The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy has commissioned two new Type 094 Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), South China Morning Post reported citing Chinese military sources.
The vessels are revamped versions of Type 094 and will bolster the PLA Navy’s underwater combat strength, according to the two sources.
“The submarines had upgraded technology such as radar, sonar and torpedoes,” one of the sources was quoted as saying in the SCMP report.
Prior to the commissioning of the two new boats, there were at least four Type 094 SSBNs (09-IV) in service with the PLA Navy. They were on show in a parade in Qingdao, Shandong province, in April last year to mark the 70th anniversary of the PLA Navy.
According to another source cited by SCMP, two more Type 094s may have entered service since then.
The Type 094 submarines are outfitted with 16 JL-2 (JL stands for Julang meaning Giant Wave) submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), with an estimated range of 4,600 miles (7,400 km). The JL-2 missiles are armed with a nuclear warhead.
China is currently developing the successor for the Type 094 submarines, dubbed Type 096 (NATO reporting name: Tang class). Each Type 096 submarine will be able to carry 24 JL-3 SLBMs (successor of JL-2 SLBMs) with each missile carrying multiple MIRV (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle) nuclear warheads.
The solid-fueled JL-3 is believed to incorporate technologies from the new DF-41 (Dongfeng-41, “East Wind”) land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and is thought be comparable to the U.S. Navy’s UGM-133A Trident II (D5) and Russia’s new RSM-56 Bulava SLBMs.
The JL-3 missiles will reportedly have an operational range of 7,500-8,700 miles (12,000–14,000 km) and will be equipped with various missile defense-penetrating features such as a variable trajectory, a radar-evading stealth warhead, and fast-burning rocket motors.
Last year, the PLA Navy test-fired the new JL-3 SLBM from a Type 094 submarine (SSBN).
The first Type 096 submarine to be equipped with the JL-3 missiles is expected to enter service in the mid-2020s.