A Closer Look at China’s New SSBNs

China’s new Jin-class SSBNs at Huludao shipyard.
(click on image for higher-resolution picture)

By Hans M. Kristensen

The two new Jin-class SSBNs I discovered on Google Earth earlier this month have now been photographed in port by an anonymous photographer. The photograph, which has appeared on several Chinese web sites (here and here) and sent to me by David, clearly shows the features of what I estimated to be the Jin-class submarine.

Nothing is known about who took this photograph or whether or not it has been digitally manipulated. But if it is authentic, it appears to lay to rest speculations that the Jin-class would carry 16 missiles. Instead the photograph confirms the assessment made by the U.S. intelligence community by clearly showing the wide-open hatches of 12 launch tubes.

The photograph shows the submarines at an angle, which makes it difficult to precisely measure the length of the various sections. Furthermore, he second submarine on the other side of the pier is obscured by the submarine closest to the camera, making comparison of the two impossible. Yet, a comparison made from the satellite images on my previous blog show that the two submarines have the same overall dimensions.

The new photograph shows the sail of both submarines, which appear to be very similar. Moreover, the front submarine shows a unique feature on the top of the rudder section, which may be a sensor of some kind.

Overall, it is not as if the Chinese are trying to hide anything. Indeed, it is almost as if they want to show what they’ve got.

Background: Chinese Nuclear Forces and U.S. Nuclear War Planning

3 thoughts on “A Closer Look at China’s New SSBNs

  1. JF: Decision makers in China have obviously listened to General Pace’s suggestion on his last visit to China. The friendly general basically told the Chinese that they need to show their strength, otherwise their oriental modesty could be mistaken for weakness. The well-meaning general got what he wished. There will be more of such leaks as the tension between China and Taiwan increases. Maybe even a full-range flight test of JL-2 if it gets really bad. The most parsimonious interpretation for the release of the image is that China feels no need to hide their nuclear crown jewels – meaning that it probably views first-strike counterforce attack on the submarine base exceedingly unlikely. Their confidence suggests that they will show the world more in the future. [edited]

    Reply: Two reactions: One, I think General Pace’s point actually was that China should be more transparent or else it would create mistrust about its intensions (not that it would be seen as weak). Two, whether or not release of the image shows anything about the Chinese government’s perceptions of US targeting of Huludao is, I think, not clear. In a crisis or war, Huludao would probably be a target, and China probably anticipates this, image or not. But it would indeed be a good thing if the Chinese and U.S. governments find such a scenario exceedingly unlikely.

    If the image is indeed a semi-government release, then it could demonstrate that China is trying to be more transparent about some of its major force developments. Just as it has gradually been providing more information about its nuclear policy and doctrine since 2000. So you’re probably right that we’re going to see more of this. HK

  2. BWJ: Wow, it really does not look that quiet with lots of opportunities (topside at least) for noise generation. Also it appears that the launch tubes were added almost as a design afterthought. It would be interesting to see the below waterline detail as well from an above water stability perspective.

    Reply: Yes the new design appears to be much closer to that of the Xia-class than I think was anticipated by many. It’s almost like a stretched Xia rebuilt around the new Julang-2. And since the first Jin-class sub has already been in Xiaopingdao, there’re probably a busy group of U.S. analysts analyzing the sound-signature right now. HK

  3. Tam: I examined the photo closely and it looked that the flood holes are not flushed at the surface but are openings from doors that hinged inwards. Its likely the holes are self closing by pressure activation.

    The turtle back is higher than the Xia’s, which matches the much greater increased size of the JL-2 over the JL-1.

    Thie turtleback design is taken from the Xia except for the additional row of flood holes. The basis of this design is in fact from the Delta II class SSBNs, which feature a similar turtleback with pressure opened and closed flood holes near the rim.

    The Jin does not look like a Xia by looking at the pattern of limber holes and the sail. Rather, the sail and the limber holes are straight out of the 093 Shang class. If you see pictures of the 093, the holes and the sail are the same. The 094 is literally an 093 stretched and added with a turtle back.

    There is a new update on the Google Earth Xiaopingdao image btw. The Jin previously seen in no longer there but its companion, an 093 Shang is there. This is the first time an 093 is seen in GE. The 093 is slightly thicker and longer (95m vs. 90m) compared to the 091 Hans.

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