In mid-2013 observers said the 3rd and 4th boats of the Type 094 are quite different from the 1st and 2nd ones, which were seen October 2007. The new design boasted an enlarged hump [missile bay], to carry larger JL-2C [??] or JL-3 missiles. The new variant has a curved base on front of the conning tower, making a more hydrodynamic and less noisy underwater profile. The Type 094A's conning tower removed the windows featured on the initial design. The Type 094A has a retractable towed array sonar (TAS) on the top of its upper tailfin, which would make it easier for the boat to detect and avoid American attack submarines.
One key point is that it was claimed to have 16 launch tubes, while the original Type 094 had only 12 launch tubes. This does not seem to have been born out. Other observers suggested that the block change came with the fifth boat, but most agree that the block change came with the third boat.
In mid-2015 photos of a new modified Chinese nuclear missile submarine of Project 094 appeared on Chinese websites. The boat was different from previous modifications, with a more prominent “hump” in the missile bay aft of the sail; there are some other changes in the contours of the body as well. With smoother shape, it has filled the corners of its bridge casing and removed the window there. The Chinese users are calling it 094A submarine. One of the first conclusions was that the submarine is equipped with the new ballistic missile Julang-2A (JL-2A) which has a greater range than the Julang-2 (JL-2). The submarine was said to be conducting routine patrol in the oceans for second strike [but the US Government reports that Chinese SSBNs have not engaged in open ocean patrols]. It carried 12 JL-2 submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles with 3-6 nuclear warheads and a maximum range of 7,400 km.
Google Earth updated a number of satellite photos, including Sanya Yalong Bay, Hainan, the photo updated to March 8, 2017, this was the first public satellite photo shows the nearby Chinese nuclear submarine dock of the four 094 strategics Nuclear submarines. In 2014, there were three first 094 nuclear submarines in China, and this picture showed that the Chinese navy has at least four 094 nuclear submarines. Previously appeared on the Internet China's fourth nuclear 094 nuclear submarine photo shows that the boat's "turtle" may be increased.
China built a major base of nuclear missile submarines on Hainan Island. In the South China Sea, the Chinese navy has a real chance to ensure the safety of its nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles. However, the JL-2 missiles, which took the Chinese industry a great deal of effort to bring to the stage of being ready for taking into service, has a range of no more than 8,000 km. These missiles are not able to reach the US from the South China Sea, but they can be useful in attacking any of the US’ bases and its US allies across Asia.
However, these rockets cannot solve the main problem- the US nuclear deterrent. Hence, China has been working on new missiles with a longer range but, strictly speaking, there is no reason as yet, to believe that such missiles are ready to enter service. Development of rockets and the design and construction of nuclear missile submarines are sometimes difficult to synchronize. First submarines of project 094 were built a few years earlier than the missiles JL-2 were finished. A similar situation occurred in Russia when missile Bulava appeared much later than the first nuclear-powered submarine of Borey project was constructed.
Dominic Villasanta suggested in 2016 that the "more prominent "hump" near the nuclear missile tubes of the Type 094A compared to its predecessor... was made necessary by the new and larger Julang-3 (JL-3) submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) with an estimated but unconfirmed range of 12,000 kilometers. That would bring much of the mainland United States within range of this SLBM. The current Julang-2 (JL-2) SLBM on the Type 094 submarine has a range of 8,000 km."
As for the already existing submarines equipped with JL-2 missiles; one option is restructuring the existing project 094 submarines by cutting out the missile compartment with JL-2 missiles and putting in the new ones. Such an option is technically possible, but it would be costly. Most likely, JL-2 missile submarines will remain in the ranks and form the basis of regional deterrence forces.
Furthermore, project 094A missile submarine with JL-2C will be a transition type for the development of new weapons systems and probably it would be followed by the construction of a series of new, larger project 096 submarines which could carry around 24 JL-3 type missiles. The fact that in the future it is possible that new submarines will be constantly engaged on Hainan Islands, and will be constantly engaged in combat patrols, may require additional efforts by China to strengthen its control over the South China Sea.
A grand naval parade concluded on 23 April 2019 in waters off east China's port city of Qingdao, after the reviewing ship sailed past the last visiting foreign vessel. The parade was part of the multinational naval events marking the 70th anniversary of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy, which was founded on April 23, 1949. The parade included two Type 094A strategic nuclear submarines.
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