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Yuan Type 039A / Type 041

The YUAN-class SSP is armed similarly to the SONG-class SS, but also includes an air-independent power system. 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 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. Considereing the fact that this class is nearly a decade old, the new 2013 edition of Combat Fleets had surprsingly sparse information.

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.

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. Yuan is using an AIP engine of 100 kw in power, and is probably equipped with 2 such AIP engine. The Gotland submarines use 2 V4-275R stirling AIP units (each rated 75 kw). The larger Yuan obviously needs more powerful AIP units.

Study of a special engine, started at the Institute of the China shipbuilding industry Corporation 711, took developers decades to build. In 1975, China ship Research Institute No. 711 Research Institute set up a special laboratory of engines, and in June 1996, the establishment of specialized engine Engineering Research Center. After the "85", "95" studies focused on 12 key technologies. After years of work, full independent intellectual property rights were successfully developed for China's first specialty engines. After they successfully developed a project prototype, the overall technical level reached the international advanced level, and in some technology China claimed to be an international leader.

Special engine research process, 711 Research Institute saw this as an opportunity to train a large numbers of technical personnel. From the beginning of the project, the team had only 10 people, which grew to more than 100 people. And emerging model of advanced excellence, this team was recognized as the people's Liberation Army General armament Department "researching advanced group", and was twice awarded the "Shanghai model workers collective".

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.

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 second 039A suggests that the design might have suffered certain technical problems.

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.

By 2013 it had become clear that production of the Song had ceased with 3 units, with the Yuan taking up the slack, with at least 8 [Combart Fleets says 9] units in service by 2013. China may plan to construct up to 20 YUAN-class SSPs. 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].

The technical information on the Winston Battery WB-LYP10000AHA in large submarines gives some ideas about the size of the battery pack for the Yuan-class of diesel-electric submarines to be equipped with an air-independent propulsion system (AIP) powered from large battery banks. The battery pack consists of 960 pcs of the WB-LYP10000AHA cells making the total energy of 31MWh. The lithium battery is saving some 260 tons of weight against the original lead-acid pack. With this pack the Yuan-class (B-class) diesel-electric submarine can drive 3300 nautical miles or it can stay under water for 800 hours (33 days). This indicates the average onboard consumption of the submarine when not moving is some 38kW/h.

S-20 Export Variant

Beijing based China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co. (CSOC) unveiled several new designs during IDEX 2013, the international defense exhibition held in the United Arab Emirates. At the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition in Malaysia from March 26 to 30, China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation again displayed its S-20 diesel-engine submarine. A model of that submarine was displayed at NAVDEX at Abu Dhabi in February 2013 for the first time ever. The Chinese staff participating in the exhibition said that S-20 was developed not merely for domestic demand but also for export on international market.

While there are clear difference between the S-20 and the Type 041, the former would appear to be the export variant of the later. S-20s length is 66 meters [versus 73-75 meters for the Yuan], beam is 8 meters, draft is 8.2 meters, surface displacement is 1,850 tons and submerged displacement is 2,300 tons [both a bit less than the Yuan], maximum speed is 18 knots [a bit slower than the Yuan], cruise speed is 16 knots [the same as the Yuan], range is 8,000 nautical miles at 16 knots, endurance is 60 days and crew, 38 versus 58 for the Yuan. It is double hulled with maximum submerging depth of 300 meters. Different from the Type 041 exclusively for Chinese navy, the ship is not equipped with air-independent propulsion (but it may also be fitted with AIP (air-independent propulsion) system if a customer requests).

S-20 submarine is equipped with variable frequency hydrophonic detection device and towed sonar. The weapons fit may varry according to customer requirements but the S20 may accommodate heavy torpedoes and anti-ship missiles from six torpedo tubes and deploy mines and special forces. China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation gives no details about the types of weapon to be installed on S-20 submarine, but it declares that it may provide torpedoes, rocket-propelled torpedoes, anti-torpedo torpedoes, etc.

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).

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