The global submarine arms race is witnessing a new phase with China initiating the manufacturing of a state-of-the-art nuclear submarine series.

US analysts have gathered evidence indicating that the upcoming Type 096 ballistic missile submarine might join China’s fleet before the end of this decade. The submarine is projected to achieve significant noise reduction, primarily due to the incorporation of Russian technology.

Christopher Carlson, a retired submariner and Navy technical intelligence analyst, has expressed concerns about the Type 096 due to its stealth capabilities, which will make it extremely difficult to detect.

The Pentagon has observed certain patterns in China’s naval activities, particularly nuclear deterrence patrols from Hainan Island in the South China Sea. These activities mirror long-established practices observed in the United States, Britain, France, and Russia.

Currently, Type 094s equipped with China’s most advanced JL-3 submarine-launched missiles are in service. Despite being advanced, these submarines are known for their relatively high noise levels – a disadvantage for modern submarines. However, with access to Russian technology, China has made considerable progress in this area of military-technical operations.

Experts predict that the forthcoming Type 096 submarine will compete with modern Russian submarines in terms of stealth, sensor technology, and weapon systems. This potential upgrade could have significant implications for the United States and its Indo-Pacific allies.

The AUKUS agreement, a tripartite pact between Australia, the UK, and the US, has led to an increased presence of British and US attack submarines off the Australian coast. This situation, along with the prospect of a quieter Chinese submarine, complicates the landscape of submarine warfare. By 2030, Australia plans to deploy their first nuclear submarines, constructed using British technology.

Here’s what we understand about the Type 096:

The Type 096 submarine, also referred to as the Tang-class, is a forthcoming nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) being developed by China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). It is set to succeed the Type 094 Jin-class submarines and will be a key component in China’s nuclear deterrence strategy.

The technical specifications of the Type 096 submarine suggest it will be approximately 140 meters (460 feet) long and have a submerged displacement of around 20,000 tons. It will incorporate advanced noise reduction technology to enhance its stealth capabilities, enabling it to operate undetected for longer durations.

A significant feature of the Type 096 submarine is its potential to carry and launch intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). It is likely to be armed with the JL-3, a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) with an estimated range exceeding 9,000 kilometers (5,600 miles). This extended range would allow the submarine to target locations far beyond China’s immediate vicinity, greatly bolstering its nuclear deterrence capabilities.

Furthermore, the Type 096 submarine is expected to have upgraded command, control, and communication systems, along with advanced sensors and detection capabilities. However, specific details about the Type 096 submarine’s capabilities remain scarce due to its ongoing development and confidential nature.

China’s most sophisticated submarines

China’s most modern and advanced combat submarines include the Type 093 Shang-class and the Type 095 Jin-class. The Type 093 Shang-class submarines are nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN) that form the core of China’s submarine fleet. They are equipped with advanced sonar systems, torpedoes, and anti-ship missiles, making them a significant force in underwater warfare.

The Type 095 Jin-class submarines are next-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN). These submarines are designed to carry China’s sea-based nuclear deterrent and are equipped with advanced missile systems capable of striking both nearby and distant targets. Collectively, these submarines showcase China’s state-of-the-art capabilities in submarine warfare.

Another significant modern combat submarine in China’s fleet is the Type 094 Jin-class submarine. This nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) plays a vital role in China’s nuclear triad.

The Type 094 submarines are equipped with long-range ballistic missiles that can carry multiple nuclear warheads, offering China a reliable second-strike capability. These submarines are engineered to operate quietly and remain undetected, reinforcing the effectiveness of China’s nuclear deterrence strategy. The deployment of the Type 094 Jin-class submarines underscores China’s dedication to maintaining a robust and modern submarine force.

China’s Conventional Submarines:

In addition to its nuclear-powered submarines, China is also advancing its conventional submarines. A prime example is the Type 039A Yuan-class submarine. The Type 039A submarines are diesel-electric attack submarines (SSK) renowned for their stealth capabilities. They incorporate advanced noise reduction technology, making them challenging to detect underwater.

The Type 039A submarines are armed with torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, and mines, enabling them to undertake a variety of missions, including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and reconnaissance. China’s investment in conventional submarines reflects its commitment to maintaining a diverse and competent submarine fleet.