China is building a powerful navy to take on the US in the Pacific - Here's what their arsenal looks like

Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrierLiaoning, China's first aircraft carrierREUTERS/Bobby Yip

  • China's naval force is growing at an incredible rate, not just in size but also in combat capability. It's reportedly growing faster than any other great power navy.
  • The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy is fielding a variety of new warships and submarines, as well as new weapons, to tip the scales in its favor in the region.
  • Here are some of the vessels the PLAN is adding to its expanding arsenal.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy is one of the largest naval forces in the world, and it continues to grow. More importantly, though, China is rapidly building and fielding increasingly capable naval vessels, weapons that could tip the scales in the US-dominated Pacific.

The Chinese PLAN has probably benefitted the most from the country's major military modernization plan, the goal of which is to transform the Chinese armed services into a world-class fighting force able to defeat another great power.

In the mid-1990s, China's naval forces were weak, consisting of an almost entirely defenseless collection of just under 60 destroyers and frigates and 80 attack submarines, most of which were old diesel-electric Soviet models. The Chinese navy also had a few nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, but they were extremely noisy, RAND Corp. revealed in a report on the development of the PLAN over the past few decades.

But the nature of China's navy is changing, both in terms of size and capability as the PLAN equips its ever-expanding fleet with more advanced weapons and sensors.

China has been churning ships out at an incredible rate. In 2016 and 2017, China commissioned 18 and 14 ships respectively. (Some other observers have put that number even higher). The US Navy commissioned only five and eight ships during those years. As of last year, China had more than 300 ships, far more than the US Navy. The Center for Strategic and International Studies predicts that China could have as many as 430 surface ships and 100 submarines within the next 15 years, if not sooner.

Here is what China has been and is currently adding to its naval arsenal, according to the Pentagon and Reuters, citing analysts.

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Conventional and nuclear submarines.

Conventional and nuclear submarines.

The Pentagon expects China's submarine force to grow to 78 by 2020, according to the Department of Defense's 2018 China military power report. Modernizing the submarine force remains a priority for the PLAN.

Type 022 Houbei missile boats.

Type 022 Houbei missile boats.

The Chinese PLAN has at least 60 of these stealthy guided-missile fast attack ships, according to the Pentagon.

Type 056 Jiangdao Corvettes.

Type 056 Jiangdao Corvettes.

"The PLAN is augmenting its littoral warfare capabilities, especially in the South China Sea and East China Sea, with high-rate production of the Jiangdao-class corvettes," DoD assessed. Reuters reports that the PLAN has already taken delivery of over 40 of these ships, with as many as 60 expected to join the fleet.

Type 054 Jiangkai frigates.

Type 054 Jiangkai frigates.

China has commissioned more than two dozen of the advanced Type 054A frigates, Reuters reports, and the country is believed to be working on a even more capable variant.

Type 052 Luyang destroyers.

Type 052 Luyang destroyers.

The Chinese navy is believed to have anywhere between seven and ten of these vessels in service with more on the way. Western analysts suspect that China could have as many as 20 of these ships in service by 2020, Reuters reports.

Type 055 Renhai destroyers.

Type 055 Renhai destroyers.

China showed off the first of the new Renhai-class destroyers, large, heavily-armed vessels considered cruisers by Western standards, at its recent naval parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PLAN. Reuters reports that at least 12 of these ships could be in service within the next decade.

Read More: China shows off its new destroyer during massive display of naval power

Type 901 support ship.

Type 901 support ship.

The PLAN's relatively new supply ship is the largest in Asia and designed to strengthen China's carrier capabilities. A retired admiral previously told Chinese media that this ship could potentially double the combat radius of a carrier group.

China launched its second Type 901 vessel in 2017, according to Reuters. Other support ships include the Type 903 replenishment ship and the Type 904 general stores ship.

Type 075 helicopter landing ship

Type 075 helicopter landing ship

China is building new helicopter carriers loosely based on the US Navy's amphibious assault ships, which launch helicopters and vertical take-off and landing jets. China is expected to eventually add at least three of these ships to its naval forces.

Type 071 Yuzhao amphibious transport ship.

Type 071 Yuzhao amphibious transport ship.

China currently has five of these ships in service with more believed in the works. The fifth one was commissioned last year. The Pentagon believes production of this ship will complement efforts to produce the Type 075.

Type 001 aircraft carrier.

Type 001 aircraft carrier.

China has one operational aircraft carrier, the Type 001 Liaoning. Another carrier, the Type 001A, has completed sea trials and is expected to be commissioned this year. A third carrier believed to be a significant advancement over its predecessors is in the works.

Read More: China's aircraft carriers have a boatload of glaring weaknesses — but the next carrier could be a 'huge step forward'

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