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Type 039 Song Type 039 Class

A submerged Song-class attack submarine shadowed Japan-based CV-63 Kitty Hawk in the East China Sea near Okinawa without being detected on 26 October 2006. The boat surfaced within five miles of the carrier, in deep waters off Okinawa, and only then was it spotted, by one of the carrier's planes on a routine surveillance flight. The submarine is normally equipped with wake-homing torpedos and anti-ship cruise missiles. Disclosure of the submarine encounter came while Adm. Gary Roughead, Coammander of the US Pacific Fleet, was in China holding talks with Chinese navy leaders.

The encounter was something of an embarrassment to Adm. William J. Fallon, Commander of US forces in the Pacific, who had engaged in an ambitious military exchange program with China. Anti-submarine defenses for the carrier battle group were reviewed as a result, the US Navy said. "It was not detected," said one Navy official of the encounter with a Chinese diesel-powered attack submarine. "And we're concerned about that, obviously." The Chinese Song-class attack submarine was armed with wake-homing torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles. There appears to be no basis for reports of a similarl incident in November 2007.

Type 039 Song-class Nomenclature

Misrule, court intrigues, economic exploitation, and popular rebellions weakened the empire, making it possible for northern invaders to terminate the Tang Dynasty in 907. The next half-century saw the fragmentation of China into five northern dynasties and ten southern kingdoms. But in 960 a new power, Song (960-1279), reunified most of China Proper. The Song period divides into two phases: Northern Song (960-1127) and Southern Song (1127-1279). The division was caused by the forced abandonment of north China in 1127 by the Song court, which could not push back the nomadic invaders. The founders of the Song dynasty built an effective centralized bureaucracy staffed with civilian scholar-officials. Regional military governors and their supporters were replaced by centrally appointed officials. The Song dynasty is notable for the development of cities not only for administrative purposes but also as centers of trade, industry, and maritime commerce. The landed scholar-officials, sometimes collectively referred to as the gentry, lived in the provincial centers alongside the shopkeepers, artisans, and merchants. Landholding and government employment were no longer the only means of gaining wealth and prestige. The Song Dynasty was destroyed 1279 Khubilai Khan, founder of the Yuan ("first," "beginning") Dynasty (1279-1368).

Type 039 Song-class Design

The SONG is China's first new-design, conventionally powered submarine. The SONG is a blend of Chinese and Western technology and has several key features that point to a major shift in diesel submarine design philosophy. It is the first Chinese submarine to have a skewed propeller. The SONG also is the first Chinese submarine designed to carry the developmental YJ-82, China's first encapsulated ASCM capable of launching from a submerged submarine. SONGs are probably fitted with flank-array sonars of French design. Chinese diesel submarines are fitted with German MTU diesel engines.

China is building a powerful submarine fleet, including domestically built Song and Yuan-class boats. The beating hearts of these subs are state-of-the-art diesel engines designed by MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH of Friedrichshafen, Germany. Alongside 12 advanced Kilo-class submarines imported from Russia, these German-powered boats are the workhorses of China's modern conventional submarine force.

The Type 039 Wuhan C-class submarines, also referred to as the S20 Song-class, is China's most modern indigenously built diesel attack submarine. The Song-class, produced at the Wuhan shipyard, is 75 meters long, and 8.4 meters wide, giving a length-breadth ratio of 8.9, about the same as that of the 035-type. The submarine is equipped with a seven-blade large slanted propeller and shock-absorbance for the main engine. As seen from the color of the submarine's hull, it is already using damping tiles similar to those used on the "K"-class submarines. The body of the submarine is water-drop shaped and it has a wrap-casing rudder, although it still retains the stepped conning tower similar to the old Ming/Romeo class.

It is believed that the first Chinese naval platform capable of submerged launching of cruise missiles will be the Song-class submarine. It is designed to launch the Yingji-8 anti-ship guided missiles from underwater. However, test firings of the YJ-82 sub-launched anti-ship missile were unsuccessful during sea trials during the late 1990s.

They are a great advance on the Type 035, but are said to be a less than satisfactory design. Problems reportedly include excessive noise radiation and systems integration difficulties. The integration of Chinese, Russian and imported systems such as the French TSM 2225 sonar and German diesel engine is blamed for serious system design and operational problems on the lead boat.

Overall, their shape is like that of Western submarines and their technology is equivalent to the international level of the early 1980s. It also reportedly incorporates technologies acquired from Russia, as well as from Western countries. China is believed to have good access to a wide variety of foreign sonars, to include passive ranging sonars, flank array sonars, variable-depth sonars, as well as helicopters equipped with dipping sonars. Incorporating a German propulsion system and advanced hydrodynamic design, the Song-class is said to be as quiet as the American Los Angles nuclear submarines. But its overall performance is constrained by the use of 1980s technology, and the fact that the PLAN purchased the Russian Kilo-class submarines suggests that there are problems with the Song-class.

Type 039 Song-class Program

Intended to replace the aging Ming-class submarines, the first Song-class submarine was launched on 25 May 1994 and started sea trials in August 1995. but did not become operational until 1998. This first Type 039 submarine has a stepped sail, with the bridge significantly lower than the after part of the sail that contains masts. This reportedly had an adverse effect on the submarine's underwater noise level [and was replaced by a level-topped sail on the subsequent Type 039G]. Production has ceased, in favor of the YUAN-class SSP, armed similarly to the SONG-class SS, but also including an air-independent power system.

Type 039G

The improved Type 039G variant deleted the stepped conning tower of the first unit, resulting in an appearance like that of the French Agosta-90B. A coating of anechoic tiles is believed to have been added to reduce the acoustic signature while submerged. There is unconfirmed speculaiton that future units might be fitted with an AIP system which may have been tested onboard a Ming class SS.

Additional construction of the improved variant was reportedly planned at two per year from 1998 with as many as nine additional improved units contemplated. This program was apparently slowed in favor of Russian-built submarines and continued production of the Ming-class. Other sources suggested that the class would be cancelled in favor of further purchases of Russian boats, given the unsatisfactory performance of the first unit of the class.

According to some reports, two units were in afloat as of 1997, and two or three additional units under construction, though subsequent reports confirmed that only one unit was actually active by 1999. Two more boats (321 and 322) were laid down at Wuhan Shipyard within a year after the launch of the first boat. The second unit was badly delayed, and the first was reported to be unsatisfactory. The second unit was extensively modified due to serious problems encountered onboard the first boat. This second unit was launched in late 1999, a year later than originally anticipated, and was formally commissioned in 2001.

As of late 2003 at least three Songs were in service with at least two additional units under construction. The second Type 039G (322) was believed to be undergoing sea trial in late 2002. As of 2003 at least three new hulls had been launched at Wuhan Shipyard and one more was being built at Jiangnan Shipyard.

Type 039G1

On 03 June 2004, Wuhan Shipbuilding Industry Company revealed a further improved variant Type 039G1. By 2007 at least six hulls (324, 314, 315, 316, 318, and 327) of this design had been launched in Wuhan and two more in Shanghai-based Jiangnan Shipyard, indicating that the submarine design had been finalised and the series production was underway.

As of late 2004 there were probably at least five Songs completed [including the first Type 039G1], with eight or more under construction. The year 2004 was a landmark for the Song, with two vessels launching at the Wuchang shipyard, and, for the first time, two more launched at Shanghai's Jiangnan shipyard. By early 2005 there were at least 10 Songs either in commission, on sea trials, or in the final stages of being fitted out, with seven of these submarines reportedly built since 2003. From pubished photos it appeared that the following numbers had been painted on PLAN Songs: 320, 314, 315, 316, 321, 322, 323, and 324. Janes Fighting Ships reported there was a 325, though as of mid-2005 there were no published photos.

By the end of 2005 modified Type 039 Song class production continued at both the Wuhan Shipyard and the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai. DOD reported that by March 2006 China had 13 SONGs SSKs [Combat Fleets 2013 reports 14], and was building modern diesel SONGs SSKs at an average rate of 2 per/year, according to Vice Admiral Albert H. Konetzni, Jr. USN (Retired), former Deputy Commander and Chief of Fleet Forces Command. Konetzni predicted that China might have 75 modern submarines by 2020 [Statement of Before the Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee 28 March 2006].

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