Satellite images of a vessel in Chinese shipyard have experts believe that China is developing a new or upgraded class of nuclear-powered attack submarine. Though it is not absolutely clear whether the submarine seen in the satellite images is a new model or an upgrade, the development is being watched closely, especially after Pentagon’s warning in November last year.
Pentagon had said in its report that China was likely to develop a new attack submarine with vertical launch tubes for cruise missiles.
Images obtained by Reuters from private satellite imagery provider Planet Labs and others circulating on social media show the submarine in a dry dock in Huludao Port in Liaoning province.
The satellite images show green covers shrouding areas behind its superstructure and stern. These are parts of the vessel that can host missile launch tubes and a new, quieter propulsion system
The submarine was out of the water between April 24 and May 4, and was later seen mostly submerged in the same place after the dry dock was flooded.
Reuters quoted Singapore-based security scholar Collin Koh who said there was a great deal of interest in the prospect of a new class of Chinese Type 093 “hunter-killer” submarine with vertical launch tubes for guided missiles. But he said the recent satellite images were too limited to definitively identify the vessel.
The images “are very interesting but it is still very hard to be sure yet whether we are looking at some kind of refit for testing or a whole new class of submarine,” said Koh, of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
Koh said he and others were watching closely to see whether new Chinese submarines would shift to quieter pump-jets instead of conventional propellers for propulsion. Because the stern is shrouded, it is not possible to tell what sort of propulsion the ship in the image uses.
Vertical launch tubes would add considerable flexibility to China’s “hunter killer” submarine fleet, arming the vessels with more guided missiles.
The Chinese Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
(With inputs from agencies)
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