The Type 039A submarine (NATO reporting name: Yuan-class) is a class of diesel-electric submarine in China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy. It is China’s first AIP powered submarine and presumed to be one of the quietest diesel-electric submarine classes in service. This class is the successor of the Type 039 submarine. The official Chinese designation is 039A as the ship is based on the 039 class, but as the 039A has very little resemblance to the 039 it is commonly referred to as the Type 041. The class is designed to replace the aging Type 033 Romeo and the older Type 035 submarines that previously formed the backbone of the conventional submarine force.
According to an early assessment by the US Naval Institute, the Yuan class was primarily designed as “an anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) platform capable of hiding submerged for long periods of time in difficult to access shallow littorals.”. However, another assessment by USNI includes an open-ocean capability which can be utilized beyond coastal waters. Also updated was its role within China’s naval fleet, and as of August 2015 it is considered to be a more traditional attack submarine, with a secondary ASCM role.
Essay: Inside the Design of China’s Yuan-class Submarine
A review of Google Earth and hand-held photography indicates this is indeed the case. Google Earth imagery of both submarine classes berthed near each other shows the Yuan has a larger beam than the Song-class. This strongly argues that the sources that hold to the narrower beam of 7.5 meters for the Type 039G Song are probably closer to the truth. Furthermore, analysis of hand-held imagery indicates that theYuan is not only longer, but also has a deeper draft than the Song-class.
Chinese submarines use the Russian system for draft markings. This means the markings do not show the draft by direct measurement, but rather it shows the deviation from an established draft. On Chinese submarines, the longer white line in the draft markings shows the submarine’s normal surface waterline, with deviations in the draft noted in 0.2-meter increments. From hand-held, broad aspect photographs of the Type 039A/B submarine, both in the water and out, one can accurately measure the waterline length and the length overall. The often-quoted length of 72 meters for the Yuan class is actually its waterline length. This value is also consistent with Google Earth measurements. The submarine’s overall length from the analysis is just over 77.2 meters, which is consistent with numerous Chinese-language websites that list the length as 77.6 meters. The same can be said of the normal surface draft that comes in at about 6.7 meters, greater than the 5.5-meter value held by many open Western source references.
Putting all of this together shows the Yuan is a large conventional submarine, only marginally smaller than a Soryu-class boat—on the order of 15 percent smaller. Perhaps a better comparison would be with the PLAN’s other large conventional submarine, the Russian-built Project 636 Kilo. That comparison shows theYuan comes out as being slightly bigger than a late model Kilo. The table below lists the basic physical characteristics of the four submarines discussed in this article. Project 636 Kilo and Soryu-class data come from official sources, while Yuan and Song data are largely derived from the analysis mentioned above.
Thus, in stark contrast to the essay’s conclusion, the Type 039 A/B Yuan is not a small submarine at all. It is one of the largest conventional combat submarines in the PLAN inventory, and is no more maneuverable in shallow water than other large conventional submarine designs, such as the Kilo or Soryu-classes. If a navy truly wishes to invest in a “coastal submarine,” or SSC, then it would look at submarines like the German Type 205 and 206, and the North Korean Sango, all of which come in at less than 500 tons submerged displacement.
|Project 636 Kilo||Type 039A/B Yuan||Type 039GSong||Soryu|
|Length Overall||73.8 m||77.6 m1||74.9 m||84.0 m|
|Beam||9.9 m||8.4 m||7.5 m||9.1 m|
|Draft||6.6 m||6.7 m2||5.7 m4||8.3 m5|
|Surface Displacement||2,350 tons||2,725 tons3||1,727 tons||2,947 tons|
|Submerged Displacement||3,125 tons||3,600 tons||2,286 tons||4,100 tons|
1) The often-quoted Type 039A/B length of 72 meters is waterline length, not length overall.
2) Type 039A/B draft is larger than the reported 5.5 meters that is nearly identical to the smaller Type 039G Song-class.
3) Yuan-class surfaced and submerged displacements come from Chinese language websites, of which there is some confusion on surface displacement. The value given on most Chinese websites (2,300 tons) would result in a reserve buoyancy of 50+ percent, which is not realistic. The estimated surface displacement in the table reflects a reserve buoyancy of 32 percent that is consistent with earlier Type 035 and 039G designs.
4) The reported 5.3-meter value for the Type 039G’s draft is suspect. Hand-held photos of this submarine in drydock suggest the draft is probably closer to 5.7 meters.
5) The draft of the Soryu-class is often listed as 8.5 meters, however, numerous photos of fore and aft draft markings show it is closer to 8.3 meters. Data news.usni.org
Japan’s Soryu-class: Details
Shallow Water Environment
Designing a submarine to operate in very shallow water has other problems beyond just maneuvering. Holst correctly points out that the acoustic environment in coastal areas is chaotic and difficult, making it challenging for an antisubmarine platform to find a Yuan ensconced in such waters. But what is good for the gander is also good for the goose.
Radiated noise from shipping is far louder, and even with multiple bounces off the bottom and sea surface, a lot of the acoustic energy will still reach a submerged submarine’s sonar. With shipping, biologic, and wave noise coming in from both near and far, a Yuan would be hard pressed to detect, track, and identify a target of interest; particularly as surface combatants tend to be quieter than civilian merchants. In other words, it will be very difficult to find and obtain an accurate fire control solution on a desired target without using a periscope to sort out the tactical picture. Doing so, however, would increase the submarine’s chances of being detected by radar or electro-optical sensors. Therefore, a submarine hugging the bottom in shallow coastal waters will be vexed by the same problem that an ASW ship has to deal with in looking for the submarine. But what is even more curious—if Chinese designers had intended from the very beginning for the Yuan-class to be a shallow water boat—why was a passive low frequency flank array put on these submarines?
The H/SQG-207 is a line of individual hydrophones mounted to the hull, and is designed to provide long-range detection against noisy ships—low frequency noise suffers lower absorption losses and travels further in water. The problem is this kind of array is most effective in deeper water where interference with the bottom is limited. Such an array would be severely degraded in very shallow water, offering little, if any benefit, beyond the capabilities of the medium frequency bow array. The fact that the H/SQG-207 array is on the Yuan-class argues strongly that its design operating areas are in deeper waters where this passive sonar can serve as the primary sensor.
Type 039B Yuan-class submarine during rollout at the Jiangnan Shipyard on Changxing Island. Note the long white line in the draft markings, which designates the submarine’s normal surface waterline. Also note the low-frequency passive flank array just above the keel blocks. Image news.usni.org
PLAN Submarine Weaponry
Holst’s treatment of PLAN submarine weaponry shows it perpetuates a longstanding misunderstanding when it asserts that the Type 039A/B Yuan carries the C-802 ASCM. The fundamental problem with this is the C-802 is not a submarine-launched missile. In fact, the “C-802” designation is for an export surface, air, and land-based ASCM with a range of 120 kilometers, rather than the 180 kilometers stated in the essay. Of interest, there is no evidence the C802 was ever accepted by the PLAN. Lastly, it isn’t the same missile that the PLAN has fielded on the Type 039G, 039A/B, 091, and 093 submarines—the YJ-82. The YJ-82 is a solid-rocket propelled missile based on the YJ-8/8A ship-launched ASCM, but without the booster. The YJ-82 is launched in a buoyant capsule that is virtually identical to the U.S. submarine-launched Harpoon. Normally, the range of the YJ-8/8A is only 42 kilometers. But without the booster, the YJ-82’s range will be even less, possibly as short as 30 to 34 kilometers (16–18 nautical miles). This very short range means the launch will almost certainly be seen by its target, or an escort, as the missile will be within the radar horizon of most warships by the time it reaches ten meters in altitude. With such a short engagement range, the firing submarine’s location will be fixed quite quickly, with a counter-attack likely following shortly thereafter if a warship is nearby—flaming datums have a bad habit of attracting that sort of response. That is one of the key reasons why the PLAN submarine force is eagerly awaiting the fielding of the YJ-18, which reportedly has a maximum range of up to 220 kilometers.
With respect to the authors the Department of Defense’s, 2015 Annual Report to Congress, the cited range of 290nm (550km) for the YJ-18 in (p. 10) is undoubtedly a typographic error. It is virtually impossible for a missile that is very likely smaller than the SS-N-27B Sizzler to have a range that is almost two and a half times greater. The ranges given in the 2015 report for the YJ-8A and YJ-62 are also incorrect and reflect a reliance on inaccurate open source information.
YJ-18 Supersonic anti-ship missile – Image: andrewerickson.com
Another point of interest is that the weapons carried by the Type 039A/B Yuan are identical to those on the Type 039G Song, to include both the current YJ-82 and the future YJ-18 ASCMs. And yet, Holst makes no mention of the Song-class having the exact same weapons capability, both in terms of the number of torpedo tubes and weapons carried. The Type 039A/B Yuan-class will undoubtedly be the more effective ASCM platform; due to its enhanced sonar suite and the tactical flexibility provided by the AIP system, but in both instances the ASCM is a secondary weapon because of the small load out of missiles in the torpedo room, and the low salvo-size driven by torpedo tube limitations. If the Chinese continue to follow Russian tactical concepts, two of the six torpedo tubes will be loaded with YU-6 torpedoes for self-defense against an unexpected appearance by a submarine or surface ship. And while a salvo of four YJ-18 ASCMs is nothing to sneeze at, it is probably insufficient to overwhelm a modern warship’s hard and soft kill air defenses. The Mach 3 speed of the YJ-18’s sprint vehicle is impressive, and will seriously reduce a ship’s reaction time, but numbers are still needed to saturate todays modern air defense systems.
YJ-82 (C-802) – Image: redstar.gr
In sum, I believe Holst has drawn incorrect conclusions on the Type 039A/B Yuan submarine design basis because of inaccurate technical data and inadequate analysis. The Type 039A/B Yuan is a large submarine, particularly for a non-nuclear boat, and is comparable in size to Russia’s Kilo and Japan’s Soryu-classes. The sonar suite of the Yuan is tailored more for deep water where it can use the low frequency flank array to make long-range detections against noisy ships. The lack of a vertical launch system means the Yuan, and Song-class, are limited by the number of torpedo tubes that can be allocated to ASCMs; making it very hard to saturate a ship’s air defenses with only four, or at most five, missile salvos. And given the current short-ranged YJ-82 ASCM, a Type 039A/B Yuan-class submarine is better off attempting to close inside 15 kilometers and engaging the target with YU-6 torpedoes. But even after the introduction of the YJ-18, the restrictive factors of the torpedo room’s capacity and the small number of torpedo tubes remains. The PLAN appears to appreciate this constraint, as the discussion of future nuclear submarine designs having as many as 16 vertical launch tubes suggests.
The design aspects of the Type 039A/B Yuan-class submarine point toward deep-water operating areas in the near seas, to include the approaches to Taiwan, where their improved sonar and AIP capabilities will aid the submarine in detecting, tracking, and engaging targets of interest. And while a Type 039A/B Yuan could soon be loaded with a more effective, long-range ASCM, the submarine’s design limitations will continue to rely heavily on the torpedo. Source usni.org
The Type 039A inherits the tail design of the Type 039 (NATO codename: Song class) with four diving planes and a single large shaft. A pair of foreplanes are positioned in the middle of the sail. The submarine is equipped with indigenously developed cabin-raft (shock absorbers) system that helped to reduce noise level by over 35 dB. Additionally, the submarine is covered with rubber anti-sonar protection tiles to reduce the risk of detection. A new improved “C” variant was also launched.
The Type 039A has six 533 mm torpedo tubes. These can be used to launch indigenous torpedoes such as Yu-6as well as Russian-made torpedoes. It is speculated that it will be equipped with the supersonic YJ-18 currently in development.
Yu-6 Heavyweight torpedo
|Type: Torpedo||Weight: 0 kg|
|Length: 7.8 m||Span: 0.533 m|
|Diameter: 0.533||Generation: None|
|Properties: Search Pattern, Bearing-Only Launch (BOL)|
|Targets: Surface Vessel, Submarine|
|Sensors / EW:|
|Torpedo Seeker – (Yu-5, ASW & ASuW) Hull Sonar, Active/Passive
Torpedo Seeker, Active/Passive
Max Range: 2.8 km
|Yu-6 – (2006, ASW & ASuW, Submarine) Torpedo
Surface Max: 11.1 km. Subsurface Max: 11.1 km.
The YJ-18 ASCM first cruises at approximately 600 mph right above the surface of the water, and then accelerates to up to Mach 3 (3X the speed of sound) at about 20 nautical miles out from the target ship, making it “harder to hit with on-board guns”, and a “faster target for radars”, according to one Larry Wortzel of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Even worse, the new missile has an operational/engagement range of roughly 290 nautical miles, or roughly 14 times that of its predecessor, the YJ-82. The commission therefore concluded that the YJ-18 missile “could have serious implications for the ability of U.S. Navy surface ships to operate freely in the Western Pacific” in the event of a naval confrontation. In other words, there’s serious concern right now that the YJ-18 can significantly upset the current balance of naval power, i.e., the US Navy’s firepower advantage in the region, and work as an anti-access/area-denial weapon. Source defensereview.com
|Type||Anti-ship cruise missile
land attack cruise missile
|Place of origin||People’s Republic of China|
|Used by||People’s Liberation Army Navy|
|Warhead||140–300 kg (310–660 lb) warhead|
|Anti-ship variants 300–400 km (190–250 mi; 160–220 nmi) est
Land-attack variants 1,400–1,500 km (870–930 mi; 760–810 nmi) est
|Speed||Mach 0.8 (cruising)
Mach 2.5-3.0 (terminal)
|BeiDou Navigation Satellite System
onboard radar seeker
YJ-18 ASCM data wikiwand.com
The general designer of the torpedo and missile launching system is Mr. Sun Zhuguo (孙柱国, 1937-). The Type 039A is also believed to be capable of launching YJ-8X (C-80X) series anti-ship missiles. The missile uses inertial + terminal active radar guidance. It carries a 165 kg time-delayed semi-armour-piercing high-explosive warhead, with a maximum range of 80~120 km and speed of Mach 0.9. The Type 039A is also capable of firing the CY-1 ASW missile under water, but the status of the missile is in question because nothing is heard about its production. The CY-1 ASW missile has a maximum range of 18 km (10 nm), and when using ET-52 or Yu-7 torpedo as a payload.
C-802 [YJ-82, CSS-N-8 Saccade]
|Type: Guided Weapon||Weight: 755 kg|
|Length: 5.3 m||Span: 1.18 m|
|Diameter: 0.36||Generation: None|
|Properties: Home On Jam (HOJ), Terrain Following, Search Pattern, Bearing-Only Launch (BOL), Weapon – INS Navigation, Terminal Maneuver – Pop-up, Level Cruise Flight|
|Targets: Surface Vessel|
|Sensors / EW:|
|Passive Radar Seeker – (C-802) ESM
Weapon Seeker, Anti-Radiation
Max Range: 18.5 km
|Active Radar Seeker – (ASM MR, C-802) Radar
Weapon Seeker, Active Radar
Max Range: 9.3 km
|C-802 [YJ-82, CSS-N-8 Saccade] – (1995, Iranian Noor 2) Guided Weapon
Surface Max: 129.6 km.
CY-1 ASW missile
|Place of origin||China|
|In service||late 1980s – present|
|inertial in flight, passive / active sonar in water|
|Air, surface & submerged|
CY-1 data wikiwand.com
Generic Acoustic Decoy (2000s, Noisemaker / Bubble Screen)
|Type: Decoy (Expendable)||Weight: 3 kg|
|Length: 0.2 m||Span: 0.1 m|
|Diameter: 0.0||Generation: Early 2000s|
|Generic Acoustic Decoy – (2000s, Noisemaker / Bubble Screen) Decoy (Expendable)
Subsurface Max: 1.9 km.
Combat Control Systems
China was known to have imported the Thales TSM 2233 ELEDONE / DSUV-22 and Thales TSM 2255 / DUUX-5 from France during the 1980s and early 1990s. It also has access to a wide range of modern Russian sonar systems (MG-519 MOUSE ROAR, MGK-500 SHARK GILL) through its purchase of the Kilo Class. Comparable systems are expected to be installed for the Type 039A. It is likely to be fitted with a comparable surface/air search radar similar to the MRK-50 SNOOP TRAY, a commercial navigation radar like a Furuno unit observed on a number of SONG class and ESM system is comparable to the Type 921A.
China SQG-2B [DUUX 5] (Han)
|Type: Hull Sonar, Passive-Only||Altitude Max: 0 m|
|Range Max: 74.1 km||Altitude Min: 0 m|
|Range Min: 0 km||Generation: Late 1980s|
|Sensors / EW:|
|China SQG-2B [DUUX 5] – (Han) Hull Sonar, Passive-Only
Role: Hull Sonar, Passive-Only Ranging Flank Array Search & Track
Max Range: 74.1 km
China SQC-1 [DSUV 2H + DUUA 2D] (DSUV 22 System, Han)
|Type: Hull Sonar, Active/Passive||Altitude Max: 0 m|
|Range Max: 74.1 km||Altitude Min: 0 m|
|Range Min: 0 km||Generation: Late 1970s|
|Sensors / EW:|
|China SQC-1 [DSUV 2H + DUUA 2D] – (DSUV 22 System, Han) Hull Sonar, Active/Passive
Role: Hull Sonar, Active/Passive Search & Track
Max Range: 74.1 km
China Type 921-A Golf Ball (Submarine, Stop Light)
|Type: ESM||Altitude Max: 0 m|
|Range Max: 222.2 km||Altitude Min: 0 m|
|Range Min: 0 km||Generation: Late 1960s|
|Sensors / EW:|
|China Type 921-A Golf Ball – (Submarine, Stop Light) ESM
Role: RWR, Radar Warning Receiver
Max Range: 222.2 km
Snoop Tray 2 [MRK-50E Kaskad] (Export)
|Type: Radar||Altitude Max: 0 m|
|Range Max: 37 km||Altitude Min: 0 m|
|Range Min: 0.6 km||Generation: Early 1970s|
|Properties: Pulse-only Radar|
|Sensors / EW:|
|Snoop Tray 2 [MRK-50E Kaskad] – (Export) Radar
Role: Radar, Surface Search, Short-Range
Max Range: 37 km
Generic Acoustic Intercept
|Type: Acoustic Intercept (Active Sonar Warning)||Altitude Max: 0 m|
|Range Max: 27.8 km||Altitude Min: 0 m|
|Range Min: 0 km||Generation: Late 1970s|
|Sensors / EW:|
|Generic Acoustic Intercept – Acoustic Intercept (Active Sonar Warning)
Role: Acoustic Intercept
Max Range: 27.8 km
According to the Chinese newspaper Science and Technology Daily (科技日报), this 039A class is equipped with an air-independent propulsion system developed by the 711th Research Institute of the China Shipbuilding Heavy Industry Group Corp. Referred as a “specialized engine” in official Chinese sources. The 711th Institute was founded in April 1963, but it was not until more than a decade later, in 1975, that it ventured into the field of air-independent propulsion systems by establishing an office for a “specialized engine,” setting up a team of about a dozen researchers.
China is building a powerful submarine fleet, including domestically built Song and Yuan-class boats. The beating hearts of these subs are state-of-the-art diesel engines designed by MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH of Friedrichshafen, Germany. Alongside 12 advanced Kilo-class submarines imported from Russia, these German-powered boats are the workhorses of China’s modern conventional submarine force.
According to The Washington Times (July 16, 2004), American officials initially believed the submarine was diesel-powered. In March 2007 Jane’s Navy International reported that the Yuan class was fitted with an AIP system developed by the No.711 Research Institute. Yuan is using an AIP engine of 100 kw in power, and is probably equipped with 2 such AIP engine. The Gotland submarines use 2 V4-275R stirling AIP units (each rated 75 kw). The larger Yuan obviously needs more powerful AIP units. Source globalsecurity.org
China offers S-26 conventional submarine with Stirling engine AIP
An image released during IDEX 2017 clearly shows an oxygen tank (circled in red) for the Sterling cycle AIP system. (CSOC)
A CSOC brochure notes that its 2,660 ton displacement ‘Conventional Submarine’ has a length of 79.5 m, a beam of 8.6 m, maximum speed of 18 kt, a range of 8,000 n miles at 4 kt, and a maximum dive depth of 300 m. Source janes.com
Currently the special engine research process, 711 Research Institute this as an opportunity to train a large number of technical backbone. From presiding at the beginning of the project, the team only if more than 10 people, which grew to more than 100 people. Emerging model of Shanghai, Shanghai Youth Science and technology and other advanced character of excellence, and that’s what this team, was recognized as the people’s Liberation Army General armament Department “researching advanced group”, has twice been awarded the “Shanghai model workers collective”.
By June 1996 that team had developed into the “specialized engine engineering research center”; by 2008 there were more than a hundred researchers. In 1998, the first experimental sample was built and a decade later and after a dozen technological breakthroughs, a wide range of matured versions became commercially available and the newest diesel-electric submarine in Chinese navy became the first customer. Although the official Chinese source had not mentioned the exact class of the submarine, it is generally accepted that the class is no other than Type 039A Yuan class, since it is the newest conventional powered submarine in the Chinese navy. The engine is built by Shanghai Qiyao Propulsion Technology Ltd. (上海齐耀动力技术有限公司), a wholly owned subsidiary of the 711th Institute.
The technical information on the Winston Battery WB-LYP10000AHA in large submarines gives some ideas about the size of the battery pack for the Yuan-class of diesel-electric submarines to be equipped with an air-independent propulsion system (AIP) powered from large battery banks. The battery pack consists of 960 pcs of the WB-LYP10000AHA cells making the total energy of 31MWh. The lithium battery is saving some 260 tons of weight against the original lead-acid pack. With this pack the Yuan-class (B-class) diesel-electric submarine can drive 3300 nautical miles or it can stay under water for 800 hours (33 days). This indicates the average onboard consumption of the submarine when not moving is some 38kW/h. Source globalsecurity.org
Winston Battery WB-LYP10000AHA
The Yuan class SSK is integrated with advanced noise reduction techniques including anechoic tiles, passive/active noise reduction, asymmetrical seven-blade skewed propeller, the 039A is expected to be as quiet as other modern diesel-electric submarines, which are very difficult to track.
Anechoic tiles are used on the YuanAnechoic tiles are used on the YuanAnechoic tiles are used on the YuanAnechoic tiles are used on the Yuan
|Builders:||Wuchang Shipbuilding, Wuhan|
|Operators:||People’s Liberation Army Navy|
|Preceded by:||Type 039 (Song-class)|
|Succeeded by:||Type 039C|
|Displacement:||3,600 t (3,500 long tons) (submerged)|
|Length:||77.6 m (254 ft 7 in)|
|Draft:||6.7 meter square.|
|Propulsion:||Diesel-electric, 1 shaft, AIP|
|Speed:||20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)|
|Test depth:||400 m|
|Armament:||6 × 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes, Anti-Ship missiles|
Main material source wikiwand.com