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Number of PLAN vessels to increase by almost 20% over coming decade, according to US ONI estimates

China will have a naval fleet of 425 ‘battleforce’ ships and submarines by 2030 – an increase of almost 20% over the next 10 years – according to a US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) report.

The ONI forecast was cited in a recently updated Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on China’s naval modernisation and its implications for US naval capabilities that was published on 18 March.

The ONI report, entitled ‘China: Naval Construction Trends vis-à-vis US Navy Shipbuilding Plans, 2020-2030’, was prepared for the US Senate Armed Services Committee in February and, although it does not appear to be publicly available, data from the report has been incorporated into the CRS report.

The ONI data for ‘battleforce’ ships – defined as the types of ships that count toward the quoted size of the US Navy – puts the size of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) as of 2020 at 360 vessels, including submarines, and forecasts a rise to 400 in 2025 and 425 in 2030. Using the same measure, the size of the US Navy is currently 297 vessels, with an aspiration to increase to 355.

The data has been tabulated to give a breakdown of how PLAN ship numbers have grown since 2000 to the forecast for 2030. The data on submarines is of particular value, as quantifying in-service platforms is difficult from open sources, given that the submarines do not display pennant numbers and information about submarine launches, commissioning, and disposals is not made public.

Number of battleforce ships: 2000–302000200520102015202020252030Ballistic missile submarines1134468Nuclear-powered attack submarines545671013Diesel attack submarines56564853555555Aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers19252526435565Frigates, corvettes38435074102120135Total Chinese navy battleforce ships1110220220255360400425Total US navy battleforce ships318282288271297n/a2n/a2Notes: 1. Total force includes types not shown in table. 2. Data not available.Source: CRS
Some of almost 50 ships assembled for a PLAN fleet review held in April 2018. (Via Xinhua News Agency)

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