Chinese AIP Submarines. Overview 2014

Chinese AIP Submarines. Overview 2014


Overview of China’s conventional AIP Submarine for period from 1960 till 2014 was performed. China’s submarines type 033 (former Romeo class), type 035 Ming, type 039/039G/039G1 Song, type 041Yuan (type 039A/039B/039AG/039C) and type 032 Qing characteristics represented in details. Overview shows the development process of China’s submarine building and influenced of Soviet shipbuilding school on China’s submarine buildingformation. As for AIP technology, it should to be noted that now China’s submarine building shipyards use as domestic so western technology successfully. In March 2007 Jane’s Navy International reported that the boat type 041 Yuan was fitted with an AIP system developed by the No.711 Research Institute. Type 041 Yuan uses an AIP engine of 100 kW in power, and is probably equipped with 2 such AIP engines. It can be supposed that they are Stirling engines. However the direct information about applied AIP system is absent in open press. It should to be noted that the China’s People’s Liberation Army and Navy (PLAN) does not publish information regarding to Chinese submarine. All data published in the present article were taken from current open press and different Internet sources. Very therefore, can be discovered uncorrected date. All discovered uncorrected date will be clarified and corrected during updating the article.


1.1. Combat submarine is a formidable naval weapon. In wartime a submarines carry out the following missions:

  • Destruction (sinking) of enemy combatant ships, submarines and cargo boats;
  • Attack of land-targets;
  • Navy reconnaissance (enemy combatant and merchant ships and submarines surveillance and information gathering and transfer);
  • Supporting of operations of special forces;
  • Protection of combatant ships and convoy of merchant shipping;
  • Patrolling of sea areas;

The main tasks of submarines during wartime are a destruction (sinking) of enemy combatant ships, submarines and attack of land-targets of enemy.

To be hunted effectively, the submarine-hunter has to have the following features:

  • be undetectable (first of all – be silent);
  • have possibility to detect any remote combatant ships and submarines of enemy;
  • be movable and mobile in speed range from 0 to max possible;
  • be quick dived and quick surfacing;
  • be deep-sea;
  • have a long submerged range;
  • be submergeduninterruptedly for a long time (long endurance);

It is well known that typical diesel-electric conventional submarines use electric propulsion for running underwater. The main source of electric energy in boat providing all underwater operations is an electric battery. To recharge the battery a submarine uses diesel-electric generator. Therefore, the boat has to surface every 5 – 7 days (in real conditions, it is every 3 – 4 days) so long as a usual diesel-engine cannot operate in a submerged boat.

To recharge battery at submerged state, a modern ocean class submarines are fitted with so-called Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) systems. These auxiliary electric energy sources carry out recharging battery underwater and provide control systems and personal servicing systems by electricity.

1.2. Pacific Ocean (see Appendix A) is the place where interests of many countries are clashed. Forty two states of sovereign nations and twenty three territories (islands) are washed by Pacific Ocean. Only six, highly developed countries: the United State, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Australia and China define the strategic balance in this region. However, the status quo taking place now is very fragile.

Economical development of China in the second part of the last century and in the first decade of the 21st century allowed for China to take place among highly developed countries as in the Pacific Ocean region so in the World.

It is impossible to call that relations between China and its nearest neighbors as cloudless. Unsettled claims in the past are transformed in subject of conflicts today.

Eight small islands in East China Sea (called Senkaku in Japan as the Chinese call Diaoyu) are subject of controversy between China and Japan. China – Japan controversy is in progress from 1992.

Chinese AIP Submarines. Overview 2014

Chinese AIP Submarines. Overview 2014

In 2013 China had established Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ) in East China Sea. The China’s ADIZ cross the Japan’s ADIZ around Senkaku / Diaoyu islands. China government considers that the islands belong to China. In accordance with statement of China’s Defense Ministry, the plane flew over “air defense identification zone” (ADIZ) will have to declare the Chinese identity and, if violated, would be shot down. Japan and the United States had called up China to be restrained. In fact, it is actions in the run up to regional armed conflict.

Location of islands and ADIZ of China and Japan are shown in the pictures below.

Chinese AIP Submarines. Overview 2014

Chinese AIP Submarines. Overview 2014

It is assumed that China also plans to establish a similar zone in the South China Sea, which China claimed by many countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines.

The United States criticized the desire for China expanding the “the room”.

Certainly, the United State wants to preserve the existing status quo; however, the China wants to change it. In such conditions, the might of Naval Forces is not the last argument influencing on situation.

1.3. As a rule, the state submarine forces have a structure including: attack and attack AIP submarines (SS and SSP); ballistic missile (SSB) and auxiliary submarines (SSA), coastal submarines (SSC); submarine tenders (SSP), floating submarine docks, deep submergence vehicles and submarine rescue vehicles (IXSS). The United State and China are not conformance exceptions.

More than 40 nuclear (SSN) submarine are in service at Submarine Forces of the United State Pacific Fleet.

Chinese Submarine Forces are distributed among three North, East and South fleets.

Chinese submarine forces distribution is given in the table and the schema below.

Submarine types North fleet East Fleet South Fleet
Nuclear submarines 4 2
Attack Ballistic missile 2 1
Conventionalattack submarines 20 19 14

Chinese AIP Submarines. Overview 2014

The People’s Liberation Army and Navy. A Modern NAVY with Chinese Characteristics August 2009 [17].

We consider that necessary to draw attention that majority of the Chinese conventional submarines are the AIP submarines. Today, it is serious difference. Usual diesel-electric submarines have total endurance 45 – 90 days and can be continuous submerged during 4 – 7 days. AIP system makes it possible to increase continuous submerged endurance (without surfacing) until 14 – 30 days and till 60-80 days for being built modern conventional AIP submarine (German boat U-216 has expected endurance – 80 days, Russian project 654 Kalina class – 60 days).

Nuclear submarine can run underwater during 100 – 120 days max. Such endurance is limited with stock of food, necessary to maintain different systems of boat and to clean up environment of large crew. Taking into account some advantages of AIP submarines vs nuclear boats [16], the possibility to be underwater for a long time transforms conventional AIP subs, into serious competitor for nuclear boats.

One of the main advantages of conventional AIP submarines is stealth. Conventional AIP submarines typically are less detectable through acoustic, infrared or magnetic sensors and more maneuverable than nuclear subs. However, typical nuclear submarines have higher cruise speed than AIP boats. This performance is very important for operation in East and South parts of Pacific Ocean. However, in shallow waters of littoral zones of the West and South-West parts of the Pacific Ocean nuclear submarines can fall a victim to smaller AIP conventional boats.

Concern has grown in Congress of the United States since the 1990s about China military modernization and naval modernization in particular. In issue for Congress it is noted that China’s naval modernization significantly affect future US Navy capabilities and Navy funding requirements, [18].

In 2013 China has signed an agreement with Russia to buy four super quiet diesel-electric AIP submarine of Project 677 Lada class [14]. However, instead of delivering the obsolescent Lada-class submarines to the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) as requested by Beijing, Russia’s president, V.,Putin, will likely authorize China to receive the more advanced Kalina-class AIP submarine, reports the Voice of Russia, citing Vassily Kashin, a senior research fellow from the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies [15].

1.4. The main goal of present work is analysis of technical solutions providing advance of conventional submarines. The article is the overview of Chinese AIP submarines and is one of the articles from the series “Air Independent Propulsion Systems” Inherently the article is the introduction in analysis of China’s way in modernization and development of submarine propulsion.

It should to be noted that the China’s People’s Liberation Army and Navy (PLAN) does not publish information regarding to Chinese submarine. All data published in the present article were taken from current press and different Internet sources. Very therefore, can be discovered uncorrected date. All discovered uncorrected date will be clarify during updating the article.


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