Satellite imagery has captured part of what is likely one of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) forthcoming nuclear-powered submarines, which will be directly comparable to the best boats in the US Navy.
According to a report by Naval News, a photo taken by a Maxar satellite for Google Earth has revealed the engine section of an advanced new submarine being built at China’s Bohai shipyard in Huludao, Liaoning Province. The photo dates to November 2020.
The only shipbuilding facility in China capable of producing nuclear-powered submarines, the Bohai shipyard has been expanding since 2014, the most recent project of which is a second construction hall that will likely be used for building either the forthcoming Type 095 or Type 096 submarines.
According to Naval News, the engine section in the photo likely belongs to one of these new models. The Type 095 is a fast attack submarine that will be tasked with hunting down enemy subs and ships alike, and the Type 096 is a ballistic missile or “boomer” submarine, responsible for carrying nuclear missiles.
The long propeller shroud seen in the image would help conceal the cavitation sounds generated by its propellers as they cut through the water, making it quieter and harder to detect – an advance of which Chinese naval engineers have boasted in recent years.
However, the outlet concedes it could also be an upgraded engine for a new version of the Type 093, an attack submarine class introduced in 2002 that has recently been modified to carry cruise and anti-ship missiles.
The hull section measures in at 30-32 meters long and 11-12 meters wide, further suggesting one of the new subs, which will be considerably larger than existing Chinese submarines.