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 July 1, 2021
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 chal enge 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
chal enge the U.S. Navy has faced since the end of the Cold War. China’s navy forms a key
element of a Chinese chal enge 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 and resulting trend lines regarding the
relative sizes and capabilities of 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 wel 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 al ied 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 wil shift to a more-distributed fleet architecture that wil
feature a smal er portion of larger ships, a larger portion of smal er ships, and a substantial y
greater use of unmanned vehicles. The issue for Congress is whether the U.S. Navy is responding
appropriately to China’s naval modernization effort.
Congressional Research Service

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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
Numbers of Ships; Comparisons to U.S. Navy ............................................................... 5
Ultimate Size and Composition of China’s Navy Not Publicly Known ......................... 5
Number of Ships Is a One-Dimensional Measure, but Trends in Numbers Can Be

of Value Analytically.......................................................................................... 5
Three Tables Showing Numbers of Chinese and U.S. Navy Ships ................................ 5
Selected Elements of China’s Naval Modernization Effort ............................................. 10
Anti-Ship Missiles .............................................................................................. 10
Submarines ....................................................................................................... 14
Aircraft Carriers ................................................................................................. 17
Surface Combatants ............................................................................................ 23
Amphibious Ships .............................................................................................. 28
Operations Away from Home Waters ..................................................................... 33
U.S. Navy Response ................................................................................................ 33
Overview .......................................................................................................... 33
Cooperation with Naval Forces of Al ies and Other Countries ................................... 34
Size of Navy, Fleet Architecture, and Operational Concepts ...................................... 35
Programs for Acquiring Highly Capable Ships, Aircraft, and Weapons........................ 37
Issues for Congress ....................................................................................................... 37
Overview .......................................................................................................... 37
Discussion......................................................................................................... 38
Legislative Activity for FY2022 ...................................................................................... 42
Coverage in Related CRS Reports .............................................................................. 42

Figures
Figure 1. DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) ....................................................... 11
Figure 2. DF-26 Multi-Role Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM)............................. 11
Figure 3. Reported Image of Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) ........................................... 12
Figure 4. Reported Image of Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) ........................................... 13
Figure 5. Reported Image of Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) ........................................... 14
Figure 6. Yuan (Type 039) Attack Submarine (SS).............................................................. 15
Figure 7. Shang (Type 093) Attack Submarine (SSN) ......................................................... 16
Figure 8. Jin (Type 094) Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN) .............................................. 16
Figure 9. Liaoning (Type 001) Aircraft Carrier................................................................... 18
Figure 10. Shandong (Type 002) Aircraft Carrier................................................................ 19
Figure 11. Type 003 Aircraft Carrier Under Construction..................................................... 20
Figure 12. J-15 Flying Shark Carrier-Capable Fighter ......................................................... 22
Figure 13. Renhai (Type 055) Cruiser (or Large Destroyer) ................................................. 24
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Figure 14. Renhai (Type 055) Cruiser (or Large Destroyer) ................................................. 25
Figure 15. Luyang III (Type 052D) Destroyer .................................................................... 26
Figure 16. Jiangkai II (Type 054A) Frigate ....................................................................... 27
Figure 17. Jingdao (Type 056) Corvette............................................................................ 28
Figure 18. Yuzhao (Type 071) Amphibious Ship ................................................................. 29
Figure 19. Type 075 Amphibious Assault Ship ................................................................... 30
Figure 20. Type 075 Amphibious Assault Ship ................................................................... 31
Figure 21. Notional Rendering of Possible Type 076 Amphibious Assault Ship....................... 32
Figure 22. Notional Rendering of Possible Type 076 Amphibious Assault Ship....................... 32

Tables
Table 1. Numbers of Certain Types of Chinese and U.S. Ships Since 2005 ............................... 7
Table 2. Numbers of Chinese and U.S. Navy Battle Force Ships, 2000-2030 ............................ 9
Table 3. Numbers of Chinese and U.S. Navy Ships, 2020-2040 ............................................ 10

Appendixes
Appendix A. Comparing U.S. and Chinese Numbers of Ships and Naval Capabilities .............. 44
Appendix B. U.S. Navy’s Ability to Counter Chinese ASBMs ............................................. 47

Contacts
Author Information ....................................................................................................... 52

Congressional Research Service

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 al ied
security, Navy capabilities and funding requirements, and the defense industrial base.
Another CRS report provides an overview of China’s military in general.3
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,4 a
2019 Defense Intel igence Agency (DIA) report on China’s military power,5 a 2015 Office of
Naval Intel igence (ONI) report on China’s navy,6 published reference sources such as IHS Jane’s
Fighting Ships,7 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 bal istic 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.

1 For further discussion of the shift to an era of renewed great power competition, see CRS Report R43838, Renewed
Great Power Com petition: Im plications for Defense—Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
2 See, for example, Mark Esper, “ T he Pentagon Is Prepared for China,” Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2020; T om
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 T ells 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 T ells 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 CRS Report R46808, China’s Military: The People’s Liberation Army (PLA), by Caitlin Campbell.
4 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
.
5 Defense Intelligence Agency, China Military Power, Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win , 2019, 125 pp.
Hereinafter 2019 DIA CMP.
6 Office of Naval Intelligence, The PLA Navy, New Capabilities and Missions for the 21st Century, undated but released
in April 2015, 47 pp.
7 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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China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities

China’s military is formal y cal ed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Its navy is cal ed the
PLA Navy, or PLAN (also abbreviated as PLA[N]), and its air force is cal ed the PLA Air Force,
or PLAAF. The PLA Navy includes an air component that is cal ed the PLA Naval Air Force, or
PLANAF. China refers to its bal istic missile force as the PLA Rocket Force (PLARF).
This report uses the term China’s near-seas region to refer to the Yel ow Sea, East China Sea, and
South China Sea—the waters enclosed by the so-cal ed first island chain. The so-cal ed second
island chain
encloses both these waters and the Philippine Sea that is situated between the
Philippines and Guam.8
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,9
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 numerical y largest in the world.
 Some U.S. observers are expressing concern or alarm regarding the pace of
China’s naval shipbuilding effort and resulting trend lines regarding the relative
sizes and capabilities of China’s navy and the U.S. Navy.10 ONI states that at the
end of 2020, China’s wil 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 wil
have 400 battle force ships by 2025, and 425 by 2030.11

8 For a map showing the first and second island chains, see 2019 DIA CMP, p. 32.
9 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 Prim er: Em erging 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.
10 See, for example, Dan De Luce and Ken Dilanian, “China’s Growing Firepower Casts Doubt on Whether U.S. Could
Defend T aiwan, In War Games, China Often Wins, and U.S. Warships and Aircraft Are Kept at Bay,” NBC News,
March 27, 2021.
11 Source for China’s number of battle force ships: Unclassified ONI information paper prepared for Senate Armed
Services Committee, subject “UPDAT ED China: Naval Construction T rends 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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China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities

 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
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.”12
 China’s navy is viewed as posing a major chal enge 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 chal enge the U.S. Navy has faced since the end of the
Cold War. China’s navy forms a key element of a Chinese chal enge 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 bal istic missiles (ASBMs),
anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), submarines, surface ships, aircraft, unmanned
vehicles (UVs), and supporting C4ISR (command and control, communic ations,
computers, intel igence, surveil ance, and reconnaissance) systems. China’s naval
modernization effort also includes improvements in maintenance and logistics,
doctrine, personnel quality, education and training, and exercises.13
 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);14 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.15
 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.

12 Source: Unclassified ONI information paper prepared for Senate Armed Services Committee, subject “UPDAT ED
China: Naval Construction T rends 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.
13 See, for example, Roderick Lee, “T he PLA Navy’s ZHANLAN T raining Series: Supporting Offensive Strike on the
High Seas,” China Brief, April 13, 2020.
14 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.
15 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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 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
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 substantial y improved China’s
naval capabilities in recent years, China’s navy currently is assessed as having
limitations or weaknesses in certain areas,16 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,17 a limited number of overseas bases and support facilities,18 a
need to train large numbers of personnel to crew its new ships,19 and a lack of
recent combat experience.20 China is working to reduce or overcome such
limitations and weaknesses.21 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 substantial y
increased the size of its coast guard.22 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.23

16 For a discussion focusing on these limitations or weaknesses, see Mike Sweeney, Assessing Chinese Maritime
Power
, Defense Priorities, October 2020, 14 pp.
17 See, for example, Will Mackenzie, “ Commentary: It’s the Logistics, China,” National Defense, June 10, 2020.
18 See, for example, Kristin Huang, “ Size of China’s Navy May Be Closing Gap on US Fleet But What Can the PLA
Do with Just One Overseas Naval Base?” South China Morning Post, March 14, 2021.
19 See, for example, Minnie Chan, “ China’s Navy Goes Back to Work on Big Ambitions but Long-T erm Gaps
Remain,” South China Morning Post, August 22, 2020.
20 T he use of a dual command structure in the crews of larger Chinese ships, involving both a commanding officer and
a political officer, has also been raised as a source of potential reduced command effectiveness in certain tactical
situations. See “ Leadership: China Cripples Naval Officers,” Strategy Page, July 18, 2020. 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, “ T he Invisible T hreat 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.
21 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 “UPDAT ED China:
Naval Construction T rends 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.) See also Ma Xiu and Peter W. Singer, “How China Steals US T ech to Catch Up in
Underwater Warfare,” Defense One, June 8, 2021.
22 For additional details, see 2020 DOD CMSD, p. 71, and 2019 DIA CMP, p. 78.
23 For additional discussion, see CRS Report R42784, U.S.-China Strategic Competition in South and East China Seas:
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Numbers of Ships; Comparisons to U.S. Navy
Ultimate Size and Composition of China’s Navy Not Publicly Known
The planned ultimate size and composition of China’s navy is not publicly known. The U.S. Navy
makes public its force-level goal and regularly releases a 30-year shipbuilding plan that shows
planned procurements of new ships, planned retirements of existing ships, and resulting projected
force levels, as wel as a five-year shipbuilding plan that shows, in greater detail, the first five
years of the 30-year shipbuilding plan.24 In contrast, 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, or resulting projected force levels. It is possible
that the ultimate size and composition of China’s navy is an unsettled and evolving issue even
among Chinese military and political leaders. One observer states that “it seems the majority of
past foreign projections of Chinese military and Chinese navy procurement scale and speed have
been underestimates…. Al military forces have a desired force requirement and a desired ‘critical
mass’ to aspire toward. Whether the Chinese navy is close to its desired force or not, is of no
smal consequence.”25
Number of Ships Is a One-Dimensional Measure, but Trends in Numbers Can
Be of Value Analytically

Relative U.S. and Chinese naval capabilities are sometimes assessed by showing comparative
numbers of U.S. and Chinese ships. Although the total number of ships in a navy (or a navy’s
aggregate tonnage) is relatively easy to calculate, it is a one-dimensional measure that leaves out
numerous other factors that bear on a navy’s capabilities and how those capabilities compare to
its assigned missions. As a result, as discussed in further detail in Appendix A, comparisons of
the total numbers of ships in China’s navy and the U.S. Navy are highly problematic as a means
of assessing relative U.S. and Chinese naval capabilities and how those capabilities compare to
the missions assigned to those navies. At the same time, however, an examination of the trends
over time in these relative numbers of ships
can shed some light on how the relative balance of
U.S. and Chinese naval capabilities might be changing over time.
Three Tables Showing Numbers of Chinese and U.S. Navy Ships
Table Showing Figures from Annual DOD Reports
Table 1 shows numbers of certain types of Chinese navy ships from 2005 to the present (and the
number of China coast guard ships from 2017 to the present) as presented in DOD’s annual
reports on military and security developments involving China. DOD states that China “has the
largest navy in the world, with an overal battle force of approximately 350 ships and submarines
including over 130 major surface combatants. In comparison, the U.S. Navy’s battle force is
approximately 293 ships as of early 2020.”26 DIA states that “although the overal inventory has

Background and Issues for Congress, by Ronald O'Rourke.
24 For more information on the U.S. Navy’s force-level goal, 30-year shipbuilding plan, and five-year shipbuilding
plan, see CRS Report RL32665, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress,
by Ronald O'Rourke.
25 Rick Joe, “ Hints of Chinese Naval Procurement Plans in the 2020s,” Diplomat, December 25, 2020.
26 2020 DOD CMSD, p. ii. See also p. 44, and 2019 DIA CMP, p. 63.
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remained relatively constant, the PLAN is rapidly retiring older, single-mission warships in favor
of larger, multimission ships equipped with advanced antiship, antiair, and antisubmarine
weapons and sensors and C2 [command and control] facilities.”27
As can be seen in Table 1, about 72% of the increase since 2005 in the number of Chinese navy
ships shown in the table (a net increase of 84 ships out of a total net increase of 117 ships)
resulted from increases in missile-armed fast patrol craft starting in 2009 (a net increase of 35
ships) and corvettes starting in 2014 (49 ships). These are the smal est surface combatants shown
in the table. The net 35-ship increase in missile-armed fast patrol craft was due to the construction
between 2004 and 2009 of 60 new Houbei (Type 022) fast attack craft28 and the retirement of 25
older fast attack craft that were replaced by Type 022 craft. The 49-ship increase in corvettes is
due to the Jingdao (Type 056) corvette program discussed earlier. ONI states that “a significant
portion of China’s Battle Force consists of the large number of new corvettes and guided-missile
frigates recently built for the PLAN.”29
As can also be seen in the table, most of the remaining increase since 2005 in the number of
Chinese navy ships shown in the table is accounted for by increases in cruisers and destroyers (12
ships), frigates (6 ships), and amphibious ships (15 ships). Most of the increase in frigates
occurred in the earlier years of the table; the number of frigates has changed little in the later
years of the table.
Table 1 lumps together less-capable older Chinese ships with more-capable modern Chinese
ships. In examining the numbers in the table, it can be helpful to keep in mind that for many of
the types of Chinese ships shown in the table, the percentage of the ships accounted for by more
capable modern designs was growing over time, even if the total number of ships for those types
was changing little.
For reference, Table 1 also shows the total number of ships in the U.S. Navy (known technical y
as the total number of battle force ships), and compares it to the total number of the types of
Chinese ships that are shown in the table. The result is an apples-vs.-oranges comparison, because
the Chinese figures exclude certain ship types, such as auxiliary and support ships, while the U.S.
Navy figure includes auxiliary and support ships but excludes patrol craft. Changes over time in
this apples-vs.-oranges comparison, however, can be of value in understanding trends in the
comparative sizes of the U.S. and Chinese navies.
On the basis of the figures in Table 1, it might be said that the total number of Chinese navy ships
of the types shown in the table (which might be thought of as the principal combat ships of
China’s navy) surpassed the total number of U.S. Navy battle force ships (a figure that includes
both combat ships and auxiliary ships) in 2015. It is important, however, to keep in mind the
differences in composition between the two navies. The U.S. Navy, for example, has many more
aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines, and cruisers and destroyers, while China’s navy
has many more diesel attack submarines, frigates, and corvet es.

27 2019 DIA CMP, p. 69.
28 T he T ype 022 program was discussed in the August 1, 2018, version of this CRS report, and earlier versions.
29 Source: Unclassified ONI information paper prepared for Senate Armed Services Committee, subject “ UPDAT ED
China: Naval Construction T rends 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.
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Table 1. Numbers of Certain Types of Chinese and U.S. Ships Since 2005
(Figures for Chinese ships taken from annual DOD reports on military and security developments involving China)
2020
change
from
Year of DOD report
2005 2006
2007 2008
2009 2010
2011 2012 2013
2014 2015
2016 2017
2018 2019
2020
2005
Bal istic missile submarines
1
1
1
1
2
2
2
2
3
3
4
4
4
4
4
4
+3
Nuclear-powered attack submarines
6
5
5
5
6
6
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
6
6
0
Diesel attack submarines
51
50
53
54
54
54
49
48
49
51
53
57
54
47
50
46
-5
Aircraft carriers
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
2
+2
Cruisers
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
+1
Destroyers
21
25
25
29
27
25
26
26
23
24
21
23
31
28
33
32
+11
Frigates
43
45
47
45
48
49
53
53
52
49
52
52
56
51
54
49
+6
Corvettes
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
8
15
23
23
28
42
49
+49
Missile-armed coastal patrol craft
51
45
41
45
70
85
86
86
85
85
86
86
88
86
86
86
+35
Amphibious ships: LSTs and LPDs
20
25
25
26
27
27
27
28
29
29
29
30
34
33
37
37
+17
Amphibious ships: LSMs
23
25
25
28
28
28
28
23
26
28
28
22
21
23
22
21
-2
Total of types above (does not
216
221
222
233
262
276
276
271
273
283
294
303
317
306
335
333
+117
include other types, such as
auxiliary and support ships
)
China Coast Guard ships
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
185
240
248
255
n/a
Total U.S. Navy battle force ships
291
282
281
279
282
285
288
284
287
285
289
271
275
279
286
296
+5
(which includes auxiliary and support
ships but excludes patrol craft)
Total U.S. Navy battle force ships
+75
+61
+59
+46
+20
+9
+12
+13
+14
+2
-5
-32
-42
-27
-49
-37
-112
compared to above total for certain
Chinese ship types
CRS-7


Source: Table prepared by CRS based on 2005-2019 editions of annual DOD report to Congress on military and security developments involving China (known for
2009 and prior editions as the report on China military power), and (for U.S. Navy ships) U.S. Navy data as presented in CRS Report RL32665, Navy Force Structure and
Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
Notes: n/a means data not available in report. LST means tank landing ship; LPD means transport dock ship; LSM means medium landing ship. The DOD report
general y covers events of the prior calendar year. Thus, the 2019 edition covers events during 2018, and so on for earlier years. Similarly, for the U.S. Navy figures, the
2019 column shows the figure for the end of FY2018, and so on for earlier years.
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Table Showing ONI Figures from February 2020
Table 2 shows comparative numbers of Chinese and U.S. battle force ships (and figures for
certain types of ships that contribute toward China’s total number of battle force ships) from 2000
to 2030, with the figures for 2025 and 2030 being projections. The figures for China’s ships are
taken from an ONI information paper of February 2020. Battle force ships are the types of ships
that count toward the quoted size of the Navy. For China, the total number of battle force ships
shown excludes the missile-armed coastal patrol craft shown in Table 1, but includes auxiliary
and support ships that are not shown in Table 1. Compared to Table 1, the figures in Table 2
come closer to providing an apples-to-apples comparison of the two navies’ numbers of ships,
although it could be argued that China’s missile-armed coastal patrol craft can be a significant
factor for operations within the first island chain.
On the basis of the figures in Table 2, it might be said that China’s navy surpassed the U.S. Navy
in terms of total number of battle force ships sometime between 2015 and 2020. As mentioned
earlier in connection with Table 1, however, it is important to keep in mind the differences in
composition between the two navies. The U.S. Navy, for example, currently has many more
aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines, and cruisers and destroyers, while China’s navy
currently has many more diesel attack submarines, frigates, and corvettes.
Table 2. Numbers of Chinese and U.S. Navy Battle Force Ships, 2000-2030
Figures for Chinese ships taken from ONI information paper of February 2020

2000
2005
2010
2015
2020
2025
2030
Bal istic missile submarines
1
1
3
4
4
6
8
Nuclear-powered attack submarines
5
4
5
6
7
10
13
Diesel attack submarines
56
56
48
53
55
55
55
Aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers
19
25
25
26
43
55
65
Frigates, corvettes
38
43
50
74
102
120
135
Total China navy battle force ships,
110
220
220
255
360
400
425
including types not shown above
Total U.S. Navy battle force ships
318
282
288
271
297
n/a
n/a
Source: Table prepared by CRS. Source for China’s navy: 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, 4 pp. 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. Figures are for end of
calendar year. Source for figures for U.S. Navy: U.S. Navy data; figures are for end of fiscal year.
Note: “n/a” means not available.
Table Showing U.S. Navy Figures from October 2020
Table 3 shows numbers of certain types of Chinese navy ships in 2020, and projections of those
numbers for 2025, 2030, and 2040, along with the total number of U.S. Navy battle force ships in
2020. The figures for China’s ships were provided by the Navy at the request of CRS. As with
Table 1, the result for 2020 is an apples-vs.-oranges comparison between the Chinese navy and
U.S. navy totals, because the Chinese total for 2020 excludes certain ship types, such as auxiliary
and support ships, while the U.S. Navy total for 2020 includes auxiliary and support ships.
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As shown in Table 3, the U.S. Navy projects that between 2020 and 2040, the total number of
Chinese ships of the types shown in the table wil increase by 94, or about 39%, with most of that
increase (77 ships out of 94) coming from roughly equal increases in numbers of large surface
combatants (cruisers and destroyers—39 ships) and smal surface combatants (frigates and
corvettes—38 ships). Numbers of bal istic missile submarines and nuclear-powered attack
submarines are each projected to more than double between 2020 and 2040, and the total number
of diesel attack submarines is projected to remain almost unchanged. The number of large surface
combatants is projected to almost double, and the number of smal surface combatants is
projected to increase by more than one-third. Numbers of larger (LHA- and LPD-type)
amphibious ships are projected to increase, and the number of smal er (LST-type) amphibious
ships is projected to decline, with the result that the total number of amphibious ships of al kinds
is projected to decline slightly.
Table 3. Numbers of Chinese and U.S. Navy Ships, 2020-2040
Figures for Chinese ships are from U.S. navy, reflecting data as of October 2020
2040
change
from
Ship type
2020
2025
2030
2040
2020
Bal istic missile submarines
4
6
8
10
+6
Nuclear-powered attack submarines
6
10
14
16
+10
Diesel attack submarines
47
47
46
46
-1
Aircraft carriers
2
3
5
6
+4
Cruisers and destroyers
41
52
60
80
+39
Frigates and corvettes
102
120
135
140
+38
LHA-type amphibious assault ships
0
4
4
6
+6
LPD-type amphibious ships
7
10
14
14
+7
LST-type amphibious tank landing ships
30
24
24
15
-15
TOTAL of types shown above
239
276
310
333
+94
TOTAL number of U.S. Navy battle force ships
297
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
Source: For Chinese navy ships: U.S. Navy data provided to CRS by Navy Office of Legislative Affairs, reflecting
data as of October 26, 2020.
Notes: “n/a” means not available.
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.
Anti-Ship Missiles
Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles (ASBMs)
China is fielding two types of land-based bal istic missiles with a capability of hitting ships at
sea—the DF-21D (Figure 1), a road-mobile anti-ship bal istic 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
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road-mobile, multi-role intermediate range bal istic 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 wel as conventional
strikes against naval targets.”30
Figure 1. DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM)


Source: Cropped version of photograph accompanying Andrew S. Erickson, “China’s DF-21D Anti-Ship Bal istic
Missile (ASBM)—Official y Revealed at 3 September Parade—Complete Open Source Research Compendium,”
AndrewErickson.com, September 10, 2015, accessed August 28, 2019.
Figure 2. DF-26 Multi-Role Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM)


Source: Cropped version of 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.

30 2020 DOD CMSD, p. 55.
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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.31 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 bal istic missile against a moving ship.”32 China reportedly is also
developing hypersonic glide vehicles that, if incorporated into Chinese ASBMs, could make
Chinese ASBMs more difficult to intercept.33
Observers have expressed strong concerns about China’s ASBMs, because such missiles, in
combination with broad-area maritime surveil ance and targeting systems, would permit China to
attack aircraft carriers, other U.S. Navy ships, or ships of al ied or partner navies operating in the
Western Pacific. The U.S. Navy has not previously faced a threat from highly accurate bal istic
missiles capable of hitting moving ships at sea. For this reason, some observers have referred to
ASBMs as a “game-changing” weapon.
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-18.34
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

31 Kristin Huang, “ China’s ‘Aircraft-Carrier Killer’ Missiles Successfully Hit T arget 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 T arget 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.
32 Josh Rogin, “ China’s Military Expansion Will T est the Biden Administration,” Washington Post, December 3, 2020.
33 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.
34 2020 DOD CMSD, p. 59.
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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
cal ed YJ-18. China unveiled YJ-18/18A anti-ship cruise missiles in the National Day military parade in central
Beijing.”)
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.

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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.35 Qualitatively, China’s newest
submarines might not be as capable as Russia’s newest submarines,36 but compared to China’s
earlier submarines, which were built to antiquated designs, its newer submarines are much more
capable.

35 For a discussion of Russian military transfers to China, including transfers of submarine technology, see Paul
Schwartz, The Changing Nature and Im plications of Russian Military Transfers to China , Center for Strategic and
International Studies (CSIS), June 2021, 8 pp.
36 Observers have sometimes characterized Russia’s submarines 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 T racking 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.
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Types and Numbers
Most of China’s submarines are non-nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSs). China also
operates a smal number of nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) and a smal number of
nuclear-powered bal istic missile submarines (SSBNs). The number of SSNs and SSBNs may
grow in coming years, but the force wil likely continue to consist mostly of SSs. DOD states that
“The PLAN wil likely maintain between 65 and 70 submarines through the 2020s, replacing
older units with more capable units on a near one-to-one basis.”37 ONI states that “China’s
submarine force continues to grow at a low rate, though with substantial y more-capable
submarines replacing older units. Current expansion at submarine production yards could al ow
higher future production numbers.” ONI projects that China’s submarine force wil 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 2030.38
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.39
Figure 6. Yuan (Type 039) Attack Submarine (SS)

Source: Photograph accompanying “Type 039A Yuan class,” SinoDefence.com, July 10, 2018, accessed August
28, 2019.

37 2020 DOD CMSD, p. 45.
38 Source: Unclassified ONI information paper prepared for Senate Armed Services Committee, subject “ UPDAT ED
China: Naval Construction T rends 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. See also H. I. Sutton, “ China Increases Production Of AIP Submarines With Massive New
Shipyard,” Naval News, February 16, 2021; H. I. Sutton, “ First Image Of China’s New Nuclear Submarine Under
Construction,” Naval News, February 1, 2021.
39 See, for example, Peter Suciu, “China Now Has Six T ype 094A Jin-Class Nuclear Powered Missile Submarines,”
National Interest, May 6, 2020.
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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/.
Figure 8. Jin (Type 094) Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN)

Source: Cropped version of 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.
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)
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(Type 039A/B). The PRC is expected to produce a total of 25 or more Yuan class submarines by
2025.”40 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
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).”41
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
bal istic missiles (SLBMs).42 A May 2, 2021, press report stated that China’s latest Jin-class
SSBN is armed with a new and longer-ranged SLBM cal ed the JL-3.43
Aircraft Carriers
Overview44
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. An April 2021 press report stated that Shandong

40 2020 DOD CMSD, p. 45.
41 2020 DOD CMSD, p. 45.
42 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.
43 Minnie Chan, “ China’s New Nuclear Submarine Missiles Expand Range in US: Analysts,” South China Morning
Post
, May 2, 2021. T he article states that the JL-3 has a “ range [of] over 10,000km (6,200 miles), a source close to the
[Chinese] navy said.” Such a range could permit Jin-class SSBNs to attack larger portions of the United States from the
locations described in the previous footnote.
44 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 T ype 001A, is now referred to as the T ype 002; the next aircraft carrier
design after that, previously referred to as the T ype 002, is now referred to as the T ype 003, and the potential design
that could follow, previously referred to as the T ype 003, is now referred to as the T ype 004.
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“might soon be heading out on the high seas as it continues its preparations to become combat-
ready.”45 Liaoning and Shandong launch fixed-wing aircraft using a “ski ramp” at the ship’s bow.
Figure 9. Liaoning (Type 001) Aircraft Carrier


Source: Cropped version of 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.
Compared with Liaoning and Shandong, U.S. Navy aircraft carriers are larger (about 100,000
tons full load displacement), nuclear powered (giving them greater cruising endurance than a
conventional y powered ship), able to embark and operate a larger number of aircraft (60 or
more), and launch fixed-wing aircraft using catapults, which can give those aircraft a
range/payload capability greater than that of aircraft launched with a ski ramp.
China’s third carrier, the Type 003 (Figure 11), is under construction; ONI expects it to enter
service by 2024.46 It is expected to be conventional y powered, closer in size to U.S. Navy aircraft
carriers, and equipped with catapults rather than a ski ramp for launching aircraft. China’s fourth
carrier reportedly may begin construction as early as 2021.47
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 eventual y 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

45 Minnie Chan, “ China’s Shandong Aircraft Carrier Ready for High Seas T est, Insider Says,” South China Morning
Post
, April 8, 2021.
46 Source: Unclassified ONI information paper prepared for Senate Armed Services Committee, subject “ UPDAT ED
China: Naval Construction T rends 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.
47 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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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
technical considerations. Observers expect that it wil be some time before China masters carrier-
based aircraft operations on a substantial scale.
Figure 10. Shandong (Type 002) Aircraft Carrier


Source: Cropped version of photograph accompanying Daniel Brown, “China’s Newest Aircraft Carrier Is
Actual y 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.48 It is conventional y 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),49 although
that term might not mean the same as it does when used by DOD in connection with U.S. weapon
systems.
Shandong (Type 002)
Shandong is a modified version of the Liaoning design that incorporates some design
improvements, including features that reportedly wil permit it to embark and operate a larger air

48 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.
49 Andrew T ate, “Liaoning Carrier Group Reaches Initial Operational Capability, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, June 4,
2018. See also T ravis 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,” CGT V.com, May 31, 201 8;
Global T imes, “Chinese Aircraft Carrier Forming All-Weather Combat Capability with Successful Night T akeoff and
Landing,” People’s Daily Online, May 29, 2018.
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wing of 40 aircraft that includes 36 fighters.50 Its displacement is estimated at 66,000 to 70,000
tons.
Type 003 Carrier
Press reports have general y stated that China’s Type 003 carrier may have a displacement of
80,000 tons to 85,000 tons. A November 29, 2020, press report, however, states that satel ite
images of the ship under construction suggest that this estimate may be a bit low, and that the
Type 003 carrier wil be closer in displacement to U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, which have a
displacement of about 100,000 tons.51 The Type 003 carrier is expected to be equipped with
electromagnetic catapults rather than a ski ramp, which wil 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 Type 003 carrier was announced in the Chinese press in
November 2018.52 A July 18, 2020, press report states

50 See, for example, Liu Xuanzun, “China’s Second Aircraft Carrier Can Carry 50% More Fighter Jets T han Its First,”
Global Tim es, August 13, 2019; Liu Zhen, “ China’s New Aircraft Carrier to Pack More Jet Power T han the Liaoning,”
South China Morning Post, August 15, 2019.
51 See, for example, H. I. Sutton, “ China’s New Aircraft Carrier Is In Same League As US Navy’s Ford Class,” Naval
News
, April 15, 2021.
52 See, for example, Zhao Lei, “China Launches Work on T hird Aircraft Carrier, Xinhia Says,” China Daily, November
26, 2018; Liu Xuanzun (Global T imes), “China’s 3rd Aircraft Carrier Under Construction, to Be Equipped with New
T echnologies, People’s Daily Online, November 27, 2018.
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China is expected to launch53 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.”54
China’s Fourth Carrier
Some sources have stated that China’s fourth aircraft carrier would be built to the Type 003
design. A March 13, 2021, press report, however, states that the ship is likely to be nuclear-
powered rather than conventional y powered.55
Possible Type 076 Catapult-Equipped Amphibious Assault Ship
See also the discussion of the possible catapult-equipped Type 076 amphibious assault ship
(Figure 21 and Figure 22) 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.56
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

53 T he term launch means that the ship is put into the water for the final stages of its construction.
54 Minnie Chan, “ China Steps Up Shipbuilding with T wo More Aircraft Carriers Under Construction T owards 2035
Navy Goal,” South China Morning Post, July 18, 2020. See also China Power T eam, “ T racking China’s T hird 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 T hird
Aircraft Carrier T akes Shape, with Ambitions to Challenge U.S. Naval Dominance,” Washington Post, October 16,
2020; Liu Xuanzun, “ China’s 3rd Aircraft Carrier ‘Progressing Smoothly,” Global Tim es, September 13, 2020. See also
Ryan Pickrell, “ Photos of China's New Aircraft Carrier Are Leaking, and T hey Appear to Show a Modern Flattop in
the Making,” Business Insider, June 10, 2021; Matthew Funaiole, Joseph Bermudez Jr., and Brian Hart, “ China’s T hird
Aircraft Carrier T akes Shape: CSIS,” Breaking Defense, June 16, 2021.
55 Minnie Chan, “ Chinese Military: Fourth Aircraft Carrier Likely to Be Nuclear Powered, Sources Say,” South China
Morning Post
, March 13, 2021. See also EurAsian T imes Desk, “ China Aims T o Deploy First -Ever ‘Nuclear-Powered
Aircraft Carrier’ By 2025 – Reports,” EurAsian Times, March 13, 2021.
56 David Axe, “ Surprise! T he Chinese Navy Just T ransformed T his Cargo Ship Into An Instant Helicopter Carrier ,”
Forbes, August 22, 2020; Dave Makichuk, “ PLA Army T ests Commercial Ships as Wartime Flight Decks,” Asia
Tim es
, 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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with a ski ramp rather than catapults, but which some observers have critiqued for its
range/payload limitations in carrier-based operations.57
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.
China reportedly plans to develop a carrier-capable variant of its J-20 fifth-generation stealth
fighter and/or a carrier-capable variant of its FC-31 fifth-generation stealth fighter (reportedly
now designated J-35) to complement or succeed the J-15 on catapult-equipped Chinese carriers.58
China reportedly is also developing a carrier-based airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft, cal ed

57 For a discussion of the J-15, see, for example, Rick Joe, “ China’s J-15 Carrierborne Fighter: Sizing up the
Competition,” Diplom at, May 20, 2021.
58 See Reuben Johnson, “ COVID, Hacking, and Spying Helped China Develop a New St ealth Fighter in Record T ime,”
Bulwark, June 23, 2021; Mike Yeo, “ Stealth Fighter Mock-up Appears at China’s Aircraft Carrier T esting Facility,”
Defense News, June 9, 2021; H. I. Sutton, “ First Sighting Of New Stealth Fighter For Chinese Navy’s Aircraft
Carriers,” Naval News, June 8, 2021; Rick Joe, “ T he FC-31, China’s ‘Other’ Stealth Fighter, A Look at the Jet with
Many Names—and Its Carrier-Based Future,” Diplom at, February 18, 2021; 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,”
Diplom at, 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 T homas Newdick, “New Images Of China’s Elusive
Catapult -Capable J-15T Carrier Fighter Emerge,” The Drive, November 18, 2020.
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the KJ-600, that is similar to the U.S. Navy’s carrier-based E-2 Hawkeye AEW aircraft,59 and
stealth drone aircraft.60
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
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.61
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). Political y, 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 wil significantly upgrade
the air defense, anti-ship, and anti-submarine capabilities of China’s navy and wil be critical as
China’s navy expands its operations beyond the range of the PLA’s shore-based air defense
systems.”62 DIA states that “the era of past designs has given way to production of modern

59 See, for example, Liu Xuanzun, “ China's First Carrier-Based Early Warning Plane Continues Flight T ests: Report,”
Global Tim es, February 22, 2021; 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 Tim es, September 1, 2020; Peter Suciu, “ T he 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 T heir Aircraft Carriers Even More Deadly ,” National Interest, September 8, 2020.
60 Minnie Chan, “China to Deploy Sharp Sword Stealth Drone for New T ype 001A Aircraft Carrier,” South China
Morning Post
, September 17, 2019.
61 For a discussion, see, for example, Bryan McGrath and Seth Cropsey, “T he Real Reason China Wants Aircraft
Carriers, China’s Carrier Plans T arget 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 Ca rriers,” National
Interest
, October 24, 2017.
62 2020 DOD CMSD, pp. 45-46.
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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.”63 China is also upgrading its older surface combatants with new
weapons and other equipment.64
Type 055 Cruiser/Large Destroyer
China is building a new class of cruiser (or large destroyer), cal ed the Renhai-class or Type 055
(Figure 13 and Figure 14), that reportedly displaces between 12,000 and 13,000 tons.65 A March
7, 2021, press report by a Chinese media outlet states that the ship displaces more than 12,000
tons.66 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 and 9,300 tons, respectively, while the U.S. Navy’s three Zumwalt (DDG-
1000) class destroyers displace about 15,600 tons.
Figure 13. Renhai (Type 055) Cruiser (or Large Destroyer)

Source: Cropped version of photograph accompanying Kyle Mizokami, “Can the U.S. Navy Beat China’s New
Type 055 Destroyer In a Fight?” National Interest, September 29, 2019.
ONI states that Type 055 ships are being built by two shipyards, and that multiple ships in the
class are currently under construction.67 The first Type 055 ship was reportedly commissioned
into service on January 12, 2020, about two and a half years after it was launched (i.e., put into

63 2019 DIA CMP, p. 70.
64 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.
65 One article from a Chinse media outlet, for example, states: “ According to sources, it has a displacement of more
than 12,000 metric tons….” (China Daily, “ 2nd T ype 055 Destroyer Enters Service,” People’s Daily Online, March 10,
2021.) For a discussion of the T ype 055 design, see Sidharth Kaushal, “ T he T ype 055: A Glimpse into the PLAN’s
Developmental T rajectory,” Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), October 19, 2020.
66 Liu Xuanzun, “China’s 2nd T ype 055 Large Destroyer Enters Naval Service,” Global Times, March 7, 2021.
67 Source: Unclassified ONI information paper prepared for Senate Armed Services Committee, subject “ UPDAT ED
China: Naval Construction T rends 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.
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the water for the final stages of its construction). The second and third ships in the class were
reportedly commissioned into service in March and April 2021, respectively.68 The sixth ship in
the class was reportedly launched in December 2019.69 In August 2020, it was reported that the
seventh ship in the class was delivered to the navy in May 2020,70 that the eighth ship in the class
was launched on August 30, 2020,71 and that the eighth ship “wil complete the first group of
Type 055 destroyers.”72
Figure 14. Renhai (Type 055) Cruiser (or Large Destroyer)

Source: Photograph accompanying Peter Suciu, “Chinese Navy to Launch 8th New Type 055 ‘Stealth’
Destroyer,” National Interest, August 22, 2020. The article credits the photograph to “Chinese Internet.”

68 iu Xuanzun, “ China’s 2nd T ype 055 Large Destroyer Enters Naval Service,” Global Times, March 7, 2021. See also
China Daily, “ 2nd T ype 055 Destroyer Enters Service,” People’s Daily Online, March 10, 2021; Xavier Vavasseur
“China’s 2nd T ype 055 Destroyer ‘Lhasa’ 拉萨 Commissioned With PLAN,” Naval News, March 7, 2021; Xavier
Vavasseur, “ China Commissions A T ype 055 DDG, A T ype 075 LHD And A T ype 094 SSBN In A Single Day ,”
Naval News, April 24, 2021.
69 Kristin Huang, “China Steps Up Warship Building Programme as Navy Looks to Extend Its Global Reach,” South
China Morning Post
, December 31, 2019. See also Liu Xuanzun, “ Chinese Navy Commissions First T ype 055
Destroyer,” Global Times, January 12, 2020. Another press report states that eight T ype 055 ships are expected to enter
service over the next four years, and that more than t wo dozen such ships might be in service by the late 2020s. (Franz-
Stefan Gady, “China’s Navy Commissions First -of-Class T ype 055 Guided Missile Destroyer,” Diplomat, January 13,
2020.)
70 Minnie Chan, “ Chinese Navy May Launch Eighth T ype 055 Stealth Destroyer Later T his Year,” South China
Morning Post
, August 20, 2020.
71 Liu Xuanzun, “PLA Launches New T ype 055, T ype 052D Destroyers After Decommissioning All T ype 051
Destroyers: Reports,” Global Tim es, August 30, 2020.
72 Minnie Chan, “ Chinese Navy May Launch Eighth T ype 055 Stealth Destroyer Later T his Year,” South China
Morning Post
, August 20, 2020. See also Peter Suciu, “ Chinese Navy to Launch 8th New T ype 055 ‘Stealth’
Destroyer,” National Interest, August 22, 2020. A November 18, 2020, press report that cited a November 16, 2020,
Chinese-language press report stated that “ China’s T ype 055 destroyer is equipped with a microwave anti-missile
system which can disable the electronic equipment of incoming enemy aircraft and missiles, and even burn the enemy’s
pilots.” (“ China Uses Microwave Weapons against India,” Chinascope, November 18, 2020, which cited the following
as its source: “Lianhe Zaobao, November 16, 2020, https://www.zaobao.com.sg/realtime/china/story20201116-
1101404.”)
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Type 052 Destroyer
China since the early 1990s has put into service multiple new classes of indigenously built
destroyers, the most recent of which is the Luyang III (Type 052D) class (Figure 15), which
displaces about 7,500 tons and is equipped with phased-array radars and vertical launch missile
systems that outwardly are broadly similar to those on U.S. Navy cruisers and destroyers. Type
052D ships have been in serial production for some time, and the 25th such ship was reportedly
launched (i.e., put into the water for the final stages of its construction) on August 30, 2020.73
One observer states that “at present the PLAN fields 20 aegis-type [i.e., Type 052] destroyers in
service; however in four to five years it is likely that the PLAN wil field 39 aegis-type destroyers
in service (or 40, depending on whether a 26th 052D is built or not).”74 Press reports in March
2021 stated that China is now commissioning an upgraded version of the Type 052D, informal y
cal ed the Type 052DL, that incorporates an extended-length helicopter flight deck and a new
radar.75
Figure 15. Luyang III (Type 052D) Destroyer

Source: Cropped version of photograph accompanying “Type 052D Luyang-III Class,” SinoDefence.com,
September 3, 2017, accessed August 28, 2019.
Type 054 Frigate
China since the early 1990s has also put into service multiple new classes of indigenously built
frigates, the most recent of which is the Jiangkai II (Type 054A) class (Figure 16), which
displaces about 4,000 tons. ONI states that 30 Type 054As entered service between 2008 and
2019, and that no additional Type 054As are currently under construction.76

73 Liu Xuanzun, “PLA Launches New T ype 055, T ype 052D Destroyers After Decommissioning All T ype 051
Destroyers: Reports,” Global Tim es, August 30, 2020.
74 Rick Joe, “ T he Chinese Navy’s Destroyer Fleet Will Double by 2025. T hen What?” Diplomat, July 12, 2020. See
also Kris Osborn, “ Double the Destroyers: China Will Soon Have Almost 40 of T hese Modern Warships,” National
Interest
, July 17, 2020.
75 “Chinese Navy Commissions Upgraded Variation of the T ype 052D Destroyer,” Navy Recognition, March 3, 2021;
Liu Xuanzun, “ PLA’s 4th Improved T ype 052D Destroyer Makes Maiden Appearance in Maritime Exercise,” Global
Tim es
, March 30, 2021; Liu Zhen, “ Chinese Navy Sails New Destroyers in South China Sea Amid Military
Shipbuilding Spree,” South China Morning Post, June 15, 2021.
76 Source: Unclassified ONI information paper prepared for Senate Armed Services Committee, subject “ UPDAT ED
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Figure 16. Jiangkai II (Type 054A) Frigate


Source: Cropped version of photograph from Chinese Military Review, “Type 054A (Jiangkai II class) FFG-546
Yancheng Guided Missile Frigate in Mediterranean,” undated (but with a URL suggesting that it was posted in
February of 2014), accessed August 29, 2018.
Type 056 Corvette
China has also built—in large numbers over a relatively short time period—a new type of
corvette (i.e., a light frigate, or FFL) cal ed the Jiangdao class or Type 056 (Figure 17), which
reportedly displaces 1,300 tons to 1,500 tons. Type 056 ships were built at a high annual rate in
four shipyards—the first was commissioned in 2013, and the 72nd and final ship of the type was
reportedly commissioned in early 2021, implying an average commisisoning rate of about eight
ships per year. DOD states that “by the end of 2019, more than 42 Jiangdao class FFLs had
entered service out of an expected production run of at least 70 ships.”77 ONI states that as of
February 2020, more than 50 had entered service and another 15 were under construction.78 In
February 2021, a Chinese media outlet reported that the final two Type 056 ships—the 71st and
72nd such ships—had been commissioned into service in January and February 2021, and that the
completion of Type 056 production could permit a shift to production of greater numbers of larger

China: Naval Construction T rends 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. For a press article discussing the potential features o f China’s next frigate design beyond the
T ype 054A, see Rick Joe, “ What Will the Chinese Navy’s Next Frigate Look Like?” Diplomat, May 15, 2020.
77 2020 DOD CMSD, p. 46.
78 Source: Unclassified ONI information paper prepared for Senate Armed Services Committ ee, subject “ UPDAT ED
China: Naval Construction T rends 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.
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warships.79 As shown in Table 1, the rapid growth in the number of Type 056 corvettes since
2013 accounts for a substantial share of the net increase in the total number of ships in China’s
navy since 2013.
Figure 17. Jingdao (Type 056) Corvette


Source: Cropped version of image included at Chinese Military Review, “Random Images of Chinese Type 056
Jiangdao Class Light Corvette,” undated (but with a URL suggesting that it was posted in October 2013),
accessed August 29, 2018.
Amphibious Ships80
Type 071 Amphibious Ship
China’s new Yuzhao or Type 071 amphibious ships (Figure 18) have an estimated displacement
of more than 19,855 tons,81 compared to about 25,900 tons for the U.S. Navy’s new San Antonio
(LPD-17) class amphibious ships. A May 6, 2021, press report states that the eighth Type 0721
ship “recently made its first publicly known maritime exercise appearance.”82

79 Liu Xuanzun, “PLA Navy Commissions Final T ype 056A Corvettes Specialized in Coastal Defense,” Global Times,
February 17, 2021. See also “ Chinese Navy PLAN Commissions Final T ype 056A Corvettes,” Navy Recognition,
February 18, 2021.
80 For an article providing a brief overview of China’s amphibious shipbuilding programs, see Yasmin T adjdeh, “China
Building Formidable Amphibious Fleet ,” National Defense, June 25, 2021.
81 Unless otherwise indicated, displacement figures cited in this report are full load displacements. IHS Jane’s Fighting
Ships 2017-2018
, p. 156, does not provide a full load displacement for the T ype 071 class design. Instead, it provides a
standard displacement of 19,855 tons. Full load displacement is larger than standar d displacement, so the full load
displacement of the T ype 071 design is more than 19,855 tons.
82 Liu Xuanzun, “China's Newly Commissioned Amphibious Landing Ship Joins Exercises, ‘to Form Powerful
Partnership with Amphibious Assault Ship,’” Global Tim es, May 6, 2021.
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Figure 18. Yuzhao (Type 071) Amphibious Ship


Source: Cropped version of photograph from Chinese Military Review, “Jinggang Shan (999) Type 071
YUZHAO Class Amphibious Transport Dock,” undated (but with a URL suggesting that it was posted in
February 2012), accessed August 29, 2018.
Type 075 Amphibious Assault Ship
On September 25, 2019, China launched (i.e., put into the water for the final stages of its
construction) the first of a new type of amphibious assault ship83 cal ed the Yushen or Type 075
(Figure 19 and Figure 20) that has an estimated displacement of 30,000 to 40,000 tons,
compared to 41,000 to 45,000 tons for U.S. Navy LHA/LHD-type amphibious assault ships.84 On
April 11, 2020, it was reported that a fire had occurred on the ship.85 On August 5, it was reported
that the ship had begun its first sea trial,86 suggesting that some or al of the damage caused by the
fire had been repaired. The ship was commissioned into service in April 2021.87

83 Amphibious assault ships, also referred to as helicopter carriers or (in British parlance) commando carriers, look like
medium-sized aircraft carriers. U.S. Navy amphibious assault ships are designated LHA or LHD.
84 See, for example, Rick Joe, “T he Future of China’s Amphibious Assault Fleet,” Diplomat, July 17, 2019; Sebastien
Roblin, “Bad News: China is Building T hree Huge Helicopter ‘Aircraft Carriers,’” National Interest, July 27, 2019;
T yler Rogoway, “China’s New Amphibious Assault Ship Is A Monster,” The Drive, August 22, 2019; Mike Yeo,
“Photos Reveal Progress on China’s Largest Amphibious Assault Ship,” Defense News, August 23, 2019. See also
Minnie Chan, “ Why China’s T ype 075 Warship Is More T han It Seems—the Secret Is in Its Hull Number,” South
China Morning Post
, May 9, 2021.
85 See, for example, “China Confirms Fire on Board T ype 075 Amphibious Assault Ship,” DefenseWorld.net, April 11,
2020; Xavier Vavasseur, “ China’s 1st T ype 075 LHD Caught On Fire During Fitting Out,” Naval News, April 12, 2020;
“Fire Breaks Out on China’s New Amphibious Assault Helicopter Carrier,” War Is Boring, April 13, 2020.
86 Mallory Shelbourne, “ China’s New T ype-075 Amphibious Warship Kicks Off Sea T rials,” USNI News, August 5
(updated August 13), 2020; Xavier Vavasseur “ China’s First T ype 075 Landing Helicopter Dock Started Sea T rials,”
Naval News, August 5, 2020. See also Liu Zhen, “ Chinese Military’s First T ype 075 Amphibious Assault Ship Begins
Sea T rial,” South China Morning Post, August 7, 2020; Liu Xuanzun, “ PLA 1st Amphibious Assault Ship Appears on
Maiden Voyage, Photos Show,” Global Tim es, August 5, 2020.
87 See, for example, Mike Yeo, “ China simultaneously commissions three warships on Navy anniversary ,” Defense
News
, April 26, 2021.
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