Defense officials said China has deployed a new wide-area ocean surveillance system that includes an underwater sonar network of sensors, and ground- and sea-based long-range radar that will make it more difficult for U.S. submarines to protect the fleet and to track China's growing force of new attack and missile submarines.
A former U.S. government defense specialist on China said on the condition of anonymity that there are indications China is operating a rudimentary underwater Sound Surveillance System, or SOSUS. The sonar network includes fixed sensors that can pinpoint U.S. submarines operating in some areas of the western Pacific.
The U.S. Navy operates a similar system at strategic underwater choke points around the world.
The Chinese SOSUS has been detected underwater in the Bohai Sea, off the northern Chinese coast, north of the Yellow Sea, a major Chinese navy operating area. Additionally, China also has set up at least five long- and medium-range radar sites along its coast that have over-the-horizon capability, the former official said.
The sonar and radar are part of China's key strategic wartime goal of knocking out the five or more aircraft carrier strike groups that would be rushed to the region near Taiwan in any future conflict. Those carrier battle groups are defended by submarines.
"If they are after carriers, we protect carriers with subs and if they know where they are, they can find the carriers," said the former defense official, who confirmed that the Chinese are developing various ground, sea and space sensors designed to "target the American fleet."
The Chinese sonar and radar also complicates the Navy's mission of tracking China's submarine fleet, which includes large numbers of newer and quieter attack and ballistic missile boats with JL-2 nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States.
"If the Chinese can do SOSUS that would be a tremendous leg up for their submarines," the defense official said. "Because the best way to hunt a sub is with a sub."
China's SOSUS array "will make it more difficult to follow and prosecute their [missile submarines] with all their missiles aimed at the U.S.," the former official said. The radar-sonar network provides the Chinese military with "constant air and sea coverage of the western Pacific for the first time, so they can keep a 24-7 trail on American naval assets for the first time."