OSINT: Identification Of Type-039 Song & Yuan Class Submarines

OSINT: Identification Of Type-039 Song & Yuan Class Submarines

Flag China The Type-039A/B Yuan Class submarine is the most numerous, modern and capable Chinese non-nuclear submarine. It is displacing the older Ming and Song classes, and imported KILO class. Since it was first identified in May 2021, the latest Type-039C submarine has moved into the mainstream. It is likely now the main production version for the Chinese Navy (PLAN). Significantly, it features an angled sail and casing intended to reduce its signal strength from the enemy’s active sonar, in effect stealthy shaping.

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Estimating how many of the new -C model have been built and entered service has proven difficult. Although the angled sail makes gives it a distinctive profile, it is trickier to differentiate it in overhead imagery. This analysis however, using satellite imagery publicly available on Google Earth, shows that it is possible to positively identify the 'C' model.

The 'C' model has a wider casing which is particularly noticeable at the bow and stern. At the stern, the straight edge where the casing slopes down toward the upper rudder will sometimes show up in imagery. The shadow of the sail can be a giveaway. Ahead of the sail, the hatch has a noticeable square cut outer shape.

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