The Chinese navy is developing submersible ‘arsenal ships’ that can fire missiles at the surface, or dip below the waves to attack from underwater.
According to Chinese media, naval experts have been looking into two types of partially-submerged warships, both of which would displace about 20,000 tons, Popular Science reports.
This type of design could make the massive, missile-carrying warships stealthier by masking their radar signatures as they submerge – or, it could allow for high-speed operations up at the surface.
According to the Popular Science blog Eastern Arsenal, researchers in China have been testing models of the technology since 2011, and rumours claim a full-scale proof-of-concept from the Bohai Shipbuilding Heavy Industrial Corporation will be ready around 2020.
Chinese media claim studies on submersible arsenal ships are underway, including a version with high-speed capabilities, and a ship with two conning towers that operates almost fully submerged.
The first type of arsenal ship would remain mostly underwater for stealth operations.
But, to switch into high-speed mode – which would sacrifice stealth – it would ‘use the flat hull bottom to hydroplane at high speeds’ to cut across waves, PopSci explains.
The second type of ship would have a more traditional design and act much like those used during WWII, with most of its operations taking place at the surface.
It would only dip below the surface in times of combat, or if attacked, according to PopSci.
Just months ago, the Chinese navy released a rare glimpse at the Type 093B ‘Shang’ submarine, which can launch missiles vertically at ships and other targets overhead.
China’s new nuclear attack submarine is among the military’s most secretive platforms.
This model improves upon the capabilities of earlier nuclear attack submarines, and is expected to be quieter and faster.
According to the Popular Science blog Eastern Arsenal, this reveal marks an extremely rare event.
It’s thought that there were three Type 093B SSNs launched last year.
These were preceded by two Type 093 SSNs, which were launched 15 years ago.
Though they were intended to be stealthy, the Type 093s were equipped with noisy reactors and propulsion systems, the blog explains, and this was only worsened as they climbed to higher speeds.
In the new version, the submarine uses more advanced metallurgy and reactor resigns to reduce noise to an estimate stealthiness between the USN Los Angeles Flight I and Flight III SSNs.
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