Jin SSBN Flashes its Tubes

One of China’s two Jin-class SSBNs with two open missile tubes. Click for larger image.

By Hans M. Kristensen

One of China’s two new Jin-class SSBNs was photographed with two of its 12 missile tubes open when it visited Xiaopingdao Naval Base in March 2009.

The Jins are being readied to carry the JL-2, a single-warhead regional sea-launched ballistic missile that was most recently test-launched in May 2008. The class may become operational soon and replace the old Xia from 1982.

Xiaopingdao Naval Base, which is where I identified the Jin-class for the first time in 2007, serves as an outfitting and testing facility for new submarines and used to be the homeport of the single Golf-class diesel submarine China used for many years as a test launch platform for its first ballistic missile.

Two or three Jin-class SSBN have been under construction, and it remains to be seen if China will build up to five as projected by U.S. intelligence. China’s nuclear submarines appear to be the noisiest nuclear submarines in the world and will probably be highly vulnerable at sea.

The U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence described in August 2009 that two of China’s SSBNs (probably one Jin and the Xia) were based at the Northern Fleet Base in Jianggezhuang, and the third boat (probably the second Jin) at the Southern Fleet Base on Hainan Island. I identified the Jin at Hainan in February 2008.

The Obama administration’s first version of The Military Power of the People’s Republic of China is expected within the next month or two.

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

4 thoughts on “Jin SSBN Flashes its Tubes

  1. [Edited] There is a semi-official announcement of the range of DF-31A by Prof. Shao Yongling of the PLA Second Artillery Command College:

    She said that DF-31A “has a range of over 10,000 km and with the help of China’s large territory, can BY AND LARGE carry effective nuclear counterattacks against strategic targets that perform nuclear attacks against our country”. This is perhaps the most professional and most cautious statement on the capabilities of DF31A.

    She also mentioned that DF-31 has a range of only 8000 km.

    Is JL-2 similar to DF-31A or DF-31?

    Reply: Thanks for the link. Her statement roughly matches what the Pentagon has been saying. The JL-2 is believed to be similar to the DF-31. HK

  2. [Edited] Just a little precision, this sub was first spotted by Sean O’Connor.

    Reply: Good thing I didn’t claim a first. I was unaware that Sean had posted it, so I guess we and presumably countless others probably spotted it at about the same time when we opened the GoogleEarth update email we received from Google. HK

  3. [Edited] I would like to ask a question about how many times the JL-2 has tested and how about it’s reliability. Because I read from Taipei times about information provided by Pinkov of Kanwa. There was a test flight in 2009, the latest one. The report said the JL-2 popped out of the water surface and having a rocket booster problem causing it failed to take off and dropped back to the sea that hit her test bed, the sole Golf class SSG. I have no idea about this information was true or not. But it seems the JL-2 program wasn’t going as smooth as the DF-31 and like the Russian Bulava SLBM plagued with problems. The reports said all the surface (submarine) launching tests JL-2 were successful but all the submerged tests were failure. Can anyone comment about that?

  4. Is there any evidence suggesting (or would it be fair to assume) that the JL-2 is now operational, considering that this analysis was posted back in March, or would the preparation likely take longer than that?

    Reply: It is potentially possible, as you say, but I haven’t heard anything to that effect. Once I do I’ll certainly blog it. Any day now, the 2010 version of the DOD annual report on Chinese military forces should be released. It has been delayed, probably because it complicates relations with China. HK

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