While all media attention is now focused on developments in the conflict in Ukraine, the other theaters of operation and potential confrontation continue to evolve. This is particularly the case in Asia and in the Indo-Pacific theatre, with successive announcements concerning the development of new capacities in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and above all in the People's Republic of China. Among these revelations, the broadcast of a satellite photo showing a new model of Chinese nuclear attack submarine deserves special attention, as the underwater dimension will constitute, in the years to come, a major area of confrontation between Beijing and the Western camps.
Until recently, Chinese military submersibles were considered of lower quality, and had the reputation of being less efficient and above all much noisier than their most modern Western counterparts. But with the arrival of Yuan-class Type 039A conventional anaerobic-powered submarines (2006), then changes in the Shang II-class Type 093A nuclear attack submarine (2015), had shown that Beijing had quickly caught up in this area. The new satellite image of Planet Labs (In main illustration) shows a new model of SNA being finished at the Huludao shipyards in northern China. Even if the image quality is not optimal, two aspects nevertheless mark a profound evolution concerning the Shang II Class, with the addition of vertical launch systems as well as a pump-jet type ducted propeller, suggesting further improved operational and acoustic capabilities for the Chinese submarine fleet.
The general appearance of the new submarine, as well as its estimated length of 110 meters, suggests that it is not a new class of Chinese SNA, but a significant evolution of the Type 093A Shang II. However, the two evolutions observed far exceed the iterative evolutions observed on each of the Shang IIs observed to date, suggesting that it is indeed a major evolution of the model, and therefore probably a new class, identified temporarily as Type 093B, and not of the new class of SNA Type 095 being designed. However, it is easy to imagine that this new class will constitute a new stage in the rapid evolution of the know-how and underwater technologies of Chinese shipyards.
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