island chain
encloses both these waters and the Philippine Sea that is situated between the
Philippines and Guam.7
Background
Brief Overview of China’s Naval Modernization Effort
Key overview points concerning China’s naval modernization effort include the following:
 China’s naval modernization effort, which forms part of a broader Chinese
military modernization effort that includes several additional areas of emphasis,8
has been underway for more than 25 years, since the early to mid-1990s, and has
transformed China’s navy into a much more modern and capable force. China’s
navy is a formidable military force within China’s near-seas region, and it is
conducting a growing number of operations in more-distant waters, including the
broader waters of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and waters around
Europe.
 China’s navy is, by far, the largest of any country in East Asia, and within the
past few years it has surpassed the U.S. Navy in numbers of battle force ships
(meaning the types of ships that count toward the quoted size of the U.S. Navy),
making China’s navy the numerically largest in the world. Some U.S. observers
are expressing concern or alarm regarding the pace of China’s naval shipbuilding
effort, particularly for building larger surface ships, and resulting trend lines
regarding the relative sizes China’s navy and the U.S. Navy. ONI states that at
the end of 2020, China’s will have 360 battle force ships, compared with a
projected total of 297 for the U.S. Navy at the end of FY2020. ONI projects that
China will have 400 battle force ships by 2025, and 425 by 2030.9
 China’s naval ships, aircraft, and weapons are now much more modern and
capable than they were at the start of the 1990s, and are now comparable in many
respects to those of Western navies. ONI states that “Chinese naval ship design

7 For a map showing the first and second island chains, see 2019 DIA CMP, p. 32.
8 Other areas of emphasis in China’s military modernization effort include space capabilities, cyber and electronic
warfare capabilities, ballistic missile forces, and aviation forces, as well as the development of emerging military-
applicable technologies such as hypersonics, artificial intelligence, robotics and unmanned vehicles, directed-energy
technologies, and quantum technologies. For a discussion of advanced military technologies, see CRS In Focus
IF11105, Defense Primer: Emerging Technologies, by Kelley M. Sayler.
U.S.-China competition in military capabilities in turn forms one dimension of a broader U.S.-China strategic
competition that also includes political, diplomatic, economic, technological, and ideological dimensions.
9 Source for China’s number of battle force ships: Unclassified ONI information paper prepared for Senate Armed
Services Committee, subject “UPDATED China: Naval Construction Trends vis-à-vis U.S. Navy Shipbuilding Plans,
2020-2030,” February 2020, p. 3. Provided by Senate Armed Services Committee to CRS and CBO on March 4, 2020,
and used in this CRS report with the committee’s permission.
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and material quality is in many cases comparable to [that of] USN [U.S. Navy]
ships, and China is quickly closing the gap in any areas of deficiency.”10
 China’s navy is viewed as posing a major challenge to the U.S. Navy’s ability to
achieve and maintain wartime control of blue-water ocean areas in the Western
Pacific—the first such challenge the U.S. Navy has faced since the end of the
Cold War. China’s navy forms a key element of a Chinese challenge to the long-
standing status of the United States as the leading military power in the Western
Pacific.
 China’s naval modernization effort encompasses a wide array of platform and
weapon acquisition programs, including anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs),
anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), submarines, surface ships, aircraft, unmanned
vehicles (UVs), and supporting C4ISR (command and control, communications,
computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) systems. China’s naval
modernization effort also includes improvements in maintenance and logistics,
doctrine, personnel quality, education and training, and exercises.11
 China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is
assessed as being aimed at developing capabilities for addressing the situation
with Taiwan militarily, if need be; for achieving a greater degree of control or
domination over China’s near-seas region, particularly the South China Sea; for
enforcing China’s view that it has the right to regulate foreign military activities
in its 200-mile maritime exclusive economic zone (EEZ);12 for defending China’s
commercial sea lines of communication (SLOCs), particularly those linking
China to the Persian Gulf; for displacing U.S. influence in the Western Pacific;
and for asserting China’s status as the leading regional power and a major world
power.13
 Consistent with these goals, observers believe China wants its navy to be capable
of acting as part of a Chinese anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) force—a force that
can deter U.S. intervention in a conflict in China’s near-seas region over Taiwan
or some other issue, or failing that, delay the arrival or reduce the effectiveness of
intervening U.S. forces. Additional missions for China’s navy include conducting
maritime security (including antipiracy) operations, evacuating Chinese nationals
from foreign countries when necessary, and conducting humanitarian assistance/
disaster response (HA/DR) operations.
 Until recently, China’s naval modernization effort appeared to be focused less on
increasing total platform (i.e., ship and aircraft) numbers than on increasing the
modernity and capability of Chinese platforms. Some categories of ships,
however, are now increasing in number. The planned ultimate size and

10 Source: Unclassified ONI information paper prepared for Senate Armed Services Committee, subject “UPDATED
China: Naval Construction Trends vis-à-vis U.S. Navy Shipbuilding Plans, 2020-2030,” February 2020, p. 3. Provided
by Senate Armed Services Committee to CRS and CBO on March 4, 2020, and used in this CRS report with the
committee’s permission.
11 See, for example, Roderick Lee, “The PLA Navy’s ZHANLAN Training Series: Supporting Offensive Strike on the
High Seas,” China Brief, April 13, 2020.
12 For additional discussion, see CRS Report R42784, U.S.-China Strategic Competition in South and East China Seas:
Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
13 For additional discussion, see Ryan D. Martinson, “Deciphering China’s ‘World-class’ Naval Ambitions,” U.S.
Naval Institute Proceedings
, August 2020.
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composition of China’s navy is not publicly known. In contrast to the U.S. Navy,
China does not release a navy force-level goal or detailed information about
planned ship procurement rates, planned total ship procurement quantities,
planned ship retirements, and resulting projected force levels.
 Although China’s naval modernization effort has substantially improved China’s
naval capabilities in recent years, China’s navy currently is assessed as having
limitations or weaknesses in certain areas,14 including joint operations with other
parts of China’s military, antisubmarine warfare (ASW), long-range targeting, a
limited capacity for carrying out at-sea resupply of combatant ships operating far
from home waters,15 a need to train large numbers of personnel to crew its new
ships,16 and a lack of recent combat experience.17 China is working to reduce or
overcome such limitations and weaknesses.18 Although China’s navy has
limitations and weaknesses, it may nevertheless be sufficient for performing
missions of interest to Chinese leaders. As China’s navy reduces its weaknesses
and limitations, it may become sufficient to perform a wider array of potential
missions.
 In addition to modernizing its navy, China in recent years has substantially
increased the size of its coast guard.19 China’s coast guard is, by far, the largest of
any country in East Asia. China also operates a sizeable maritime militia that
includes a large number of fishing vessels. China relies primarily on its maritime
militia and coast guard to assert and defend its maritime claims in its near-seas
region, with the navy operating over the horizon as a potential backup force.20
Selected Elements of China’s Naval Modernization Effort
This section provides a brief overview of elements of China’s naval modernization effort that
have attracted frequent attention from observers.

14 For a discussion focusing on these limitations or weaknesses, see Mike Sweeney, Assessing Chinese Maritime
Power
, Defense Priorities, October 2020, 14 pp.
15 See, for example, Will Mackenzie, “Commentary: It’s the Logistics, China,” National Defense, June 10, 2020.
16 See, for example, Minnie Chan, “China’s Navy Goes Back to Work on Big Ambitions but Long-Term Gaps
Remain,” South China Morning Post, August 22, 2020.
17 Some observers argue that corruption in China’s shipbuilding companies may be a source of additional weaknesses
in China’s naval modernization effort. See, for example, Zi Yang, “The Invisible Threat to China’s Navy: Corruption,”
Diplomat, May 19, 2020. See also Frank Chen, “Ex-PLA Navy Chief in Deep Water Amid War on Graft,” Asia Times,
June 26, 2020.
18 For example, China’s naval shipbuilding programs were previously dependent on foreign suppliers for some ship
components. ONI, however, states that “almost all weapons and sensors on Chinese naval ships are produced in-
country, and China no longer relies on Russia or other countries for any significant naval ship systems.” (Source:
Unclassified ONI information paper prepared for Senate Armed Services Committee, subject “UPDATED China:
Naval Construction Trends vis-à-vis U.S. Navy Shipbuilding Plans, 2020-2030,” February 2020, pp. 2-3. Provided by
Senate Armed Services Committee to CRS and CBO on March 4, 2020, and used in this CRS report with the
committee’s permission.)
19 For additional details, see 2020 DOD CMSD, p. 71, and 2019 DIA CMP, p. 78.
20 For additional discussion, see CRS Report R42784, U.S.-China Strategic Competition in South and East China Seas:
Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
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Anti-Ship Missiles
Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles (ASBMs)
China reportedly is fielding two types of land-based ballistic missiles with a capability of hitting
ships at sea—the DF-21D (Figure 1), a road-mobile anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) with a
range of more than 1,500 kilometers (i.e., more than 910 nautical miles), and the DF-26 (Figure
2
)
, a road-mobile, multi-role intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) with a maximum range
of about 4,000 kilometers (i.e., about 2,160 nautical miles) that DOD says “is capable of
conducting both conventional and nuclear precision strikes against ground targets as well as
conventional strikes against naval targets.”21 Until recently, reported test flights of DF-21s and
SDF-26s have not involved attempts to hit moving ships at sea. A November 14, 2020, press
report, however, stated that an August 2020 test firing of DF-21 and DF-26 ASBMs into the
South China resulted in the missiles successfully hitting a moving target ship south of the Paracel
Islands.22 A December 3, 2020, press report stated that Admiral Philip Davidson, the commander
of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, “confirmed, for the first time from the U.S. government side, that
China’s People’s Liberation Army has successfully tested an anti-ship ballistic missile against a
moving ship.”23 China reportedly is also developing hypersonic glide vehicles that, if
incorporated into Chinese ASBMs, could make Chinese ASBMs more difficult to intercept.24
Figure 1. DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM)

Source: Photograph accompanying Andrew S. Erickson, “China’s DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM)—
Officially Revealed at 3 September Parade—Complete Open Source Research Compendium,”
AndrewErickson.com, September 10, 2015, accessed August 28, 2019.

21 2020 DOD CMSD, p. 55.
22 Kristin Huang, “China’s ‘Aircraft-Carrier Killer’ Missiles Successfully Hit Target Ship in South China Sea, PLA
Insider Reveals,” South China Morning Post, November 1,4 2020. See also Peter Suciu, “Report: China’s ‘Aircraft-
Carrier Killer’ Missiles Hit Target Ship in August,” National Interest, November 15, 2020; Andrew Erickson, “China’s
DF-21D and DF-26B ASBMs: Is the U.S. Military Ready?” Real Clear Defense, November 16, 2020.
23 Josh Rogin, “China’s Military Expansion Will Test the Biden Administration,” Washington Post, December 3, 2020.
24 See, for example, Christian Davenport, “Why the Pentagon Fears the U.S. Is Losing the Hypersonic Arms Race with
Russia and China,” Washington Post, June 8, 2018; Keith Button, “Hypersonic Weapons Race,” Aerospace America,
June 2018.
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Observers have expressed strong concerns about China’s ASBMs, because such missiles, in
combination with broad-area maritime surveillance and targeting systems, would permit China to
attack aircraft carriers, other U.S. Navy ships, or ships of allied or partner navies operating in the
Western Pacific. The U.S. Navy has not previously faced a threat from highly accurate ballistic
missiles capable of hitting moving ships at sea. For this reason, some observers have referred to
ASBMs as a “game-changing” weapon.
Figure 2. DF-26 Multi-Role Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM)

Source: Photograph accompanying Missile Defense Project, "Dong Feng-26 (DF-26)," Missile Threat, Center for
Strategic and International Studies, January 8, 2018, last modified January 15, 2019, accessed August 28, 2019.
Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles (ASCMs)
China’s extensive inventory of anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) (see Figure 3, Figure 4, and
Figure 5 for examples of reported images) includes both Russian- and Chinese-made designs,
including some advanced and highly capable ones, such as the Chinese-made YJ-18.25 Although
China’s ASCMs do not always receive as much press attention as China’s ASBMs (perhaps
because ASBMs are a more-recent development), observers are nevertheless concerned about
them. As discussed later in this report, the relatively long ranges of certain Chinese ASCMs have
led to concerns among some observers that the U.S. Navy is not moving quickly enough to arm
U.S. Navy surface ships with similarly ranged ASCMs.


25 2020 DOD CMSD, p. 59.
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Figure 3. Reported Image of Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM)

Source: Detail of photograph accompanying Pierre Delrieu, “China Promotes Export of CM-302 Supersonic
ASCM,” Asian Military Review, July 3, 2017. (The article states “This is an article published in our December 2016
Issue.”) The article states “According to Chinese news media reports, the China Aerospace Science and Industry
Corporation(CASIC) CM-302 missile is being marketed for export as “the world’s best anti-ship missile.” The
missile was showcased at the Zhuhai air show in the southern People’s Republic of China (PRC) in early
November [2016], and is advertised as [a] supersonic Anti-Ship Missile (AShM) [ASCM] which can also be used
in the land attack role. The report, published by the national newspaper China Daily, suggest[s] that the CM-302
is the export version of CASIC’s YJ-12 supersonic AShM, which is in service with the PRC’s armed forces.”)
Figure 4. Reported Image of Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM)

Source: Photograph accompanying “YJ-18 Eagle Strike CH-SS-NX-13,” GlobalSecurity.org, updated October 1,
2019. The article states “A grand military parade was held in Beijing on 01 October 2019 to mark the People's
Republic of China's 70th founding anniversary.… One weapon featured was a new generation of anti-ship
missiles called YJ-18. China unveiled YJ-18/18A anti-ship cruise missiles in the National Day military parade in
central Beijing.”)
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Figure 5. Reported Image of Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM)

Source: Dennis M. Gormley, Andrew S. Erickson, and Jingdong Yuan, A Low-Visibility Force Multiplier, Assessing
China’s Cruise Missile Ambitions
, Published by National Defense University Press for the Center for the Study of
Chinese Military Affairs, Institute for National Strategic Studies, Washington, D.C., 2014. The image appears on
an unnumbered page fol owing page 14. The caption to the photograph states “YJ-83A/C-802A ASCM on display
at 2008 Zhuhai Airshow.” The photograph is credited to Associated Press/Wide World Photos.
Submarines
Overview
China has been steadily modernizing its submarine force, and most of its submarines are now
built to relatively modern Chinese and Russian designs. Qualitatively, China’s newest submarines
might not be as capable as Russia’s newest submarines,26 but compared to China’s earlier
submarines, which were built to antiquated designs, its newer submarines are much more capable.
Types and Numbers
Most of China’s submarines are non-nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSs). China also
operates a small number of nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) and a small number of
nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). The number of SSNs and SSBNs may
grow in coming years, but the force will likely continue to consist mostly of SSs. DOD states that
“The PLAN will likely maintain between 65 and 70 submarines through the 2020s, replacing
older units with more capable units on a near one-to-one basis.”27 ONI states that “China’s

26 Observers have sometimes characterized Russia’s submarines rather than China’s as being the most capable faced by
the U.S. Navy. See, for example, Joe Gould and Aaron Mehta, “US Could Lose a Key Weapon for Tracking Chinese
and Russian Subs,” Defense News, May 1, 2019; Dave Majumdar, “Why the U.S. Navy Fears Russia's Submarines,”
National Interest, October 12, 2018; John Schaus, Lauren Dickey, and Andrew Metrick, “Asia’s Looming Subsurface
Challenge,” War on the Rocks, August 11, 2016; Paul McLeary, “Chinese, Russian Subs Increasingly Worrying the
Pentagon,” Foreign Policy, February 24, 2016; Dave Majumdar, “U.S. Navy Impressed with New Russian Attack
Boat,” USNI News, October 28, 2014.
27 2020 DOD CMSD, p. 45.
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submarine force continues to grow at a low rate, though with substantially more-capable
submarines replacing older units. Current expansion at submarine production yards could allow
higher future production numbers.” ONI projects that China’s submarine force will grow from a
total of 66 boats (4 SSBNs, 7 SSNs, and 55 SSs) in 2020 to 76 boats (8 SSBNs, 13 SSNs, and 55
SSs) in 2030.28
China’s newest series-built SS design is the Yuan-class (Type 039) SS (Figure 6), its newest SSN
class is the Shang-class (Type 093) SSN (Figure 7), and its newest SSBN class is the Jin (Type
094) class SSBN (Figure 8). In May 2020, it was reported that two additional Type 094 SSBNs
had entered service, increasing the total number in service to six.29
Figure 6. Yuan (Type 039) Attack Submarine (SS)

Source: Photograph accompanying “Type 039A Yuan class,” SinoDefence.com, July 10, 2018, accessed August
28, 2019.
DOD states that since the mid-1990s, “China’s shipyards have delivered 13 Song class SS units
(Type 039) and 17 Yuan class diesel-electric air-independent-powered attack submarine (SSP)
(Type 039A/B). The PRC is expected to produce a total of 25 or more Yuan class submarines by
2025.”30 DOD states further:
Over the past 15 years, the PLAN has constructed twelve nuclear submarines—two Shang
I class SSNs (Type 093), four Shang II class SSNs (Type 093A), and six Jin class SSBNs
(Type 094), two of which were awaiting entry into service in late 2019. Equipped with the

28 Source: Unclassified ONI information paper prepared for Senate Armed Services Committee, subject “UPDATED
China: Naval Construction Trends vis-à-vis U.S. Navy Shipbuilding Plans, 2020-2030,” February 2020, p. 1. Provided
by Senate Armed Services Committee to CRS and CBO on March 4, 2020, and used in this CRS report with the
committee’s permission.
29 See, for example, Peter Suciu, “China Now Has Six Type 094A Jin-Class Nuclear Powered Missile Submarines,”
National Interest, May 6, 2020.
30 2020 DOD CMSD, p. 45.
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CSS-N-14 (JL-2) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the PLAN’s four
operational Jin class SSBNs represent the PRC’s first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent.
Each Jin class SSBN can carry up to 12 JL-2 SLBMs.…China’s next-generation Type 096
SSBN, which will likely begin construction in the early-2020s, will reportedly carry a new
type of SLBM. The PLAN is expected to operate the Type 094 and Type 096 SSBNs
concurrently and could have up to eight SSBNs by 2030….
By the mid-2020s, China will likely build the Type 093B guided-missile nuclear attack
submarine. This new Shang class variant will enhance the PLAN’s anti-surface warfare
capability and could provide a clandestine land-attack option if equipped with land-attack
cruise missiles (LACMs).”31
Figure 7. Shang (Type 093) Attack Submarine (SSN)

Source: Photograph accompanying SinoDefence.com, “Type 093 Shang Class,” July 1, 2018, accessed August 27,
2019, at http://sinodefence.com/type093_shang-class/.
Submarine Weapons
China’s submarines are armed with one or more of the following: ASCMs, wire-guided and
wake-homing torpedoes, and mines. Wake-homing torpedoes can be very difficult for surface
ships to decoy. Each Jin-class SSBN is armed with 12 JL-2 nuclear-armed submarine-launched
ballistic missiles (SLBMs).32


31 2020 DOD CMSD, p. 45.
32 DOD estimates the range of the JL-2 at 7,200 km (2020 DOD CMSD, p. 58). Such a range could permit Jin-class
SSBNs to attack targets in Alaska (except the Alaskan panhandle) from protected bastions close to China, targets in
Hawaii (as well as targets in Alaska, except the Alaskan panhandle) from locations south of Japan, targets in the
western half of the 48 contiguous states (as well as Hawaii and Alaska) from mid-ocean locations west of Hawaii, or
targets in all 50 states from mid-ocean locations east of Hawaii.
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Figure 8. Jin (Type 094) Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN)

Source: Photograph accompanying Minnie Chan, “China Puts a Damper on Navy’s 70th Anniversary
Celebrations As It Tries to Al ay Fears Over Rising Strength,” South China Morning Post, April 23, 2019. The
article credits the photograph to Xinhua.
Aircraft Carriers
Overview33
China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning (Type 001) (Figure 9), entered service in 2012. China’s
second aircraft carrier (and its first fully indigenously built carrier), Shandong (Type 002) (Figure
10
)
entered service on December 17, 2019. Chinese press reports in October 2020 stated that the
ship has completed testing and is scheduled to be “combat ready” by the end of 2020.34 China’s
third carrier, the Type 003 (Figure 11), is under construction; ONI expects it to enter service by

33 For an article providing a review of developments in China’s aircraft carrier and carrier-based aircraft programs, see
Rick Joe, “003 and More: An Update on China’s Aircraft Carriers,” Diplomat, September 29, 2020. Consistent with the
discussion in that article, this CRS report uses the following updated designations of China’s carriers: China’s second
aircraft carrier, previously referred to as the Type 001A, is now referred to as the Type 002; the next aircraft carrier
design after that, previously referred to as the Type 002, is now referred to as the Type 003, and the potential design
that could follow, previously referred to as the Type 003, is now referred to as the Type 004.
34 Leng Shumei, “China’s 2nd Aircraft Carrier Shandong Completes Testing, Training Mission, to be Combat-Ready
by Year-End,” Global Times, October 27, 2020. (A similar report was published as Global Times, “China's 2nd
Aircraft Carrier Shandong Completes Testing, Training Mission, to be Combat-Ready by Year-End,” People’s Daily
Online
, October 28, 2020.)
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2024.35 China’s fourth carrier, reportedly also to be built to the Type 003 design, reportedly may
begin construction as early as 2021.36
Figure 9. Liaoning (Type 001) Aircraft Carrier

Source: Photograph accompanying China Power Team, “How Does China’s First Aircraft Carrier Stack Up?”
China Power (Center for Strategic and International Studies), December 9, 2015, updated December 14, 2018,
accessed August 28, 2019.
Like Liaoning and Shandong, the Type 003 carriers are to be conventionally powered. By
comparison, U.S. Navy aircraft carriers are nuclear powered (giving them greater cruising
endurance than a conventionally powered ship), have a full load displacement of about 100,000
tons, can accommodate air wings of 60 or more aircraft, including fixed-wing aircraft and some
helicopters, and launch their fixed-wing aircraft over both their bows and their angled decks using
catapults, which can give those aircraft a range/payload capability greater than that of aircraft
launched with a ski ramp. The Liaoning, like U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, lands fixed-wing aircraft
using arresting wires on its angled deck.
ONI states that “China has two shipyards expected to be used for aircraft carrier production,
though several other large commercial yards could, in theory, also build carriers.” Observers have
speculated that China may eventually field a force of four to six (or possibly more than six)
aircraft carriers. In late November 2019, it was reported that the Chinese government, while
deciding to proceed with the construction of the fourth carrier, had put on hold plans to build a
fifth carrier, known as the Type 004, which was to be nuclear-powered, due to budgetary and

35 Source: Unclassified ONI information paper prepared for Senate Armed Services Committee, subject “UPDATED
China: Naval Construction Trends vis-à-vis U.S. Navy Shipbuilding Plans, 2020-2030,” February 2020, p. 4. Provided
by Senate Armed Services Committee to CRS and CBO on March 4, 2020, and used in this CRS report with the
committee’s permission.
36 Minnie Chan, “Chinese Navy Set to Build Fourth Aircraft Carrier, but Plans for a More Advanced Ship Are Put on
Hold,” South China Morning Post, November 28, 2019.
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technical considerations. Observers expect that it will be some time before China masters carrier-
based aircraft operations on a substantial scale.
Figure 10. Shandong (Type 002) Aircraft Carrier

Source: Photograph accompanying Daniel Brown, “China's Newest Aircraft Carrier Is Actually Very Outdated
— But Its Next One Should Worry the US Navy A Lot,” Business Insider, July 18, 2018. The article credits the
photograph to Reuters.
Liaoning (Type 001)
Liaoning
is a refurbished ex-Ukrainian aircraft carrier that China purchased from Ukraine in 1998
as an unfinished ship.37 It is conventionally powered, has an estimated full load displacement of
60,000 to 66,000 tons, and reportedly can accommodate an air wing of 30 or more fixed-wing
airplanes and helicopters, including 24 fighters. The Liaoning lacks aircraft catapults and instead
launches fixed-wing airplanes off the ship’s bow using an inclined “ski ramp.”
Some observers have referred to the Liaoning as China’s “starter” carrier. China has been using
Liaoning in part for pilot training. In May 2018, China reportedly announced that the aircraft
carrier group formed around Liaoning had reached initial operational capability (IOC),38 although
that term might not mean the same as it does when used by DOD in connection with U.S. weapon
systems.

37 Prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union and the place
where the Soviet Union built its aircraft carriers.
38 Andrew Tate, “Liaoning Carrier Group Reaches Initial Operational Capability, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, June 4,
2018. See also Travis Fedschun, “China Says Carrier Group Reaches ‘Initial’ Combat Capability,” Fox News, May 31,
2018; “China’s First Aircraft Carrier Formation Capable of Systemic Combat Operation,” CGTV.com, May 31, 2018;
Global Times, “Chinese Aircraft Carrier Forming All-Weather Combat Capability with Successful Night Takeoff and
Landing,” People’s Daily Online, May 29, 2018.
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Shandong (Type 002)
Shandong
is a modified version of the Liaoning design that incorporates some design
improvements, including features that reportedly will permit it to embark and operate a larger air
wing of 40 aircraft that includes 36 fighters.39 Its displacement is estimated at 66,000 to 70,000
tons.
Type 003 Carriers
Press reports have generally stated that China’s Type 003 carriers may have a displacement of
80,000 tons to 85,000 tons. A November 29, 2020, press report, however, states that satellite
images of the first Type 003 carrier under construction suggest that this estimate may be a bit low,
and that the Type 003 carriers will be closer in displacement to U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, which
have a displacement of about 100,000 tons.40 The Type 003 carriers are expected to be equipped
with electromagnetic catapults rather than a ski ramp, which will improve the range/payload
capability of the fixed-wing aircraft that they operate.
Figure 11. Type 003 Aircraft Carrier Under Construction


Source: Photograph accompanying China Power Team, “Tracking China’s Third Aircraft Carrier,” China Power,
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), May 6, 2019 (updated September 17, 2020), accessed
October 28, 2020, at https://chinapower.csis.org/china-carrier-type-002/.
The start of construction of the first Type 003 carrier was announced in the Chinese press in
November 2018.41 A July 18, 2020, press report states

39 See, for example, Liu Xuanzun, “China’s Second Aircraft Carrier Can Carry 50% More Fighter Jets Than Its First,”
Global Times, August 13, 2019; Liu Zhen, “China’s New Aircraft Carrier to Pack More Jet Power Than the Liaoning,”
South China Morning Post, August 15, 2019.
40 Jamie Siedel, “China’s First Fully Combat-Capable Aircraft Carrier Reveals Xi’s Master Plan,” news.com.au,
November 29, 2020.
41 See, for example, Zhao Lei, “China Launches Work on Third Aircraft Carrier, Xinhia Says,” China Daily, November
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China is expected to launch42 its next-generation aircraft carrier within a year and
construction on a sister ship for the new giant vessel has been hastened, two sources close
to the projects said.
The Type 002 [now called Type 003] aircraft carrier—the country’s third carrier and the
second to be domestically developed—has started the final assembly process, two
independent sources told the South China Morning Post.
“Assembly of the new aircraft carrier has begun and is expected to be completed in the first
half of next year, because the Covid-19 pandemic slowed down progress,” said the first
source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
“Workers are also starting the keel-laying for the new carrier’s sister ship. Both ships have
been built by the Jiangnan Shipyard outside Shanghai.”43
Type 004 Carrier
A March 15, 2018, press report stated that following the Type 003 carrier design, China was to
begin building a Type 004 carrier design that would displace 90,000 to 100,000 tons and, in
addition to being equipped with electromagnetic catapults, be nuclear powered.44 As mentioned
above, in late November 2019, it was reported that the Chinese government had put on hold plans
to build this Type 004 design.
Possible Type 076 Catapult-Equipped Amphibious Assault Ship
See also the discussion of the possible catapult-equipped Type 076 amphibious assault ship
(Figure 22 and Figure 23) in the section on China’s amphibious ships.
Commercial Heavy-Lift Ship Reportedly Used in Exercise as Helicopter Carrier
In August 2020, it was reported that China had used a commercial heavy-lift ship in a military
exercise as a platform for operating at least two PLA Army helicopters.45
Carrier-Based Aircraft
China’s primary carrier-based fighter aircraft is the J-15 or Flying Shark (Figure 12), an aircraft
derived from the Russian Su-33 Flanker aircraft design that can operate from carriers equipped
with a ski ramp rather than catapults. China reportedly plans to develop a carrier-capable variant

26, 2018; Liu Xuanzun (Global Times), “China’s 3rd Aircraft Carrier Under Construction, to Be Equipped with New
Technologies, People’s Daily Online, November 27, 2018.
42 The term launch means that the ship is put into the water for the final stages of its construction.
43 Minnie Chan, “China Steps Up Shipbuilding with Two More Aircraft Carriers Under Construction Towards 2035
Navy Goal,” South China Morning Post, July 18, 2020. See also China Power Team, “Tracking China’s Third Aircraft
Carrier, China Power, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), May 6, 2019 (updated September 17,
2020), accessed October 28, 2020, at https://chinapower.csis.org/china-carrier-type-002/; Gerry Shih, “China’s Third
Aircraft Carrier Takes Shape, with Ambitions to Challenge U.S. Naval Dominance,” Washington Post, October 16,
2020; Liu Xuanzun, “China’s 3rd Aircraft Carrier ‘Progressing Smoothly,” Global Times, September 13, 2020.
44 Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer, “A Chinese Shipbuilder Accidentally Revealed Its Major Navy Plans,” Popular
Science
, March 15, 2018.
45 David Axe, “Surprise! The Chinese Navy Just Transformed This Cargo Ship Into An Instant Helicopter Carrier,”
Forbes, August 22, 2020; Dave Makichuk, “PLA Army Tests Commercial Ships as Wartime Flight Decks,” Asia
Times
, August 25, 2020; John Dotson, “Semi-Submersible Heavy Lift Vessels: A New “Maritime Relay Platform” for
PLA Cross-Strait Operations?” Jamestown Foundation, August 31, 2020.
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of its J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighter and/or a carrier-capable variant of its FC-31 fifth-
generation stealth fighter to complement or succeed the J-15 on catapult-equipped Chinese
carriers.46 China reportedly is also developing a carrier-based airborne early warning (AEW)
aircraft, called the KJ-600, that is similar to the U.S. Navy’s carrier-based E-2 Hawkeye AEW
aircraft,47 and stealth drone aircraft.48
Figure 12. J-15 Flying Shark Carrier-Capable Fighter

Source: Photograph accompanying “China Developing Elite New Variants of the J-15 Flying Shark to Deploy
from EMALS Equipped Future Carriers; Implications for the Balance of Power at Sea,” Military Watch Magazine,
August 17, 2018, accessed August 28, 2019.
Roles and Missions
Although aircraft carriers might have some value for China in Taiwan-related conflict scenarios,
they are not considered critical for Chinese operations in such scenarios, because Taiwan is within
range of land-based Chinese aircraft. Consequently, most observers believe that China is

46 See Kris Osborn, “Is China Building Its Own F-35 Fighter Jets for its Aircraft Carriers?” National Interest, July 3,
2020; Caleb Larson, “FC-31: China’s Next Carrier Jet is Stolen and Stealthy,” National Interest, April 18, 2020;
Sebastien Roblin, “China’s New Aircraft Carriers Are Getting Stealth Fighters,” National Interest, October 26, 2019;
Rick Joe, “Beyond China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter,” Diplomat, September 20, 2019; Minnie Chan, “China’s Navy ‘Set to
Pick J-20 Stealth Jets for Its Next Generation Carriers,’” South China Morning Post, August 27, 2019. See also Thomas
Newdick, “New Images Of China’s Elusive Catapult-Capable J-15T Carrier Fighter Emerge,” The Drive, November
18, 2020.
47 See, for example, H. I. Sutton, “First Image Of China’s New Carrier-Based AEW Plane,” Forbes, August 29, 2020;
Liu Xuanzun, “China's First Carrier-Based, Fixed-Wing Early Warning Aircraft Makes Maiden Flight: Reports,”
Global Times, September 1, 2020; Peter Suciu, “The Xian KJ-600 Could Make China's Aircraft Carriers Far More
Powerful,” National Interest, September 5, 2020; Kris Osborn, “KJ-600: China’s New Surveillance Plane Will Make
Their Aircraft Carriers Even More Deadly,” National Interest, September 8, 2020.
48 Minnie Chan, “China to Deploy Sharp Sword Stealth Drone for New Type 001A Aircraft Carrier,” South China
Morning Post
, September 17, 2019.
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acquiring carriers primarily for their value in other kinds of operations, and to demonstrate
China’s status as a leading regional power and major world power. Chinese aircraft carriers could
be used for power-projection operations, particularly in scenarios that do not involve opposing
U.S. forces, and to impress or intimidate foreign observers.49
Chinese aircraft carriers could also be used for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief
(HA/DR) operations, maritime security operations (such as antipiracy operations), and
noncombatant evacuation operations (NEOs). Politically, aircraft carriers could be particularly
valuable to China for projecting an image of China as a major world power, because aircraft
carriers are viewed by many as symbols of major world power status. In a combat situation
involving opposing U.S. naval and air forces, Chinese aircraft carriers would be highly vulnerable
to attack by U.S. ships and aircraft, but conducting such attacks could divert U.S. ships and
aircraft from performing other missions in a conflict situation with China.
Surface Combatants
Overview
China since the early 1990s has put into service numerous new classes of indigenously built
surface combatants, including a new cruiser (or large destroyer), several classes of destroyers and
frigates, a new class of corvettes (i.e., light frigates), and a new class of missile-armed patrol
craft.
These new classes of surface combatants demonstrate a significant modernization of PLA Navy
surface combatant technology. DOD states that China’s navy “remains engaged in a robust
shipbuilding program for surface combatants, producing new guided-missile cruisers (CGs),
guided-missile destroyers (DDGs) and corvettes (FFLs). These assets will significantly upgrade
the air defense, anti-ship, and anti-submarine capabilities of China’s navy and will be critical as
China’s navy expands its operations beyond the range of the PLA’s shore-based air defense
systems.”50 DIA states that “the era of past designs has given way to production of modern
multimission destroyer, frigate, and corvette classes as China’s technological advancement in
naval design has begun to approach a level commensurate with, and in some cases exceeding, that
of other modern navies.”51 China is also upgrading its older surface combatants with new
weapons and other equipment.52
Type 055 Cruiser/Large Destroyer
China is building a new class of cruiser (or large destroyer), called the Renhai-class or Type 055
(Figure 13 and Figure 14), that reportedly displaces between 10,000 and 13,000 tons.53 By way
of comparison, the U.S. Navy’s Ticonderoga (CG-47) class cruisers and Arleigh Burke (DDG-51)
class destroyers (aka the U.S. Navy’s Aegis cruisers and destroyers) displace about 10,100 tons

49 For a discussion, see, for example, Bryan McGrath and Seth Cropsey, “The Real Reason China Wants Aircraft
Carriers, China’s Carrier Plans Target U.S. Alliances, Not Its Navy,” Real Clear Defense (www.realcleardefense.com),
April 10, 2014; Sebastien Roblin, “All of the Reasons Why the World Should Fear China’s Aircraft Carriers,” National
Interest
, October 24, 2017.
50 2020 DOD CMSD, pp. 45-46.
51 2019 DIA CMP, p. 70.
52 See, for example, H. I. Sutton, “China Increases Potency Of Anti-Carrier Capabilities,” Forbes, May 1, 2020; Peter
Suciu, “Chinese Warships Are Now Armed with Supersonic Anti-Ship Missiles,” National Interest, May 10, 2020.
53 For a discussion of the Type 055 design, see Sidharth Kaushal, “The Type 055: A Glimpse into the PLAN’s
Developmental Trajectory,” Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), October 19, 2020.
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