As China continues to assert claims of other nations' maritime territories nations such as the Philippines are making moves to protect their interests. The anticipated submarine purchase will be the first for the nation and complement existing fleets in nearby nations of Vietnam and Indonesia, and the larger more advanced fleets of Japan and South Korea.
The Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has approved the purchase of the nation's first submarines. The purpose of the submarines is to bolster the island nation's ability to push back against Chinese aggression and claims over the Philippines' maritime territory. The shift in focus from defense spending to protect land to seas is certain to raise the ire of the CCP.
No other advanced country recognizes China's claims to all of the South China Sea and the other nations in the region are making moves to put together a coalition to stand up to China and collectively protect maritime sovereignties.
The submarine purchase is part of a larger strategy to modernize the nation's military to contend with modern threats. The modernization is anticipated to cost more than $35 billion and will be stretched over a several-year period.
France, Spain, Korea, and Italy have all expressed interest in selling the submarines. Southeast Asia neighbors Indonesia and Vietnam already have submarine programs. Vietnam acquired its first modern submarine in 2009, and Indonesia's in 1997. Both have continued to invest in their fleets and reports are that Vietnam has six kilo-class submarines it purchased from Russia, and Indonesia has several submarines purchased from Germany and South Korea.
China has an estimated 66 submarines compared to America's 67, but the figures don't provide the proper context. America's are far more technologically advanced and operators trained to a higher standard. China is closing the gap but building more subs alone won't help much, it must find a way to obtain more submarine technology from advanced nations and fund the training of new sailors to power them. Espionage and theft are becoming harder for the CCP especially as it relates to military technology theft.
Here is an interesting discussion of what else is entailed for the Philippines to establish a submarine fleet beyond acquiring the hardware: