China introduces new stealth technologies in Yuan-class submarines

The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of China is making significant advancements in the field of stealth technology, particularly with its diesel-electric submarines of the 039A (Yuan) class, now upgraded to the 039C variant. This new variant of class submarines is equipped with a stealthy sail structure.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 The new Chinese 039C ( Yuan) class submarines (Picture source: Chinese Media)

Recent observations have revealed that the new 039C class submarines are equipped with a stealthy sail structure, designed to reduce their detectability by enemy sonars. Previously, this was merely speculation until Chinese scientists published a study in the Polish journal 'Archives of Acoustics', confirming the effectiveness of such designs in altering sonar pulses. The upgraded Yuan class not only incorporates a stealth superstructure but also features a new electro-optical periscope and a redesigned navigation bridge.

The Yuan-class submarines, technically designated as Type 039A/B, are a series of diesel-electric submarines in service with the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of China.

The design of the Yuan class borrows elements from both traditional Chinese submarines and foreign technologies, notably Russian and Western. They are larger and more capable than their predecessors in the Song class (Type 039) and are often compared to the Russian Navy's Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines, although the Yuan class possesses distinct characteristics. One of the most notable improvements in this class is its anaerobic (AIP) propulsion system, which allows the submarine to stay submerged longer without needing to resurface to recharge its batteries. This capability greatly enhances the submarine's stealth.

The profile of the Yuan class is also marked by a streamlined hull and a redesigned control tower (or "sail") to reduce acoustic signature, making the submarine more difficult to detect by enemy sonars. This reduction in acoustic signature is complemented by the use of sound-absorbing materials on the hull, a common feature of modern stealth submarines.

They are equipped with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, allowing them to engage surface targets as well as other submarines. Some reports also suggest the capability to launch cruise missiles, which would extend their range of action beyond traditional naval engagements to include land strikes.

Stealth is an essential element for submarines, and the improvement of the stealth capabilities of the Chinese Yuan-class submarines is a significant step for the Chinese navy. However, the actual effectiveness of this new design and to what extent it will impact the detection of these submarines remains to be seen.