See This Plane? It Would Try to Sink China's Submarines In a War

Kris Osborn

Key point: America's Poseidon surveillance planes would be key in anti-submarine warfare.

The increasing global reach of Chinese nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines, armed with JL-2 weapons reportedly able to hit parts of the US, continues to inspire an ongoing Navy effort to accelerate production of attack submarines, prepare long-dwell drones for deployment to the Pacific and continue acquisition of torpedo-armed sub-hunting planes such as the P-8/A Poseidon.

Seeking to overcome the Pacific’s “tyranny of distance” dispersed geography, and track China’s expanding fleet of submarines, the Navy is working with Congress to produce as many as three Virginia-class submarines per year, moving beyond the current plan to build two. In the air, the Navy has been moving to place its new Triton sea drones in Guam and, earlier this year, awarded Boeing a $2.4 billion deal to produce 19 more P-8A Poseidon surveillance and attack planes.

Given the Poseidon’s role as a high-tech surveillance aircraft, known for capturing video of Chinese phony island building in the South China Sea (land reclamation) several years ago, it takes little imagination to envision ways its advanced sensors, sonobuoys and weapons could function as part of a containment strategy against Chinese expansion - - and even operate as a deterrent against China’s growing fleet of nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines (SSBN).

The PLA Navy has, in recent years, been expanding its reach beyond the Pacific as part of a visible effort to become a major-power international force. Chinese SSBNs have been sighted at great distances from Western Pacific shores, according to numerous news reports - - and the existence of both JL-2s and emerging JL-3s have increased pressure on the US. According to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, the Chinese had deployed up to 48 JL-2 launchers on submarines as of 2017. With ranges greater than 4,500 miles, JL-2s travelling well beyond China’s immediate vicinity can hold US areas at risk.

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