The proposed non nuclear submarine jointly planned by Russia and China appears to be a non starter

On the international market, China and Russia compete with one another in SSK sales. Submarines made in China are sold in Thailand, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

A spokeswoman for the Russian Federal Agency for Military-Technical Cooperation reportedly indicated during the “Army-2020” symposium on August 25, 2020, that Russia and China are working together to design a new generation of conventionally powered submarines (SSK – diesel-electric submarines that are specialised for anti-submarine missions). Information is not available regarding the boat’s function, if any, or the vessel’s specifications, even in 2023.

In contrast to the United States Navy, both the Russian Navy and the Chinese Navy continue to operate conventional submarines in addition to their nuclear attack submarine fleets. These boats are far simpler to build than those powered by nuclear energy, and they provide a wide range of advantages, particularly for those deployed in coastal environments.

China previously launched mass manufacturing and improvement of conventional submarines such as the Type 039, 039G/A, and others. Following the “submarine boom,” recent years have been pretty quiet. There is no information available about the mass production of conventional submarines. Chinese submarine engineers may use this quiet period to build a new generation of conventional submarines to replace the Yuan class. At the same time, Russia is struggling to mass produce its Lada class submarines which are Kilo-class submarine replacements. To make matters worse for Moscow, Russia’s usual importer, India, is no longer an assured market for Russian SSKs. Therefore, Russia and China have similar requirements for the next generation of conventional submarines.

During the early stages of the Cold War, the Soviet Union provided the People’s Republic of China with assistance in developing its submarine manufacturing.

Moscow gave Beijing the plans for diesel-electric submarines, including the Project 629 (NATO Golf-class) ballistic missile carrying submarine and the Project 633 (Romeo class) diesel-electric submarine. After some time had passed, Russia shipped diesel-electric submarines of the Kilo class, designated Project 877 Halibut, to China. On the other hand, China went a different route, and as a result, it currently possesses the technology necessary to produce any submarine class.

As a submarine power that has been around for a long time, Russia still has strong technical reserves in areas like low-noise control technology for submarines, submarine structure design and material technology, and submarine weapon systems. China’s conventional subs don’t have any of these things.

In contrast to China, which already employs Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) to construct submarines, Russia strives to adopt this technology. The AIP was supposed to be installed aboard a modern Russian submarine from the series 677 “Lada,” but this has not yet happened.

The utilisation of rechargeable batteries is a candidate for use as an alternative. Only recently have lithium-ion batteries have been adopted for use in submarines. Submarines from Japan were the first to use them, followed shortly after by submarines from South Korea and Italy.

Another possible collaboration area might involve the combat management suite and armament. For instance, a Chinese submarine may be outfitted with sonar and weaponry sourced from Russia.  

Malachite, a Russian design bureau, is attempting to pitch one of their designs. A non-nuclear submarine with a length of 65.5 metres and a closed-type auxiliary propulsion system (AIP) that includes a gas turbine engine fueled by liquid oxygen from a separate tank is what the concept proposal for the P-750B Serval envisions.

The Chinese shipbuilders are also pushing their capabilities. Therefore, it is not yet known how it will be incorporated into the long-term organisational structure of the fleets of both nations. The fact that the Chinese will replicate Russian technology and then produce their own versions is the primary concern for Moscow.

China and Russia compete in the global market by primarily selling SSKs. China is gaining market share and exports submarines to Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Thailand. It’s feasible that this submarine, which was co-designed, will also be exported.

On the international market, China and Russia compete with one another in SSK sales. Submarines made in China are sold in Thailand, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. China is expanding its market share. It’s not out of the question that this submarine, co-designed with another country, will also be sold elsewhere.

According to the official viewpoint of Moscow, naval cooperation with Beijing has nothing to do with nations located outside of the region, nor does it have anything to do with the political and military atmosphere in the region. At the same time, there are now major inconsistencies in how the United States, on the one hand, and Russia and China, on the other, interact with one another. In this regard, joint naval exercises are undertaken to demonstrate the alliance between the two countries and their desire to cooperate to achieve mutual goals. The Russian and Chinese warships have conducted more rigorous joint training over the past several years than in previous decades.

Consequently, there are currently more questions than answers concerning the possibility of a Russian and Chinese non nuclear submarine to be designed in collaboration. In fact, Russia said that China and Russia were going to work together on the “Lada” class conventional submarine project as early as 2012. This project will inevitably fail, much like other defence programmes that have received substantial coverage in the official media of China and Russia.


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