I wrote my “Stealing Thunder” novel series based upon the premise of a surging Chinese military, including the PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy). My predictions have come true with increased agitation between China and Japan, the Senkaku island dispute, the expansion into the South China Sea for disrupting crucial shipping lanes to US Allies and more.
In this article, a few items particularly stood out to me.:
- The Soviets, operating noisier boats and lacking easy access to open ocean patrol areas, made use of the pack ice as part of a “bastion strategy” in which boomer patrol areas and the avenues of advance into such areas were defended by an array of aircraft, surface ships, and submarines. Access to the Arctic gave the Soviets the ability to maintain a sea-based nuclear deterrent.
- The opening of a “northwest passage” would change the character of global shipping, meaning that at least part of China’s maritime trade would go through the Arctic. While this would not necessarily require the development of an Arctic military presence, it would justify Chinese military interest.
- The SSBNs will need to periodically return to China by regular, predictable routes for maintenance, modernization, and crew rotations. As Lajeunesse and Choi point out, this would mean transiting the Bering Strait, which is closely monitored by the United States. It would enable US ASW assets to track the Chinese boomers at their leisure and develop highly accurate profiles of the Chinese boats, and good access to electronic communications between the boats and their home bases.
The stakes are very high in a military chess game and questions will always abound.