A submarine observed in a satellite shot at a Chinese shipyard appears to be a new class or subtype of nuclear-powered assault submarine with a new stealthy propulsion system and cruise missile launch tubes.
Planet Labs provided Defense News with a satellite image of the shipyard in Huludao in Liaoning province, northern China, taken on May 3 and showing a submarine in drydock.
The existence of the unnamed boat in the yard was first detected in an April 29 satellite photograph by geospatial intelligence firm AllSource Analysis. According to the group, the submarine is likely a new class being built by China.
The submarine features two prominent green spots on its hull just below its conning tower, as well as a cruciform rudder layout and a possibly shrouded propulsion system.
According to a navy specialist, the submarine contains a row of vertical launch system cells for submarine-launched missiles as well as a shroud for pump-jet propulsion.
According to Collin Koh of Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, China has done research into undersea pump-jet propulsion, using previously published scientific material.
Having submarines capable of launching cruise missiles for land-attack and anti-ship missions fits into China’s pursuit of long-range offensive strike capabilities, he said, adding that this includes the ability to target US Navy assets and distant land targets, such as those in Guam, where American forces are stationed.
If the rectangular part of the submarine visible in the satellite image is a set of VLS cells, it would be consistent with a 2021 Pentagon study on China’s military capability, which stated that the nation was most likely creating “the Type 093B guided-missile nuclear assault submarine.”
The new submarine was discovered after a model of a nuclear-powered assault submarine bearing the nameplate of China State Shipbuilding Corporation Limited and equipped with VLS technology as well as pump-jet propulsion surfaced online. (The company was formed by the merger of China’s two major shipbuilding companies, China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation and China State Shipbuilding Corporation, in November 2019.)
The model, which has 18 VLS cells in three rows of six missile tubes beneath the boat’s conning tower, was released on Chinese social media in early May without the shipyard’s inscription. Some suggested that this was a progression of the Type 093 class, tentatively dubbed Type 093B.
The submarine shown in the most recent satellite image of Huludao looks to be similar in length to the Type 093′s 110-meter length, indicating that it is most likely a development of the Type 093 rather than an entirely new class.
The Type 093 is also known as the Shang class; according to the Pentagon, the “new Shang class version will boost the PLAN’s [People’s Liberation Army Navy’s] anti-surface warfare capacity and may give a covert land-attack option if armed with land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs).”
When submerged, the Type 093 and Type 093A Shang-II-class boats weigh approximately 6,100 tons apiece. China possesses six Type 093s, one of which is the “A” variation. Their commissioning began in 2006, with each succeeding boat displaying subtle changes in sail design and a hump below the conning tower, the function of which has yet to be revealed or completely understood.