Is there a hypothetical ship design thread/board somewhere? Don't want to hijack this thread, but...
As I understand, China has arrived at the conclusion quite early that there needs to be a large, survivable missile-delivery platform that can both survive getting into the firing range of a CSG and launch a volley size large enough to overwhelm the CSG's Aegis defenses. Distributed lethality concepts of building many small SSGs are not suitable because the sheer numbers required would cost more than a few large arsenal ships, and the coordination of so many small distributed assets under ECM conditions would also be prohibitive. Not to mention, China isnt the USN and doesnt have all of the Pacific as maneuvering and concealment space to hide their distributed assets - China only has three small puddles of water contained within the 1st Island Chain. So, the high-speed semi-submersible arsenal ship might be the only solution, even if it means to put all eggs in one basket. But at least this basket is more survivable and easier to coordinate and to pull saturational attacks with that many smaller platforms that require high degree of coordination and datalinking.
The economics of scale here are fascinating. How does cost per tube change with ship size? I assume that range and speed are big factors there, with long range pushing for larger ships. So if China is willing to accept a semi-static defense in their lakes, with slow, relatively short ranged ships/boats basically station keeping, does that make smaller ships more economic? I could see the US figuring out a way to deal with 4 100 tube ships, but 100 4 tube ships seems like a much harder problem, especially once you start mixing in decoys.
I probably underestimate the difficulties of managing a drone swarm in ECM environments, but nearly everything about current naval tech makes me believe that you want your platforms to be as small as possible.
One thought is that China doesn't really need to make saturation attacks. Since they'll always be able to bring more missiles than any adversary, making the fight about logistics and attrition plays to their strength. That might even be less escalatatory: an endless series of small attacks can empty the US's missile tubes until they have to turn back or sue for peace without the political cost (to both sides) of sinking a carrier.
When this ship indeed appears in Bohai Shipyard the next few years, I would consider this an official declaration of war against the US.
This type of ship appears especially synergestic (dirty word, I know) with their upcoming seabed arrays. Picture the next generation of AAAD: ASW through fixed sensors and runway launched torpedo drones, AAW from semi-submersible missile barges with targeting from AEW aircraft. The inside of the 1st island chain makes a pretty good bastion. I wouldn't say its a declaration of war against the U.S., but it would be a message they're getting ready to enforce their territorial claims.