Potential modernization plans of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) were revealed in unprecedented detail by a former rear admiral in a university lecture, perhaps delivered within the last 2-3 years. The admiral, retired Rear Admiral Zhao Dengping, revealed key programs such as: a new medium-size nuclear attack submarine; a small nuclear auxiliary engine for conventional submarines; ship-based use of anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs); next-generation destroyer capabilities; and goals for PLAN Air Force modernization.
This information was from an article by Richard D. Fisher, Jr. at the Center for International Maritime Security.
Zhao is a former Director of the Equipment Department of the PLAN.
Admiral Zhao described a new unidentified 7,000-ton nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) that will feature a “new type of powerplant…new weapon system and electronic information system.” It has a sound isolation raft and propulsor which should reduce its acoustic signature, 12 cruise missile tubes in front of the sail, and a bow and sail similar to the current Type 093 SSN. The 7,000 ton weigh suggests it may reflect the lower-cost weight and capability balance seen in current U.S. and British SSNs.
This might be the rumored next generation Type 095 SSN. China plans to build 14 Type 095s.
Small Nuclear Powerplant for long duration AIP diesel submarines
There was a slide showing a new low power/low pressure auxiliary nuclear powerplant for electricity generation for fitting into conventional submarine designs, possibly succeeding the PLAN’s current Stirling engine-based air independent propulsion (AIP) systems.
The cost of typical AIP diesel submarines are 100 million USD to 250 million USD compared to 1 – 5 billion USD for typical nuclear submarines. There are large AIP diesel submarines that can be around 1 billion dollars.
AIP subs have submerged (AIP) endurance of 14-30 days, and total endurance of 45 to 90 days. .Nuclear subs typically have endurance submerged or not of 90-100 days, limited by the food storage for the crew. AIP submarines using no air have to use the less powerful non-air power source and engines which limits speed to about 4-5 knots.
A nuclear auxiliary power system for SSK-sized submarines would be an affordable conversion to an “all-nuclear” powered submarine fleet. While nuclear auxiliary powered submarines may not have the endurance of SSNs, their performance could exceed that of most AIP powered submarines while still being very cheap.
Admiral Zhao suggests that the PLAN is developing a new nuclear reactor-powered auxiliary power unit to charge the batteries of smaller and less expensive conventional submarines, allowing the PLAN to more rapidly increase its numbers of “nuclear” powered submarines. (CJDBY)
Zhao’s slides detailed hypersonic weapons and laser and microwave weapons.
Another slide with a future destroyer with integrated electric power system, full-spectrum stealthiness, integrated mast and integrated RF technology and new type laser/kinetic energy weapon appear to be China copying many of the US Zumwalt-class destroyer. The US only built three Zumwalt destroyers.
China is also developing stratospheric long-endurance UAV and a stratospheric airship.