When someone refers to a boomer, most of us would understand it to be a shortening of the term used for the demographic that grew up after the war and is now retiring (the ‘baby-boomers’).
But if you are a naval-type you might infer that the speaker is talking about submarines capable of carrying nuclear missiles.
This was the context in which the Wall Street Journal reported extensively about China’s new Hainan-based ‘boomers’ this week.
Out at sea, they have massive potential impact. The US Office of Naval Intelligence estimates the boomers could strike at Hawaii from East Asia and at the continental US from the mid-Pacific, for instance.
“This is a trump card that makes our motherland proud and our adversaries terrified,” China’s navy chief, Admiral Wu Shengli wrote in a Party magazine. “It is a strategic force symbolising great-power status and supporting national security.”
The Wall Street Journal reckons the expanding fleet “not only bolsters China’s nuclear arsenal but also enhances the country’s capacity to enforce its territorial claims and thwart US intervention”. It adds that China has been keenly briefing other nations on missions it has undertaken with subs to Sri Lanka and the Persian Gulf (they left Hainan in December and returned in February). This was a deliberate decision to make its capabilities more widely known, says vice admiral Robert Thomas, the commander of the US Seventh Fleet. “They were very clear with respect to messaging to say that, ‘We’re a professional navy, we’re a professional submarine force, and we’re global. We’re no longer just a coastal-water submarine force.’”
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