Experts say a recent video on social media suggests that China may have a new, smaller submarine that prioritizes stealth and is less costly.
A video on Facebook shows an unknown submarine floating on a reservoir. It appears to be conducting initial tests as there are two white lines on the command room enclosure, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
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The source of the video is not yet known, but renowned submarine warfare author and expert H.I. Sutton speculated that the new submarine is about 160 feet (nearly 50 meters) long, not as long as the Type 039A submarine, which is slightly longer than 250 feet (about 76 meters).
He pointed out that judging from the size of the newly designed Chinese submarine, it may be related to the mysterious submarine without a command room enclosure that first appeared in 2018. In addition, Sutton believes that the newly designed submarine is likely to have a single hull, similar to the unknown submarine without a command room enclosure. In contrast, the Type 039 submarine has a double hull.
In addition to the unusual design, the new submarine is smaller than the PLA’s most active 039A, and the upgraded Type 039B and 039C submarines, Sutton said.
Zhou Chenming, a researcher at Beijing’s military science “Yuanwang think tank”, said the submarine in the film is a test version. He said that it is very expensive to build the prototype of the submarine, which is only a model. “All ship design and development requires hydrodynamic testing, and in the initial testing, model testing in a reservoir, not in seawater, is a necessary step. This could take at least five, maybe even 10 years.
According to a Pentagon report submitted to the U.S. Congress last year, China has 56 conventional submarines, 30 of which are Type 039s, to improve underwater endurance and stealth performance.
Beijing military expert Li Jie said the smaller and embedded command room enclosures are designed to increase agility and stealth. He noted that Chinese shipyards also need to come up with a variety of new low-cost designs for underwater weapons to counter inexpensive unmanned aerial vehicles.