China’s New Type 096 Nuclear Submarine is Nowhere to be Found; no Replacement for Type 094
China's only Type 094A (Jin-class) ballistic nuclear missile submarine (SSBN), its most modern "boomer," will continue to rust away at its home base on Hainan Island as work on its successor, the Type 096 (Tang-class or 09-V1), continues to face interminable delays.
Not much has been heard about the Type 096 from the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) over the past few years. There was news back in 2015 the Type 096 is scheduled to replace the Type 094 subs (of which four are operational out of eight planned) starting 2020.
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It was also rumored the Type 096 will carry 24 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) compared to 12 in the Type 094. These SLBMs for the Type 096 might either be the Julang-3 (JL-3) or the JL-2A
JL-3 has an estimated but unconfirmed range of 12,000 kilometers, which, if accurate will place most of the continental United States within range of this SLBM. JL-2A has a range of 11,200-kilometers, also sufficient to hit the U.S. from the South China Sea.
The current Julang-2 (JL-2) SLBM on the Type 094 submarine has a range of 8,000 km. This submarine carries 12 JL-2s.
Russian military expert Vasily Kashin believes the South China Sea is the only place where the Type 094A can fire its SLBMs at the USA in relative safety. The main base for China's fleet of ballistic missile submarines is Hainan Island on the South China Sea.
Misleading information leaked by China in 2012 prompted some Western analysts to predict the Type 096 would make its first sea patrol in 2014. That hasn't happened and it appears that not a single Type 096 is being built.
The Type 094A differs from the Type 094 in the former's curved conning tower and a retractable towed array sonar mounted atop its upper tailfin. The array makes it easier for the sub to listen for threats.
The Type 094A, which was first seen in November 2016, is also far quieter than the noisier Type 094.