The Department of Defense said that China currently operates six nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, six nuclear-powered attack submarines and 46 diesel-powered attack submarines. I don't see the Chinese finish a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier until the end of the decade. But until then, they will soon have three aircraft carriers in action. It is conceivable that the Chinese could obtain nuclear plans from the United States Navy by surreptitious methods through traditional or cyber espionage, and that they have already done so, according to some reports.
This would speed up the construction of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The Chinese fleet already has nuclear-powered submarines. But submarine jets are poor candidates for transfer to a surface ship as large as an aircraft carrier. France learned that lesson a quarter of a century ago, Zhou said.
In addition to the two aircraft carriers in operation, China already has more than a dozen nuclear-powered submarines in its arsenal. In an attempt to reduce costs in the development of the Charles de Gaulle, France's first and only nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, its designers used two K15 pressurized water submarine reactors as the main propulsion system. In descending order, PLAN's surface force consists of two aircraft carriers, a cruiser, 32 destroyers, 49 frigates, 37 corvettes and 86 coastal patrol ships with missiles. While the ships would be useful in their own right, the main benefit could be to help Beijing refine reactor technology for use in a future nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, according to the Hong Kong South China Morning Post.
In addition, China's submarine fleet includes 46 diesel-powered attack submarines, six nuclear-powered attack submarines and four ballistic missile submarines. As such, the United States maintains a surface fleet of about 162 vessels, depending on the inclusion of its small fighters and combat logistics ships, and a submarine fleet of 68 platforms. Construction of the fourth ship resumed earlier this year after delays, as Beijing continues to flex its naval power. For its part, the United States Navy has a surface fleet consisting of 11 aircraft carriers, 92 cruisers and destroyers, and 59 small surface fighters and combat logistics ships.
The South China Morning Post quoted a person close to the Chinese navy as saying that shipbuilders “are interested in making significant progress with the construction of the fourth aircraft carrier. In addition, many regional powers — especially India, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam — maintain deepening security relations with the United States precisely because of concerns about potential threats from China. As a reference, China's only formal ally, North Korea, maintains a handful of submarines and coastal patrol ships. In short, China has a fleet of surface warships of 121 vessels, an underwater fleet of 56 platforms and another 341 coastal patrol ships.
China is building its fourth aircraft carrier as it seeks to increase its naval power in the Asia-Pacific region, and the ship is “likely to be powered by nuclear energy,” a new report revealed on Saturday, citing sources close to the country's military. That could include a more dispersed pattern of force deployments, a greater number of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, less dependence on forward-deployed aircraft carriers, and a greater dependence on unmanned systems, submarines and anti-submarine warfare capabilities, he suggested. Working on an icebreaker with Russia could benefit China, as its eyes are a possible fourth aircraft carrier that could count on nuclear power. None of them are powered by nuclear energy, but PLAN is always confident in its shipbuilding prowess and wants to build a fourth nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.