Yuan Type 039A / Type 041
The Yuan Type 039A [by 2007 some sources designated this class as the Type 041] is a non-nuclear powered attack submarine. As early as 1994 there were indications that China appeared to be attempting to build the Kilo in its own ship-yards [Richard Sharpe, Jane's Fighting Ships, 1994-1995 (Coulsdon, Surrey, Eng.: Jane's Information Group, 1994), p. 541]. The 2002 edition of Chinese Military Power noted that " the KILO provides Beijing with access to previously unavailable quieting and weapons technology. China most likely will try to incorporate aspects of this submarine into its domestic programs, although it will take several years before these technologies could be used effectively ..... China will continue using Russian technology to improve quieting, propulsion, and submarine design; it also is incorporating foreign technology into its existing submarines. China also will benefit from the maturation of its domestic submarine research and development (R&D) infrastructure to achieve a capability to design and manufacture modern submarines domestically."
Type 039A / Type 041 Yuan-class Nomenclature
Khubilai Khan (1215-94) was a grandson of Genghis Khan (1167?-1227) and the supreme leader of all Mongol tribes. After the Song Dynasty had been destroyed in 1279, Khubilai Khan declared himself emperor of a united China with its capital at Dadu, and he established the Yuan ("first," "beginning") Dynasty (1279-1368). A rich cultural diversity evolved in China during the Yuan Dynasty, as it had in other periods of foreign dynastic rule. Major achievements included the development of drama and the novel and the increased use of the written vernacular. The introduction of foreign musical instruments enriched the Chinese performing arts. The conversion to Islam of growing numbers of people in northwestern and southwestern China dates from this period. The Mongols undertook extensive public works. Land and water communications were reorganized and improved. In time, Khubilai's successors became sinicized, and they then lost all influence on other Mongol lands across Asia. Rivalry among the Mongol imperial heirs, natural disasters, and numerous peasant uprisings led to the collapse of the Yuan dynasty. The last of the nine successors of Khubilai was expelled from Dadu in 1368 by Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Type 039A / Type 041 Yuan-class Design
The Yuan incorporates lessons from the PLAN's experience with the Kilo. The Yuan incorporates some of the best features of the Song and the Kilo. The Yuan class has a tail with diving planes similar to those of the Type 039G, and a Kilo-style teardrop shaped hull with a raised hump on top. The Yuan has the raised decking/casing of the Kilo, the high freeboard and reserve bouyancy, a similarly-shaped bow (and torpedo tube disposition), but with the sail, propeller layout and stern section of the Song. It has also been suggested that the new submarine may be comparable to the improved variant of the Russian Kilo class (Project 636) in terms of size and general performance.
Precise specifications for the Yuan are unclear, though it is evidently about as large as the 242 foot long Kilo and the 246 foot long Song, that is about 75 meters.
According to The Washington Times (July 16, 2004), American officials initially believed the submarine was diesel-powered.In March 2007 Jane's Navy International reported that the Yuan class was fitted with an AIP system developed by the No.711 Research Institute.
Integrated with advanced noise reduction techniques including anechoic tiles, passive/active noise reduction, asymmetrical seven-blade skewed propeller, the 039A is expected to be as quiet as other modern diesel/electric powered submarines, and therefore much more difficult to be tracked.
Apart from indigenously developed submarine weapon systems such as indigenous active/passive-hoyuan torpedo and the YJ-8 (C-801) submarine-launched anti-ship missile, the Yuan class may also be capable of launching the latest Russian weapons (or their Chinese copies) such as the TEST-71MKE wire-guided torpedo, the 53-65KE wave-hoyuan torpedo, and even 3M-54E Club supersonic submarine-launched anti-ship missile.
The electronic systems onboard the Yuan class may include CCD camera, infrared/thermal image camera, laser range-finder, surface-search radar and radar warning receiver. Various weapon systems and sensors are integrated by a digitized combat data command and control system.
Type 039A / Type 041 Yuan-class Program
The new Yuan Class attack submarine is part of a more general Chinese naval buildup. With the risk of armed conflict over Taiwan always present, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has invested heavily in submarines, with the goal of converting them into a first-line of attack vis-a-vis carriers. The precise role the Yuan will play in the future of the PLAN remained obscure as of 2007. With the earlier Song class remaining in production at a rate of two per year, it was unclear whether the Yuan design would remain an experimental side show, or form the prototypes for serial production after the year 2010.
It's existence was first noted in mid-2004 when a photograph of the completed submarine at China's Wuhan Shipyard was posted on a Chinese website. The Wuhan Shipyard had also built the Type 039/G (Song class), Type 035 (Yuan class), Type 033G (Wuhan-A class) and Type 033 (Romeo class) diesel-electric submarines for the PLA Navy. The first 039A completed sea trials in 2005. The second Yuan was said to have been launched in December 2004. While this second boat was rumored to be under construction, as of 2007 this was not confirmed. The delay in the construction of the 2nd 039A suggests that the design might have suffered certain technical problems.
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