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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Chinese Nuclear Subs

Pictures of Type 093 Shang Class nuclear submarine built at Huludao's Bohai Shipyard, with the assistance of Russia's Rubin Center Design, were finally released in August after some sneak peak of hazy pictures in July. Shang Class is not a direct copy of Russian Victor III class sub but none the less formidable. (We are still planning on testing ATV, our own version of nuclear sub, sometime in 2009.)

Here is what Sinodefence has to say along with additional pictures:

Exactly how much help China has received from Rubin Design Bureau is unknown, but it could potentially include a range of critical assistance, including overall hull design, engine and machinery quieting, combat system design, and weapon system and countermeasures outfit.

Construction of the Type 093 began at Huludao-based Bohai Shipyard in the mid-1990s under tight security and high secrecy. The first-of-class was launched in December 2002 and commissioned in December 2006. The second boat was launched in late 2003.

The existence of the project was first reported by Pentagon in 2003, when the first submarine began its sea trial. The U.S. Navy intelligence and Pentagon predicted that the PLA Navy could have 3~4 submarines by 2010, while other sources suggested that eventual production could reach 6 to 8 units. The exact number to be built may well depends on the results of the operational tests of the first two submarines.

During the exhibition at Beijing’s Military Museum of Chinese People’s Revolution in late July to mark the 80th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), a scale model and some hazy photos of the new generation SSN were presented to the public. Later, Beijing-based Modern Ships magazine published in its August issue the first ever clear photo of the long-anticipated nuclear submarine.

The Type 093 is estimated to be 6.000~7,000t displacement when dived. As revealed by the submarine model and Modern Ships photograph, the Type 093 features a water-drop shape hull, with a pair of fin-mounted hydroplanes and four diving planes. The submarine is fitted with sophisticated sonar systems, including bow-mounted sonar and H/SQC-207 flank-mounted sonar. Three flank-mounted sonar arrays are clearly visible on the hull of the submarine.

The Type 093 submarine has six 533mm bow torpedo tubes (4 above, 2 below), and is presumed to be equipped with a range of anti-submarine and anti-surface vessel torpedoes of wire-, acoustic- and wave-homing, based on both Chinese and Russian designs. The torpedo tubes can also be used to launch Chinese indigenous YJ-82 anti-ship missiles. Some reports suggested the capability of launching land-attack cruise missiles (LACM), but this cannot be confirmed. [Sinodefence]

Indian Express gives Indian Navy reaction beyond it's not a secret:

"However, the first generation of Chinese submarines were slow and noisy. It remains to be seen how they have tackled the problems,” said a senior Navy officer.

China will gradually be replacing all five of its first generation Hans class nuclear submarines with the new machines.

Incidentally, the Indian Navy is also looking at inducting five indigenous ATV nuclear submarines. The first one, currently under production at Vizag, is likely to undergo sea trials by next year. Little is known about the new Shang Class but the over 6,000 tonne submarine is bigger than India’s indigenous ATV nuclear submarine that is projected to be in the 5,000 tonne category. Analysts say that outwardly, the Chinese design seems to be a cross between the Russian Victor III design and the American Los Angeles class submarines.

In contrast, the Akula II submarine being leased by India from Russia next year is in the 12,000-tonne category and a generation ahead of both the ATV and the Shang class submarines.

However, the real threat will come from the Jin class of submarines being built by China. It will be capable of launching nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. The ATV, to be equipped by indigenous Sagarika submarine-launched missiles currently undergoing tests in the Bay of Bengal, will be India’s match to the Jin class, officials say.

While India is still ahead in the maritime game with greater presence and reach, analysts say that with the nuclear submarines and a new aircraft carrier currently under development, China is fast narrowing the gap and moving towards world class capabilities. [Lifting veil of secrecy,... - IE]