Jeffrey LewisMore Chinese Boomer Mania

A loyal reader sends along this happy snap of two Chinese boomers sitting side by side on the dock. (See previous posts here and here.)

By the way, my copy of China’s Future Nuclear Submarine Force, edited by Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, William S. Murray and Andrew R. Wilson, finally arrived in the mail.


  1. Jing

    FYI, the open missile silos may have been photoshopped on.

  2. hallo (History)

    …a man is standing aft of the sail.

    He is roughly the same height as the open hatch cover.

    I think we can assume the diameter of the missile to be between 5.5-6 feet? It would be nice to know how tall he actually is. sigh.

  3. cpt

    So two thoughts from a non-technical guy: First, the missile compartment looks grafted on, and not rounded, both of which presumably have huge implications for acoustics. Second, what are the little 1-2 foot square boxes part way down the hull, numbering in the dozens?

    Jing, why do you think photoshop? anything look particularly suspicious? The previous google earth shots admittedly lack any outline as distinct as these, but perhaps closed they mesh perfectly with that missile superstructure…

  4. Jian Feng (History)

    Very nice picture. Folks in Chinese military intelligence finally got the OK to release their good stuff to replace the grainy satellite photos. And it seems a rather auspice day (for those who don’t know, most Chinese like good numbers and dates). Released on the opening day of the Communist Party’s 17th Congress, for worldwide distribution on Oct. 16 – the 43rd anniversary of China joining the power club.

  5. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    Is it just my eyes or do I see this as an incredibly noisy boat with terrible hydrodynamics?

  6. Alex W. (History)

    Looking at the larger version (, I’m hard pressed to think it is photoshopped in any way. No tell-tale signs, and the angles all add up. So if there’s a reason for thinking they may have been photoshopped, it must be independent of the picture itself, yes?

  7. Lao Tao Ren (History)


    The little dark squares on the hull could be vents to drain water / air out of the ballast tanks?

    That is assuming it has a double hull as is customary in Soviet / Russian designs.

  8. Jing (History)

    Doubt everything, my motto.

    Regarding radiated noise of the 094 class SSBN’s, I doubt anyone who even has a remotely accurate clue would be saying anything. However, I should point out that hydrodynamics are not as significant a factor on radiated noise, at least compared to other issues. The most critical factor in determining submarine detection is the discrete noise generated by internal components such as any turbines, reactor, pumps etc. Next is the rotation and speed of the propeller in the water which is the second most important source of noise. Hydrodynamic noise comes into play primarily when the submarine is operating above the 10-15 knot range. Accordingly most submarines on combat patrol do not exceed 8 knots to minimize noise, only travelling faster to when ferrying large distances.

    Ballistic missile submarines, being a strategic asset are almost always travelling at the slowest effective speed to minimize noise.

    Regarding the hydrodynamics of the 094 class, it essentially follows that of the 092. The hump while large is more smoothly integrated than the Soviet Delta series of ballistic submarines. If you’ll notice the “bulge” blends into the sail both vertically and horizontally in contrast to to the Deltas which had a sheer vertical alignment. The Russian Borei class has a similar bulge/sail alignment as the Xia and Jin class submarines

  9. Gelfant

    Looks like someone ripped off plans for the Delta III.

  10. Lao Tao Ren (History)


    If you are trying to detect a sub by passive means, at slow speeds, your rank order would be just about right.

    However, if you are detecting it by other techniques, like MAD, or disturbance in the water caused by the passage of a large body, then even at slower speeds (8 knots), it is an issue.

    This brings me to the real issue which is, for the Chinese, is the traditional SSBN with a large loadout of missiles (12 tubes, ? warheads per missile) the wrong approach if their goal is to challenge the US? I believe it is for the following reasons:

    SSBNs as conceived by the major nuclear powers are too big, concentrate too many missiles in too few large platforms that are too easy to detect and destroy. The modern battlefield is going to be laden with sensors, autonomous robots, and other hunters who will have little to lose from exposing their position by going ‘active’. Low radiated noise is no longer the guarantee of stealthness it once was. Furthermore, with the deployment of ABM systems on the most likely paths for missiles to be launched argues for SSBNs to be able to operate in waters where they are not expected: e.g. for the Russians to send a few boats with ICBMs off the coast of Brazil to strike at the Northeastern US from a different direction, complicating efforts at detection, interception and deployment of a continent wide ABM system.

    Given these issues, the ideal boat may be not a boat, but a fleet of relatively small boats that carry a few (2 to 4) ICBMs with 10,000km+ range that greatly complicate the job of the hunter – especially if it is a navy that is rapidly going from 300 to 150 ships. Instead of carrying missiles that launch vertically, ICBMs can be carried horizontally along the length of the hull as encapsulated missiles that are ‘pushed out’ and launched on the surface, making for a far smaller boat in terms of frontal cross section. Such a boat can also be made smaller by configuring it with a hybrid diesel-nuclear-electric drive, where a small (perhaps gas cooled) nuclear plant or battery just generates enough electricity for the boat to ‘loiter’ at, say 8 knots but bursts of speed will require battery power. A hybrid nuclear system would extend endurance vis-a-vis either a conventional or a AIP drive, allowing for long patrols. Advances in battery technology like industrial sized lithium ion cells can provide higher power densities than lead acid cells, making the overall package not necessarily much larger than a conventional diesel-electric and probably comparable with an AIP drive but with longer endurance. While composite materials are not ready for prime time, selective use of composite materials in a hybrid metal-composite layout can offer the benefits of a much smaller and lighter hull. e.g. using composites on internal hoops that are primarily stressed in compression, which would also offer the possibility of reducing hull popping noises that are difficult to eliminate in an all metal hull. Composites may also be used in the outer hull of a double hull, where the material may allow for radical shapes, perhaps for flat, slab sided hulls to confer a degree of stealthness on a submarine operating in an intense ‘active’ sonar environment.

    There are very few nations that have the combination (or potential combination) of expertise, technical skill, financial resources, audacity and determination to think along this direction and to create a fleet of 21st century SSBNs with these characteristics. China is one of them. Hopefully they will see no need for it.

  11. Andy (History)

    Interesting that it appears the subs lack a towed-array sonar.