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New Chinese Nuclear Sub Design Includes Special Operations Mini-Sub

A Computer generated image of a Type-93T or Shang-class nuclear attack submarine

A computer generated image of a Type-93T or Shang-class nuclear attack submarine

China’s latest nuclear submarine design appear to include a shelter capable of holding a miniature submarine for special operations forces (SOF) not unlike vehicles used to deliver Navy SEALs to shore from U.S. nuclear attack boats, according to an image in wide circulation in Chinese online networks.

The Chinese boat — a Type-93T or Shang-class nuclear attack submarine — features a hangar for the SOF submersible that would allow People’s Liberation Army troops to discrete deployment much like U.S. forces, according to a translation of a March 17 story in the state-run Reference News.

The image was first reported in English by Jane’s Defence Weekly on Tuesday.

Reference News said unlike hangars for U.S. SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDV), the hangar on the improved Shang-class attack boat could only accommodate the first two-thirds of the vehicle so “it enters [the] dock space as simple as an ink pen cap.”
The description implies some limitations on the capability.

“Consequently, as transfer of personnel to the SDV cannot easily be achieved with the submarine dived, the graphic shows SF personnel being transferred to the submarine by helicopter,” read the Jane’s report.

A U.S. Navy Seal Delivery Vehicle onboard Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Dallas. US Navy Photo

A U.S. Navy Seal Delivery Vehicle onboard Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Dallas. US Navy Photo

The Chinese report on the delivery vehicle follow a consistent trend in Chinese ship design, according U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World author Eric Wertheim.

“It shows that they are really looking at Western designs and take lessons learned and look at how we use our subs and incorporate some those features into their own,” he told USNI News on Wednesday.

That trend is also evident in the PLA Navy’s (PLAN) latest guided missile destroyer (DDG) designs which bear striking resemblance to Western DDGs.

Aside from the SOF capability, the revelation of the improved Shang sheds some light on the otherwise secretive PLAN submarine program.

The first Shang-class attack boat was launched in 2002, but the Chinese paused production after launching the second boat in 2003, according to a 2014 U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence assessment of Chinese shipbuilding.

“After nearly 10 years, China resumed production with four additional hulls of an improved [Shang] variant, the first of which was launched in 2012,” read the study.
The boats were slated to replace the aging Type-91 Han-class boats that entered the PLAN fleet in the mid-1980s, however there were wide reports the Chinese had problems silencing the reactor plant that may have led to the pause in the improved class development.

In addition to the hangar, the image showed what appear to be four sonar areas along the side of the boat and fixtures for a towed sonar array, according to the Jane’s analysis.

In a wider context, China’s submarine abilities improve and their operations expand beyond their home waters it is making neighbors nervous.
On Tuesday, the Indian Navy expressed concern over a Shang SSN that patrolled near its coastline from December to February, according to a report in The Telegraph.

  • Secundius

    A ChiCom PLAN I-400 class or a SEAL-type SDV…

  • disqus_89uuCprLIv

    Sam,
    Where did the image originate?

    • Secundius

      @ disque_89uuCrpLiv.

      You didn’t think the ChiCom’s were going to stay STUPID forever, did you…

    • SFjarhead

      I know its from a place that doesn’t normally allow photos…I hope you got permission.

  • NavySubNuke

    The Chinese are the masters of copying the work of those before them – this isn’t really a surprise at all given how long the US has been using such submarines. Even the North Koreans have been using mini-submarines to insert spec-ops troops for decades after all (although admittedly not from nuclear powered submarine motherships).

    • Secundius

      @ NavySubNuke.

      If the ChiCom’s build their PLAN Submarines, like they build the “Clone Copy” Automobiles. The West won’t have anything to worry about…

  • Sandy

    so what do we call this now; if this was a Soviet-copy, we would call it a VIRGINIA-ski class, but it’s Chinese….so what are we going to call these subs/J-21 fighter, and all the copies the CHICOMs are making…I KNOW you guys can think of something. …LOL…let the games begin….Sam, do you have anymore info on the submersible and how it docks?

  • Secundius

    Somewhat of a Noise Maker, 110-decibels (equivalent to a Power Saw) above the surface. Riveting Machine or Rock-Band underwater, “NOISY”…

  • HarryMO

    This boat type will continue to evolve as performance data comes in. Yes sir they copy and then improve on that design. Why go through years of trial and error when you already can observe what works in America’s arsenal. DUH!!!

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  • Secundius

    This class of Submarine, isn’t going to “Sneaking Up To Anything”. Except, another of her own class…

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  • wfraser11

    China intends to seize and hold islands in the South China Sea and to attempt to restrict free maritime traffic in the South China Sea. When they do this their submarines will be instantly sunk and their surface combatants will quickly end up on the bottom.
    The South China Sea is a free maritime traffic area and China’s attempts to control it will result in their getting their heads handed to them.

  • wfraser11

    Chinese motor scooters are pieces of cheap alloy junk pot metal crap.
    So is their Navy.
    Lots of dead chinamen if they start anything.

    • George Silversurfer

      Well said honky..sleep soundly

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