The Type 039A (NATO reporting name: Yuan class) is a follow-on to the Type 039 (Song class) conventionally-powered diesel-electric submarine (SSK), designed for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare using torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. The submarine is equipped with an indigenously-developed air-independent propulsion (AIP).
The Western intelligence first became aware of a new Chinese conventional diesel-electric submarine (SSK) being launched at Wuhan-based Wuchang Shipyard (CSIC Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group Corporation) in 2005. The submarine was initially thought to be a new class of submarine, and was given a new reporting name as ‘Yuan’ class. It later transpired that the submarine was actually designated Type 039A, a radically modified version of the Type 039 (Song class) incorporated with design features and technologies of the Russian Project 877EKM/636 (Kilo class).
Despite being in the same submarine family, the Type 093A Yuan class bears very little resemblance in appearance to its predecessor. The submarine appears to be a mixture of Chinese indigenous designs and Russian influence, featuring a pair of sail-mounted hydroplane, four stern diving planes, and a single large propeller seen previously on the Type 039. However, the submarine’s hull and sail designs suggest heavy Russian Kilo class influence.
The Type 093A is equipped with an indigenously-developed AIP system, which allows the submarine to remain submerged on battery at slow speed for days or even weeks without having to surface to recharge batteries. The tactical flexibility, small size, and inherent stealth of such a system offers conventional diesel-electric submarines a remarkable increase in capability, posing significant threat to conventional and even nuclear submarines. It is believed that the AIP system used by the Type 039A is a 100 kilowatt Stirling-cycle heat engines with external combustion design, developed by CSIC Shanghai Maritime Diesel Engine Research Institute (SMDERI, or 711 Institute).
At least four variants of the Type 039A family have been identified so far: Type 039A, Type 039AG, Type 039B, and Type 039C, which differ slightly in appearance and sail shape. Later variants of the submarine are believed to be approaching the latest designed introduced by Russian and Western navies in capability and performance.
- 6x 533 mm torpedo tube (2 top, 4 below), 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
- YJ-18 submarine-launched ASCM, INS/GNSS guidance with terminal active radar homing, 650 km range, supersonic in final approach
- Multi-purpose combat data and command system for submarine control and weapon firing
- Bow-mounted, medium-frequency sonar for active/passive search and attack
- H/SQG-04 low-frequency sonar, passive interception and ranging
- H/SQG-207 flank-mounted passive sonar arrays (Type 039B/C)
- Surface search radar, I-band
- Electronic support measures (ESM)
- Radar warning receiver
- Radio direction-finder
- CSIC air-independent propulsion
- One shaft, with a single large asymmetrical 7-blade skewed propeller
- PLA Designation: Type 039A/AG/B/C
- NATO code name: Yuan 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: 2005
- Number: 11
- Displacement (t): 2,300 to 2,600 (surfaced); 3,600 (dived)
- Length (m): 77.6
- Beam (m): 8.4
- Draft (m): 5.5
- Speed (knots): 12 (surfaced); 20 (dived)
- Design depth (m): 300 to 400
- Self-sustaining capability (days): N/A
- Range (nm): N/A
- Crew: 65