"...the Arms Control Association [does] so much to keep the focus on the issues so important to everyone here, to hold our leaders accountable to inspire creative thinking and to press for change. So we are grateful for your leadership and for the unyielding dedication to global nuclear security."

– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
October 20, 2014
China Deploys New Missile Submarines

July/August 2020

China deployed two new submarines capable of carrying nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles in April, expanding the sea-based leg of the country’s nuclear triad to include six vessels categorized as nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs).

A Chinese Jin-class nuclear submarine participates in a 2019 naval parade in in Shandong Province. (Photo: Mark Schiefelbein/AFP/Getty Images)The two new subs shore up the third leg of China’s air-, land-, and sea-based nuclear triad. An effective sea-based leg is likely intended to demonstrate China’s second-strike capabilities and to deter first-strike nuclear attacks from other states. Fielding a robust SSBN fleet is consistent with Beijing’s nuclear doctrine, which is believed to center on a small but effective nuclear arsenal to be used only in self-defense. Beijing’s 2009 white paper on its nuclear doctrine states that “China remains committed to the policy of no first use of nuclear weapons, pursues a self-defensive nuclear strategy, and will never enter into a nuclear arms race with another country.”

The two newly deployed SSBNs are variants of China’s Type 094, or Jin-class, submarine. They are outfitted with sophisticated radars and sonars and are equipped to carry up to 16 of China’s JL-2 intercontinental ballistic missiles. (See ACT, June 2013.)

According a 2020 report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service, the current JL-2 missiles may soon be replaced with a longer-range and more advanced JL-3 missile. The JL-3 is not yet in service, but initial flight tests suggest its range nears 10,000 kilometers. (See ACT, July/August 2019.)—JULIA MASTERSON