Type 039 Song Class

The Type 039 (NATO reporting name: Song class) is a conventionally-powered diesel-electric submarine (SSK), designed for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare using torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. A total of 13 boats were built for the PLA Navy before the production stopped and was replaced by the more capable Type 039A (Yuan class).


The PLA Navy demanded a modern and capable conventional submarine in the early 1980s to replace its ageing Type 033 (Romeo class) and Type 035 (Ming class) submarine fleets. Shortly after his appointment as Commander of the PLA Navy in 1982, Admiral Liu Huaqing ordered the Chinese shipbuilding industry to speed up the development of the new-generation conventional submarine codenamed Project 039.

To match the submarines introduced by Western and Soviet navies in performance, the new-generation Type 039 was to feature some of the latest technologies, including a water drop shaped hull for increased underwater speed and a smaller acoustic signature; a single large asymmetrical 7-blade skewed propeller for reduced cavitation noise; digital sonar and displays for better information processing capability and automated command and control; wire-guided torpedoes for both anti-submarine and anti-surface missions; and submarine-launched anti-surface/anti-submarine missiles. Over 80% of the submarine’s components would be newly developed.

The Type 039 was jointly designed by Wuhan Ship Design & Research Centre (701 Institute) and Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group Corporation (Wuchang Shipyard, or 438 Factory). Li Lainyou, the chief designer for China’s Type 035 (Ming class) submarine, was appointed the chief designer for the Type 039 submarine. The warming relations between China and Western countries allowed the Type 039 programme to benefit from Western technology and experience, including French sonar system and German diesel engine. The Type 039 development programme adopted a system engineering approach, with the submarine along with its 10 key sub-systems developed as an integral weapon system.

Type 039

Construction of the first-of-class (Boat 320) began in 1992 at Wuchang Shipyard and the submarine was launched on 25 May 1994. The submarine began its sea trials in August 1995 and was commissioned in May 1996. However, the submarine suffered from serious design flaws impacting the its underwater speed and noise level. The most distinguishable feature of the submarine is a unique stepped sail structure, with the bridge a step lower than the part of the sail that houses the periscope and electro-optical sensor masts. This design was proved unsuccessful and no further hull of the same class was constructed.

Type 039G

The second hull (Boat 321) with a redesigned conventional sail, designated Type 039G, began construction in 1995 and was launched in August 1997. The submarine was commissioned by the PLA Navy in February 1999. This was followed by the laying of the third hull (Boat 322) in December 2001 and the fourth hull (Boat 323) in November 2003.

Type 039G1

In 2004, a further improved variant Type 039G1 began construction at both Wuhai-based Wuchang Shipyard and Shanghai-based Jiangnan Shipyard, with a total of 9 hulls launched between 2004 and 2006.

Design Features

The Type 039 was designed for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (ASuW) using torpedoes and submarine-launched anti-ship missiles. The submarine is also capable of reconnaissance, water mine laying and patrol roles. The submarine itself is a blend of Chinese and Western technologies, and represents a major leap forward in China’s conventional submarine design.

Compared with the previous Chinese-built submarines, the Type 039 has a more hydro-dynamically sleek profile. To reduce the submarine’s acoustic signature, the main engine is fitted with a shock absorbance and the hull is covered by rubber anechoic tiles. The submarine has a pair of fin-mounted hydroplanes, four rudders, and a single large skewed 7-blade propeller.



  • 6x 533 mm torpedo tube, carrying 20 torpedoes or 36 mines
    • Yu-3 (SET-65E) anti-submarine torpedo, active/passive acoustic homing to 15 km at 40 knots, warhead 205 kg
    • Yu-4 (Russian SAET-50/60 copy) anti-ship torpedo, electric-propelled, passive acoustic-homing to 6 km at 30 knots
    • Yu-6 anti-submarine torpedo, wire-homing
    • Anti-ship torpedo, wake-homing
    • YJ-82 submarine-launched ASCM, active radar-homing, 42 to 80 km range, Mach 0.9 in final approach, 165 kg shaped charge warhead with time-delayed impact proximity fuses

Mission Systems

  • Multi-purpose combat data and command system for submarine control and weapon firing
  • Thomson-CSF TSM-2233 (Chinese copy) bow-mounted, medium-frequency sonar for active/passive search and attack
  • H/SQG-04 (Type 204) low-frequency sonar, passive interception and ranging
  • Surface search radar, I-band
  • SRW209 Submarine Radar Reconnaissance System
    • Electronic support measures (ESM)
    • Radar warning receiver
    • Radio direction-finder


  • 3x Shaanxi Diesel (German MTU 16V396SE84 copy)
  • One shaft, with a single large asymmetrical 7-blade skewed propeller


  • PLA Designation: Type 039
  • NATO code name: Song class
  • Type: Diesel-electric attack submarine (SSK)
  • Designer: CSIC China Ship Design & Research Centre (701 Institute)
  • Builders: CSIC Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group Corporation
  • In commission: 1996
  • Number: 13
  • Displacement (t): 1,700 (surfaced); 2,250 (dived)
  • Length (m): 74.9
  • Beam (m): 8.4
  • Draft (m): 5.3
  • Speed (knots): 15 (surfaced); 22 (dived)
  • Design depth (m): 300
  • Self-sustaining capability (days): 28
  • Range (nm): 7,200 (surfaced); 3,300 (dived)
  • Crew: 50 to 60 (10 officers)


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