China’s Most Modern Nuclear Attack Submarine Might be Operational

By | Feb 14, 2017 09:20 AM EST
In service?

Type 093B SSN. (Photo : PLAN)

China's most modern nuclear attack submarine (SSN) -- the little known Type 093B -- might now be in active service with the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

The importance attached by PLAN to this boat, which carries the NATO reporting name Shang-class, was underscored in mid-2016 when it released a single color photo of this heretofore secret submarine and released a few more details about it.

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The limited propaganda effort seemed to have been aimed at instilling fear and curiosity at the same time.

Among the more intriguing tidbits of information about this stealthy sub is that at least three of them are supposed to have been built and launched by 2015. Given it takes a year or so for sea trials to end, then at least one of these subs might be in active service with two more about to do so in the next year or two.

Western analysts speculate the Type 093B is much quieter than its predecessor, the noisy Type 093. Advances in metallurgy and propulsion seem to have given rise to a submarine touted to be almost as silent as the U.S. Navy's Los Angeles-class SSNs.

PLAN, however, points proudly to the armament of the Type 093B as its main feature. The Type 093B is the first Chinese sub to use a vertical launching system (VLS) to fire its load of anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles.

It might have from 12 to 16 VLS cells located behind the conning tower. VLS gives the Type 093B an advantage over older Chinese attack submarines that launch their cruise missiles from torpedo tubes.

The Type 093B is still armed with torpedo tube-launched cruise missiles, however. It can also fire anti-ship missile canisters from its torpedo tubes. Once fired, the canisters surface and break open to launch their missiles. 

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