New Chinese-sourced imagery shows that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) continues to modify its Type 041 Yuan class conventional submarine and that it is making progress towards a new large destroyer or cruiser.
On 10 and 11 December 2013 the first images of a new variant of the Type 041 – also sometimes referred to as the Type 039A, Type 039C or Type 039X – appeared on Chinese military web forums. It had just been launched by the Wuhan Shipyard of the China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), the major manufacturer of China’s non-nuclear powered submarines. Only seen partially in these first images, a new image seen on 6 April shows the new Type 041 variant has a raked sail that is similar to recent German SSK designs.
This new sail design may incorporate an additional high-frequency sonar at the base of the sail, as do some other submarines with similar designs. This Type 041 may also be slightly longer than previous variants.
Uncorroborated Chinese sources have suggested that the new variant displaces about 3,500 tons compared to about 3,000 tons for earlier Type 041s. This could indicate that the new variant has more weapons – IHS Jane’s Fighting Ships states that the existing variants are armed with YJ-2 (YJ-82) anti-ship missiles and a combination of Yu-4 (SAET-50) passive homing and Yu-3 (SET-65E) active/passive homing torpedoes. Yu-6 wake-homing torpedoes may also be carried.
The basic export version, marketed as the S20 and unveiled in February 2013, displaces about 2,300 tons.
Since 2004 12 Type 041 submarines are believed to have been launched, while the US Department of Defense estimated in its May 2013 annual report on China’s military to Congress that production could reach 20 ships.
New imagery also shows that the China Ship Design and Research Center, or 701 Institute of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) at the Wuhan University of Science and Technology, is building a near full-scale model of a new large surface combatant. The model is close to the near full-size replica of the aircraft carrier Liaoning that was built in 2008-09.
[size=3]A view of the development/training mock-up for a new PLAN surface combatant built by the China Ship Design and Research Center, or 701 Institute of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), at the Wuhan University of Science and Technology. (Via CJDBY web page)[/size]
Like the carrier replica, this new model will likely feature radar and other offensive and defensive electronic systems. Fitting them to models allows both design refinement and training of future operators.
Based on current dimensions of the mock-up, a naval source estimates the vessel’s length to be up to 187 m with a beam of about 23 m. With these dimensions, the source estimates that the intended vessel will have space for 64 vertical launching system (VLS) cells in both its fore and aft sections. It also appears to have a pedestal towards its stern that can accommodate an L-band radar.
There has been much speculation that China would soon build a new larger surface combatant to carry both advanced electronics and new larger and longer-range anti-air and anti-ship/land-attack missiles. The new ship is sometimes called the Type 055 (following on from the Type 52 destroyer and Type 54 frigate classes) and is variously estimated to displace 8,000-10,000 tons.
Construction of a Wuhan model may indicate that ship construction could start in the next few years.