China unveils major sub firepower leap, sinks a landing ship

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The Chinese People’s Liberation Army [PLA] Navy has recently made significant advancements in its capabilities. This development coincides with the 70th anniversary of the country’s submarine force. 

Photo credit: MWM

In an interview with the state-run China Central Television [CCTV], submarine detachment captain Wen Xuexing offered insights into these improvements. He stated, “We have achieved historic breakthroughs in terms of maritime verifications on our torpedo attacks and missile attacks. This means that our combat capabilities are stronger, we can reach regions farther away, and we are more confident in our missions.” 

He further elaborated that the country’s submarine force development includes both nuclear-powered and conventional boats, with a primary focus on nuclear-powered submarines. The report featured a rare clip showing a live torpedo striking the stern of a target ship, following a successful test attack that sank a retired Type 074 Yuhai-class amphibious landing ship. 

Photo credit: YouTube

Interestingly, the anniversary of the submarine force’s founding closely coincided with the surfacing of a Type 094 Jin-class ballistic missile submarine near the Taiwan Strait on June 18. This was widely seen as a demonstration of power aimed at Western supporters of Taipei amid ongoing tensions with Beijing. 

The submarine fleet is one area where the People’s Liberation Army Navy [PLAN] is seen to have some catching up to do, not just with the United States but also with Russia. Experts estimate that China’s Type 094 and Type 093 nuclear-powered attack submarines are somewhat noisier than the latest American and Russian subs, like the Virginia- and Yasen-classes.  

However, this gap is expected to narrow significantly with the entry of their successors, the Type 096 and Type 095 ballistic missiles and attack submarines, anticipated in the early 2030s. These new subs are projected to incorporate advanced technologies such as magnetic drive systems and rim-driven propellers, potentially making them the quietest and most efficient nuclear-powered submarines globally. 

China’s efforts to modernize its submarine fleet align with its broader defense advancements. From the capabilities of its Type 055 Class destroyer, widely regarded as the world’s most formidable surface combatant, to the advanced features of its J-20 fifth-generation fighter jet, the latest variants of which are increasingly viewed as top-tier globally, China’s defense sector continues to evolve. 

Discussing advancements in submarine missile capabilities, Captain Wen’s insights have triggered widespread speculation about the Type 093 Class ships. Many believe these submarines might soon integrate a variant of the YJ-21 hypersonic missile, a weapon system first confirmed on Type 055 destroyers in 2022. 

The YJ-21 missiles can cruise at speeds of Mach 6 and reach terminal speeds up to Mach 10, covering a range of 1,500 kilometers. This makes them some of the most advanced missiles globally, even surpassing the new Mach 9 Russian Zircon missiles, which have a range of 1,000 kilometers. 

If these speculations hold true, the Type 093 Class could significantly reduce performance gaps with leading U.S. and Russian attack submarines. This missile superiority could elevate the Type 093 Class to one of the world’s most formidable attack submarines, especially in anti-shipping missions.

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