Defense Security Cooperation Agency
July 11, 2010: Over the last few years, China has been sending its submarines on longer voyages. In the last two years, there have been enough long voyages by Chinese subs for the crews to discover that the food (lots of canned meat and rice, not many vegetables and no fruit) normally carried, did not survive voyages of more than a week or so. Most Chinese subs are hot, with high humidity. With so much of the food going bad, which was sometimes realized only after it was eaten, the crews were coming back sick and malnourished. So the navy came up with new rations, designed to survive shipboard conditions and keep the crew healthy.
Before 2008, this was not a problem. The 50-60 Chinese subs went out on only six patrols in 2007, versus two in 2006 and none in 2005. Before that, through the 1990s, Chinese subs averaged 1.2 patrols a year. The one Chinese ballistic missile sub (SSBN) has never, in its 25 years of existence, gone out on a patrol. But since 2008 there have been a lot more patrols, with some of these boats being spotted in the central Pacific.
This is not to say that the Chinese boats didn't go out at all before 2008. There were lots of day trips, moving off shore into the open water, in order to train and test the equipment. But this is no replacement for the long term (two months or more) tours American boats have been doing since World War II. While the Chinese are modernizing their submarine force, half their boats are still basically obsolete diesel-electric designs. The U.S. nuclear submarine fleet contains more than half the nuclear boats in service worldwide.