Surface Forces: Feared Firsts

Archives

November 20, 2014:   In the last few years the Chinese Navy has experienced a growing number of historical firsts. The latest one was in September 2014 when, for the first time, a Chinese submarine passed through the Strait of Malacca and entered the Indian Ocean. That has happened several times since then, and one of the subs was nuclear powered. The Chinese subs showed up in Sri Lanka and as far west as the Persian Gulf. Apparently Chinese subs are going to visit the Indian Ocean on a regular basis from now on.

This is all part of a new policy that puts warships to sea a lot more often than in the past and sends these ships to a lot of places Chinese warships have never been before. Thus during the last decade Chinese warships have been achieving a lot of firsts. For example in 2013 Chinese warships visiting Chile and Argentina passed through the Strait of Magellan for the first time in history. At the same time a Chinese amphibious ship (a 19,000 ton LPD) with marines on board visited Syria. This was the first time a Chinese amphibious ship had visited the Mediterranean. China has three of these LPDs and they have also been serving as part of the international anti-piracy task force off Somalia. Chinese warships have been off the African coast centuries ago, but in the last decade they have been their regularly operating off the Somali coast with the international anti-piracy patrol. That’s the first time Chinese warships have participated in this kind of long-term international effort.

Closer to home in 2013 Chinese warships were, for the first time, seen moving through the La Perouse Straits, which separates the Russian island of Sakhalin and the Japanese northernmost home island of Hokkaido. Chinese warships later, for the first time moved completely around the Japanese islands. In 2014 came more firsts. In February Chinese warships were seen moving through the Sunda Strait (between the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra) for the first time. More firsts are expected this year and next.

There are so many naval firsts now because for most of China’s history there was an attitude that there was really nothing useful beyond Chinese borders. Some ships were built for trade, but not on a large scale and never with a powerful navy to protect them. Then China began liberalizing and modernizing its economy in the 1980s and that led to lots of exports and even more imports of raw materials and items that China did not make. That justified a larger, sea going, navy. Before the Chinese navy was a coastal force. No more. China’s economic interests are worldwide and now so is its navy.

Another 2014 first also put China in a very select club when, for the first time, it successfully dismantled one of its nuclear subs. Only the U.S., Russia and France have done this although Britain is planning to do so as soon as it can decide where to store (for several million years) the nuclear reactors and all their radioactive components. Nuclear subs are made non-nuclear once the reactors are taken from the subs. This requires partial dismantling of these boats. Then the radioactive reactor components are then sealed in a sturdy radiation proof container. These are then put under guard somewhere safe, usually in an isolated and geologically stable area.

The Chinese sub recently dismantled was built in the early 1970s and was not decommissioned until the early 1990s. It had been tied up at a pier ever since. It wasn’t until late 2013 that China presented its nuclear subs in the Chinese media for the first time. The theme for this event was that in 42 years of operation no Chinese nuclear sub has ever suffered a nuclear reactor accident. This was an indirect dig at the Russians, who are the only nation with nuclear subs to have suffered nuclear accidents.

 

 


Article Archive

Surface Forces : Current 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2000 1999 


X

ad
0
20

Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close