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People's Liberation Army Navy


In 1996 China bought four Russian Kilo-class diesel subs, two or which had been delivered as of 1998. The first two are the standard export 877 type, which are deployed to the East Sea Fleet. The other two, of the newer 636 type with quieter propulsion, remain on order. The Kilo-class submarines are the primary export class of Russian-made submarine, with other units having been sold to Iran and India. Because of its diesel-electric propulsion system it features quiet operations well suited for narrow water lanes and shallow sea areas. The submarine is equiped with radars and sonar to search for targets.

The Kilo-class submarine utilizes the water-drop shape and a T-shaped stern rudder. The 636 type are 72.6 meters long, and 9.9 meters wide, giving a length-breadth ratio of 7.45. They can dive to 300 meters and have a water displacement of 30,760 tons. Underwater, they have a speed of 17 knots. The personnel on board total 52, and the submarine has am endurance at sea of 45 days. It has reserve buoyancy of 32 percent, and a dual- level hull structure. It has six 533 mm torpedo tubes, 18 53-system homing or wire-guided torpedoes, 24 AM-1 underwater mines or eight SA-N-5 "Arrow" standby anti-aircraft missiles. It has passive infra-red guidance and is equipped with boat hull active/passive search sonar and active attack sonar.

China has already taken delivery of two 877EKM-type submarines, which are 73.8 meters long. The main engine is equipped with a shock- absorbing base and drives a large single-shaft, slanted seven-blade propeller (the 877- type has a six-blade propeller). The submarine's hull is covered with sound damping tiles, further reducing noise. It is equipped with six modified SA-N-8 "Needle"-model anti-aircraft missiles, and an MVU-110EM automatic digital command and control system. It can track five targets concurrently, and this class of submarine is generally considered to be extremely quiet.

China has been negotiating with Russia to transfer the technology to permit Chinese construction of submarines of this class. The Kilo class submarines are a significant improvement over the Romeo class, of which the PRC has about 30 in service. The Kilo class is well suited for operations in the East Sea and South Sea, and it will remain one of China's main conventional submarines. Reportedly, however, the two Kilo submarines have engaged in only limited sea operations due to engine problems. When their crews are fully trained, these new diesel submarines will provide a substantial improvement in China’s attack submarine capability. They will enhance China’s capability to interdict commercial or naval shipping, and hence to deny sea control to potentially hostile forces operating in China’s coastal seas.

Some reports suggest that China has agreed to buy six more Kilos, for a total of ten, or that the contracted number runs to 22 in all, including options. But in view of the price of these submarines, it it is doubtful if the Chinese Navy can afford to buy that many.


Propulsion diesel electric
Length 72.6 - 73.8 meters
Beam 9.9 meters
Displacement 2,325 tons
Endurance 45 days
Speed 17 knots submerged
Crew 52
  • 6 -533 mm torpedo tubes, 18 torpedoes
  • 24 AM-1 underwater mines or
  • 8 - SA-N-5 "Arrow" anti-aircraft missiles
  • Construction

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    Updated Friday, August 13, 1999 11:12:13 AM