China's Submarine Fleet. A short chronological evolution : Robert Whiston's

Discussion in 'China' started by john70, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. john70

    john70 Regular Member

    Nov 23, 2011
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    Vadodara, Gujarat
    Starting this thread to discuss Chinese Submarines.

    China’s Submarine Fleet
    A short chronological introduction


    To trace the developments of China’s submarines fleet we first have to trace the history of Russian submarines. This is another area where Russia has been so ideologically bound up with ‘socialism’ in the past that it has compromised its present day security by blindly sharing/selling its technology.
    Pictured above is a Whiskey class Soviet submarine, designed in the mid 1940s and built between 1940 and 1958. This particular vessel (Sub P112) was sold recently (2011) for US $ 550,000. This article covers only conventional diesel-electric boats.

    Early Years
    Pre-war Russian submarines spanned vessels varying in displacement from those of a little over 200 tons to over 1,000 tons. Evidence exists to suggest that the Soviet Union and Germany were as early as the Weimar Republic (banned under the Versailles Treaty) co-operating on submarine design and construction.
    Between 1929 and 1945 Russia had approx. 270 submarines, most were designed for the Baltic and coastal waters (see Table below).
    Thus China’s submarine fleet only began in 1954 with the gift of Soviet vessels. However, before then Russiawas to enjoy a technological boost in 1945 with the surrender of Germanyand the articles in the Potsdam Agreement that gave it access to German technology on land, sea and air.

    A single Type XXIII U-Boat was allocated to the Soviet Union under the terms of the Agreement but Russia was well placed to salvage other U-Boats from Baltic and Eastern Europe countries overrun by the Red Army.
    Of particular interest to Britain and America and therefore to Russia were the Walter designed U-boats – the Type XXIII and Type XXI known as the Elektroboot U-boats – with their streamlining, higher underwater speeds and long range. Type XXIII and Type XXI were futuristic and even today it would not be unresonable to believe that these craft could have been built 10 or 15 years ago. By enlarging this image (click on picture) it is fascinating to think that these clean and attractive lines were first propounded over 70 years ago.
    The latter, Type XXI, could travel submerged for two or three days before recharging batteries (a 5 hours process using a Snorkel). There are more details of U-boat variants can be found at Appendix A below.

    Post 1945
    At the end of World War II, the Soviets obtained several Type XXIs, from which they were able to obtain certain key technologies. These technologies assisted in the design of the Zulu class andWhiskey class (NATO codes). Further improvements on the design led to the Romeo class.

    The Type XXI and XXIII U-boats revolutionised Russian post-war submarine design. The Type XXI U-boat was almost as fast submerged (13 knots) as it was on the surface (15 knots) and someU-boats designs using the Walther hydrogen peroxide system (an unstable gas), were actually faster submerged than on the surface (15 knots vs 17 knots).

    Romeo class Soviet Sub and Chinese Type 033

    The Romeo class of Soviet diesel-electric submarine (Project 633) can trace its origins and streamlining to the World War IIElektroboot and to the Walter designs (as indeed, can the streamlined USS Nautilus, SSN-571).
    Russia produced 133 Romeo class conventional attack submarines – 29 are still in use but not operationally. ‘Attack submarines’ are designed and deployed to sink other submarines and not merely to target surface ships (eavesdropping is another of their other roles).
    Nations that also took delivery of this 1,800 ton class were former Warsaw Pact members and several Middle Eastern countries, e.g. Iran, Syria, Egypt, and Algeria. Approx. 75 of these 1,830 ton Soviet-built subs have been scrapped.
    The bulbous nose (bow) seen on the Romeo class pictured above housed the Soviet built Herculesor Tamir-5 high-frequency sonar for active / passive search and attack. Later variants are also fitted with Sintra DUUX 5, a low frequency sonar for passive ranging and intercept. Yet later variants were reported to have had weapon systems removed to accommodate surveillance and electronic intelligence (ELINT) equipment for special reconnaissance missions. [1]

    Nuclear Option
    Following the 1954 gifts from Russia, Chairman Mao visited Jiangnan shipyard (i.e. Shanghai) in Jan 1956 where the PRC’s very first submarine was being built from a Soviet kit. China would eventually go on to build 21 of these Soviet “Whiskey” class boats which were the predecessors of the Romeo class.
    Soviet “Whiskey” class
    Soviet “Whiskey” class submarine displaced 1,350 tons submerged, had a range 13,500 nautical miles and so were ideal for the vast distances of the Pacifice. Between 1949 and 1958 a total of 236 Whiskey class submarine were built incorporating many variants, e.g. Mark 1 to Mark V. It was succeeded by the Romeo class with a similar range, i.e. 13,500 naut. miles.
    The Whiskey class and Romeo class must be seen as the transitional designs – the stop gaps – from World War II technology to the demands made by the Cold War of a nuclear missile strike capability.
    It is remarkable to read, in Chinese sourced military and political journals in the late 1950s (and from US / CIA sources), of the apparent interest in nuclear powered ships especially submarines atthis early stage. This can only be a reflection of the progress made by the US Navy (USS Nautilus, SSN-571), and the ambitions of theUSSR.
    The suspicion is thatthe first fully submerged circumnavigation of the globe by the atomic powered submarine USS Triton, in May 1960, made have riveted attention to the potential that nuclear propulsion held. (USS Triton maintained a steady submerged speed of 21 knots for nearly three months).
    The party line in China appears to be that nuclear propulsion for submarines was adopted as a national priority by Mao himself. This may be true but Mao as a visionary and still a strategist in all things at the age of 63 is stretching credibility (Mao was born in 1893). Two years later, in 1958, an ailing Mao announced the “Great Leap Forward”, anattempt to increase agricultural and industrial production by Stalinist ‘collectives’ but which failed hopelessly and resulted in famines.
    Shortly afterwards Mao retired from the post of Chairman of the People’s Republic of China and was replaced as head of state by Liu Shaoqi – though Mao continued to wield political influence e.g. sponsoring the Cultural Revolution.

    Ego clash
    China’s long march towards naval self-sufficiency and her longer term aim of greater parity with the navies of the West halted when Mao metaphorically burnt China’s bridges with Russiain theSino-Soviet split. Mao became openly critical of Nikita Khrushchev’s interpretation of the direction of world communism and how socialism should develop in theUSSR.
    Personality and the cult of personality was the Achilles heel of China. From the 1960s to the late 1970s China was held back first by the nihilistic behaviour of the Red Guard and then the destruction influence of the ‘Gang of Four’ (circa 1973). Only with the death of Mao (1976) did China gradually return to some semblance of a normal state. [2]
    While all this was going on Chinabegan producing Soviet-designed Romeo class submarines in significant quantities between 1965 and the early 1980s. Eventually the PLAN had more than 60 of these boats in service. It has been estimated that more than 100 the Type 033 were built by the PLAN and some exported.
    NATO’s codename of Romeo class diesel-electronic submarine was known to the Russia’s as Project 633. They were armed with conventional torpedoes and the transfer of technology to China began in Feb 1959.
    Project 629 submarines, known to NATO as Golf class were diesel-electric powered submarine but carried missiles. [3] The illustration below shows the missiles were housed in the conning towr (referred to in american literatire as the ‘sail’), part of the boat
    The two submarine types were to be built in Chinaas Type 6633 (later known as
    Golf class :
    Type 033) and Type 6631 (later known as Type 031) respectively.
    To clarify – Type 033 is the Chinese designation and carried torpedoes and Type 031 carried both torpedoes and missiles (Type 6622 / Chinese 033 = Romeo class and 6631 = Golf class, respectively).
    Note too how submariens of this era still retained the bow indicating much of their operatinal time could be expected to be spent on the surface. With the advent of nuclear power the beed for a surface ship bow disappears.
    Defence source point to Chinese 033 as enhanced Romeo class insofar as the 033 had better sonar and a longer range. Both

    Artist impression of a Golf class firing a missile

    the 033 and 031 projects suffered from the Sino-Soviet split in as much that although China managed to launch its fist Romeo type sub in 1965 it was not serviceable until 1970.
    In terms of an offensive platform it is regarded as a ‘noisy’ vessel, of an ageing design, incapable of operating safely in deep water, e.g. Pacific and suitable only for coastal defence and patrol duties. By the end of the 1990s chain has decommissioned all the craft although 4 were sold to North Korea.
    The original plan was for the production yards to use Soviet-supplied kits initially, and then gradually increase the indigenous elements untilChinacould build the submarines independently.

    Developments in the 1970s
    In the 1970s, approximately 20% of China’s defence budget was allocated to naval forces resulting in a dramatic growth in the Navy. The conventional submarine force increased from 35 to 100 boats, but the longer term ambition was still one of a submarine powered by nuclear technology.
    The true extent of how daunting this challenge represented only became fully clear to the Chinese when Moscow refused Peking’s specific request to share nuclear propulsion technology. The rejection was made on the grounds that it would be ‘premature’ for the PLAN. A valid point consideringChina’s lack of experience with underwater craft and the deadly accidents caused by bad luck and casualness.
    Notwithstanding this, the rejection was taken as an affront and foreshadowed the imminent souring of Sino-Soviet relations. [4] The 20th century should be remembered (among other things) for the homicidal, sociopathic political leaders it managed to produce. Mao was no different to many others and he “reacted indignantly” to Russia’s refusal saying:
    • “We will have to build nuclear submarines even if it takes us 10,000 years.”
    Mao got his way, and a famine-ridden, near-bankrupt country – forced to import grain from Canada and the West – embarked in July 1958 on a voyage into the unknown and the unknowable. Mao got the Politburo to approve an ambitious plan to develop not only SSN submarines, i.e. nuclear-poweredattack submarines, but simultaneously an SLBM system (submarine-launched ballistic missile).
    Of the two developments the SLBM is the most threatening because of its capacity to deliver a ‘stand-off’ nuclear warhead launched from a submarine hidden in the oceans.
    That said, the danger is less acute today then in Mao’s day. Comparatively speaking, he was a lose cannon (in the same way as the behaviour of North Korea’s leader is today viewed as dangerous). He was quite prepared to kill hundred of millions of his own citizens in an ideological ‘nuclear exchange’ (war) with the US and Russia. If it meant the end of the US and capitalism the price of self-destruction was , in his mind, worth it.

    to be continued........
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  3. john70

    john70 Regular Member

    Nov 23, 2011
    Likes Received:
    Vadodara, Gujarat

    Era of Growth
    The 1970s and 1980s saw China build up its Romeo and Ming class submarine fleet. The Mingclass (or Type 035), was first commissioned in 1974, and was based on the Romeo class (aka Type 033).
    To illustrate how one class has superseded another, the Table below traces operational types since 1990. The Ming and Romeo class, once the most numerous had by 2009 been overtaken by the Song class at 19 boats.
    At least 17 Ming class hulls (2,113 tons) are still in service, with the latest versions
    adopting modern sonar systems purchased from the French (see DUUX-5). The latest Ming class hulls are also thought to have tested out AIP (Air Independent Propulsion).
    AIP is a generic tem for closed loop engines. It is a term that encompasses technologies such as oxygen substitution or Stirling Engine, which allows a submarine to operate without the need to surface or use a snorkel to accessatmospheric

    Ming Class (Type 035 B) [​IMG]

    oxygen. These technologies significantly reduce the noise level of the submarine and thus their rate of detection.
    Ming class submarines have reportedly been exercising more frequently and making recent incursions into Japanese waters.
    There are at least four known variants of the Type 035 built between 1969 and 1979. The early variants were said to be trouble-prone and were retired in the 1980s. However, production resumed in 1987 with the improved Type 035G and a total of 12 boats built between 1988 and 1995.
    The production line used for the Type 035 was re-opened due to the delay in the development of the new-generation Type 039 (to be known as the Song class). An additional 6 boats were built between 1997 and 2001.
    On one occasion a Ming surfaced briefly within Japanese waters before submerging again and another – an enhanced Ming class, designed Song class – surfaced briefly near the USS Kitty Hawk when she was on manoeuvres.
    In 2003, a Ming class (No. 361) was lost with all hands. It was speculated that 361 was testing an AIP system, and that a failure caused the near-instantaneous death of the all crewmembers (as they were found dead in their quarters with the submarine intact). But it is one theory among several.
    Ming class submarines have an ‘acoustic signature’ in the higher reaches which makes them an easy target for modern antisubmarine warfare (ASW) systems. Today (2011) it is better suited to coastal defence, regional patrolling and surveillance duties. Combat missions and deep ocean patrols are better suited to the more capable Type 039 (Song class) and Kilo class.
    Notwithstanding these grave shortcomings the advances made in weapons systems, as we shall see below, have breath new life in whatwould be obsolete craft.

    Modern Age
    The Kilo class represented a huge leap forward in the PLAN submarine fleet. In the 1980s the Kilowas acknowledged to be one of the world’s quietest class of submarines and NATO’s rating reflected this. China’s first Kilo class was operational in 1982.
    In 2002, a $2 billion deal was signed for eight more Kilo 636 submarines these were fitted with the capability of launching the Russian made Novator 3M-54E Klub S (a cruise-type missile) capable of engaging land and sea targets at 220 km. By 2006 China had 12 Kilos operational.
    Despite the purchase of the Kilos, the PLAN has continued to develop indigenous designs. TheSong class (Type 039) is another conventional diesel-electric submarine which was first launched in 1994 with sea trials in 1995 and operational in 1999.
    It is the first Chinese submarine to use the modern teardrop hull shape – a design said by some to have first been used
    Song class (039) :[​IMG]
    byBritainin the R-class hunter- killer submarines designed in 1917.
    The Song class, at 2,500 tons, is said to represent a major milestone to indigenous submarine designs, being comparable in its capabilities to contemporary Western built submarines. Note the loss of any bow profile on this generation of boat.
    First commissioned in 1998 it featured Western influences with a German propulsion system, in the shape of a seven bladed ‘skewed’ propeller and noise-reduction rubber tiles. Song submarines are armed with torpedoes and a sub-launched variant of the YJ-8 anti-ship missile. Earlier Russian and Chinese submarines had to surface in order to launch missiles.
    Visually the Song class looks very much like a Kilo class submarine which also features thewater-drop (teardrop) shape, a double hull with a T-shape stern rudder and a single large shaft.
    Kilo class submarines have a pair of bow planes located close to the midship on the upper hull in front of the sail. With a reserve buoyancy of 32%, the submarines consists of six watertight compartments separated by transverse bulkhead in a pressured double hull, which increases the survivability of the submarine, even with one compartment and adjacent ballast tanks flooded.
    Left: Kilo class (3,950 tons submerged)
    The command and control and fire-control systems are located in the main control room which is sealed off from other compartments.
    The rational is forChinato build a modernised underwater force thatis capable of supporting its military actions againstTaiwanand to deter any unwelcomed intervention, i.e. by the U.S. Navy.
    Of the 49 Kilo class subs ever built over 40 are still in service. and 17 of the approx. 3,000 ton vessel are thought still to be operated by Russia. Kilo class have “Pump Jet Propulsion” to help overcome cavitation (a problem first faced by high-speed propeller aircraft like the Typhoon in WWII).
    The Kilo class is being succeeded by the Lada class (2,700 t) submerged; which began sea trials in 2005. This latest diesel electric offering small size and low noise with powerful torpedo and missile armament and the use of hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells generating electricity. The hull, as have other Soviet designed craft, is covered with rubber anti-sonar protection tiles to reduced the risk of detection.
    The Kilo class can be fitted with a launcher for eight Strela-3 (NATO codename: SA-N-8 Gremlin) surface-to-air missiles, but those in service with the PLA Navy are not equipped with this system.
    The eight newer Project 636M submarines are equipped with the Klub-S missile complex, which can fire the Novator 3M-54E anti-ship cruise missile. The missile has a maximum range of 220 km and a 450 kg high-explosive warhead.
    Type 041, known by the NATO code as the Yuan class is expected to adapt an AIP system to achieve maximum quietness in operational mode.
    The Yuan could be armed with advanced Russian and/or Chinese made torpedoes and cruise missiles.
    This class of SSK (hunter killer sub) is an improved Song class and is expected to have capabilities which surpass the Kilo and Songclass SSK currently being operated by the PLAN.
    Series production of the Yuan class began late in 2007, with at least two boats identified so far. The Yuan came as a surprise to US military intelligence, as the submarine’s existence was entirely unknown until internet images emerged.
    The last of the conventionally powered boatto be mentioned before moving on to submarines using nuclear propulsion is the new Russian Lada class.
    Left: Lada class in dry dock :[​IMG]
    To date China has not asked or taken delivery of this new type. Only one is thought to be operational and so new is it thatnone have been exported although an export model is available. The ‘export’ model is known to the Russians as the Amur class submarine. It comes in a variety of displacements from 700 tons to 2,600 tons.
    Essentially the Lada class is a highly improved version of the earlier Kilo class and externally looks very similar. In comparison to double-hulled Kilo class, surface displacement has been reduced by 1.3 times – from 2,300 down to 1,765 tons. The submerged speed has been increased from 19 to 21 knots.
    Submarines of Russia’s Project 677 (NATO code Lada)[​IMG]
    appear to be a series of Russian diesel electric subs developed in 1997.
    Launched in Oct 2004, sea trials began in Nov 2005 and by April 2010 the submarine was reported to have finished its testing. Another three Lada class submarines are believed to be under construction.
    There are plans to launch between four and six of them by 2015 and ultimately the Russian Navy plans to have a total of eight Lada class submarines in the near future.
    The Lada class boat is designed for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, defense of naval bases, seashore and sea lanes, as well as for conducting reconnaissance. It boasts the latest generation of Russian missile, torpedoes and sonar systems.

    Political Intrigue ?
    Russia sells warships and exports military hardware as regularly and as casually as Germany exports Mercedes Benz and BMW cars. The Amur class submarine is a case in point. There is a size and price to suit every pocket. Third world countries – as they used to be known – can now indulge in a little sabre rattling with their neighbours (Pakistan) or even with the acceptedmuscle on the block, i.e. the US.
    For all its moral protesting at the role of NATO in Libya, it is Russan made AK47s, RPG s, rocket launchers, artillery pieces and tanks that are being used in large numbers by the rebels against the former corrrupt government of Kaddafi.
    India is a case in point. India “leased” a Russia Charlie class nuclear powered missile armed submarine in 1988 for 3 years (fee undisclosed).
    India paid US$ 2 billion for the completion of two 12,000 ton Akula class submarines which were 40 – 60% completed.
    But whereas Russia’s Akula class could be equipped with 28 nuclear-capable cruise missiles with a strike range of 1,620 naut. miles, the Indian version was reportedly armed with the 162 naut mile range 3M-65 Klub nuclear-capable missiles.
    In parallel with China’s path to increased military might Indiahas cultivated a home grown design and builds capability for nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines. The product of this, the 6,000 ton Arihant class is expected to be commissioned starting in 2012 (INS Arihant was launched in July 2009).
    All around the Indian Ocean and stretching into the Pacific from Iran to Malaysia and on to Haiwai, nations are acquiring lethal technology from the USA, China or Russia. Of itself this can be said to be normal but whereas prior to 1945 one could assume that the barrels of most country’s guns would point in unison the same cannot be said today.
    At another level the intrigue gets more interesting. Russian and Italy has signed a partnership agreement to build the S1000 class
    submarine. Externally this looks similar to the Lada andAmur class submarines. In the last few weeksItaly has surprisingly negotiated with China for the financing of its billion Euro national debt. Will Russia or will Italy supply China with is next generation submarine ?
    One would expect the sale to be made by Russia but could the Italians be seduced by an overture and perhaps include some Western sonar technology ?
    The existing illustrations of the S1000 class appear to give it a conventional north south crucifix rudder assembly but on others it is shown turned 45 degrees to give an ‘X’ configuration.

    Present scenario :
    Today China operates the largest submarine force among Asian countries, consisting of 8~10 nuclear-powered submarines and 50~60 diesel-electric submarines. The second-generation Type 093/Shang Class nuclear-powered attack submarine and Type 094/Jin Class nuclear-powered missile submarine have already entered service. Older Type 033/Romeo Class and Type 035/Ming Class diesel-electric submarines, which were based on the 1950s-era Soviet technology, are being gradually replaced by the newer indigenous Type 039/Song class and Russian-built Kilo Class. The even newer Yuan Class has also entered batch production.
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