Thursday, May 19, 2011

Submarine Speculation on New PLA Navy SSK

When I first saw these pictures of the new PLA Navy SSK, my first thoughts were of the old Golf class conventional ballistic submarines like the K-129 discussed in Norman Polmar's latest book Project Azorian. But as I look closer and think about it, I think what I am seeing is something of an evolution leveraging a similar design concept.

You may have to open the third picture up and look closely to see what I'm talking about, but there appears to be some sort of large hatch built into the sail. If I was to guess based on what I am seeing, I think China has developed a special operations SSK to augment their Yuan class SSKs.

I haven't seen this idea floated around anywhere except on an old Russian navy forum back in the late 90s, but the concept is very similar to what the US Ohio SSGNs do today with special operations, but instead of using a large SSBN type hull, one would accomplish the same thing on the cheap using a SSB type design similar to the old Golf class.

Just as the old Golf class used to launch ballistic missiles out of the sail, the special operations SSK would require a larger sail to act as stores for a special operations capability.

Another thought... look at the size of that submarine. For a SSK, it is flat out huge, and likely runs somewhere between 3000 - 3500 tons displacement when fully loaded (if not more). Is it even possible the Chinese are fielding SSBs for the purpose of taking their anti-ship ballistic missile like the DF-21 to sea as a way to make that capability mobile, or as a way to extend the range from the Chinese coast even further?

From a naval tactical theory perspective, it would be very similar to old Soviet tactics where SSNs and SSKs functioned as US fleet hunters for Soviet SSGN shooters, and it might actually work if indeed the anti-ship ballistic missile homing system was effective enough to organically detect and strike at the largest target in a general area as is claimed.

Like I said, I am guessing. It looks like a big ole fleet SSK with some extra features, but that is the analysis from my untrained eye. I'd appreciate the opinions of more experienced observers.

PS: In the second photo, the submarine in the water is a new Yuan class. According to some sources, both submarines in the top two pictures (photos that are now several days old) are claimed to have recently moved to a naval base near Shanghai for sea trials, which may explain why we now see this latest photo of this new SSK in the water.

HT Kursed

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