Updated. Originally posted March 29 2019
New Satellite images of Chinese Sailless submarine
Google Earth imagery recently uploaded, taken on September 18 2019, provides the first measurements for the Chinese Sailless submarine. The boat is present in the basin at JN shipyard ( 31°20'47.29"N, 121°44'34.24"E).
This allows an updated size estimate: 45 meters (150 ft) long and 4-4.5 meters (15 ft) hull diameter.
In March 2019 a video capture posted on Chinese social media on 29th March 2019 appears to show an unknown Chinese submarine design first reported in October 2018.
The most distinctive feature is the extremely small sail. The new video shows crewmen on the casing, challenging earlier speculation that it could be a prototype very large unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV). The single-hull construction and sheer size also point to a crewed submarine.
The role of the new submarine is unconfirmed. There are no clear indications of either torpedo tubes or a sonar dome in the relatively high-quality photographs released in October 2018 show the frontal aspect. These features are not always discernable in launch photos so it is not conclusive, but their apparent absence would point to a purely experimental role for the submarine.
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Another possibility is that the lack of a sail combined with short overall length points to a novel propulsion arrangement. The yard where the boat is believed to have been built, JN shipyard (31°21'0.12"N, 121°44'41.74"E) is not associated with nuclear submarine construction.
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The JN shipyard launched the submarine in mid-October 2018. Although high quality images were shared online, very few details were available.
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Potentially this represents a prototype or first-in-class of an all-electric submarine which relies on Lithium-ion batteries, eliminating the diesel generator, thus removing the need for a full snorkel system (an air-inlet snorkel would still be desirable for the crew) and reducing much of the machinery space. Alternatively it could be a pure AIP (Air Independent Power) submarine.
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