As China intensifies its efforts to bolster its naval capabilities, its submarine shipbuilding capacity is expanding.

With the Huludao shipyard leading the charge, China is pushing to increase its production of submarines, including the anticipated TYPE-09V.

China’s mysterious submarine fleet

China’s naval ambitions have taken a covert turn as the nation embarks on an ambitious plan to expand its submarine fleet, challenging the status quo in the South China Sea.

While the specifics remain largely undisclosed, rumours of hypersonic missiles and Russian technology intrigue the international community. As China’s fleet evolves, it becomes clear that the nation’s endeavours in submarine development are shrouded in secrecy, setting them apart from the recent AUKUS announcement.

According to GlobalData’s “The Global Submarine Market 2022-2033” report, Chinese policymakers are investing significant funds into expanding their submarine fleet.

With rumours of torpedoes being armed on uncrewed underwater vehicles, China’s growing capabilities raise concerns and prompt a reassessment of strategic interests in the South China Sea.

When asking H I Sutton how convinced he is of the plans to use torpedoes on its UUVs, he claimed, “It is unconfirmed. We haven’t seen the prototype vehicles that closely; obviously, China isn’t saying. However, based on the indications, it’s likely.”

Shouting about AUKUS, whispers of Huludao

While the recent AUKUS announcement drew international attention, China’s discreet submarine development has steadily gained momentum, leaving experts and geopolitical analysts pondering the country’s true capabilities.

Leading the charge in China’s shipbuilding capacity is the Huludao shipyard, where new versions of Chinese submarines are being constructed. The crown jewel of this endeavour is the highly anticipated TYPE-09V, which promises a host of features.

Equipped with a pump jet and a 4×3 or 6×3 configuration, the vessel hints at incorporating hypersonic missiles like those found on the Type-055 destroyer. Such modularity and the potential use of Russian technology make the TYPE-09V a formidable addition to China’s naval arsenal.

The Type 09-V submarine is anticipated to have a substantially reduced acoustic signature within an improved hull type. It is also speculated that the Type 09-V may act as a potential undersea escort for any future PLAN aircraft carrier task forces, according to GlobalData’s China’s Defence Market 2022-2027” report. 

James Marques, aerospace, defence, & security analyst at GlobalData, said: “Not a lot is known about these submarines yet, but they are expected to be competitors to the US’s Virginia-class, which plans to mount hyper sonics by 2028.”

China’s silence is deafening

The Chinese submarine fleet already boasts the presence of the Jin-09IV(4), a submarine class reportedly patrolling contested waters. However, China’s ambitions stretch far beyond what is known publicly.

While the AUKUS nuclear-submarine project between the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia made headlines globally, China’s secretive nature allows them to pursue submarine development without revealing their true intentions. This veil of secrecy has created a mystery around the hardware and software sophistication China has achieved.

Combined with the stealthy nature of China’s submarine advancements, these developments have prompted some to view the AUKUS alliance as a response rather than the sole impetus for China’s aggressive pursuit of submarine capabilities.

While the true extent of their submarine prowess remains undisclosed, the nation’s silent strides in naval expansion demand attention and a proactive approach to ensure regional stability in the face of growing uncertainties.