Perhaps it is time to shift attention away from the “rally around the flag” diversion that is North Korea and pay some attention to China, which delighted by the ongoing geopolitical distractions is currently building the world’s largest submarine facility, which will be able to produce as many as four ultramodern nuclear submarines at a time.
Starting later this year, China’s new submarine factory on the Yellow Sea will churn out nuclear-powered attack submarines (or SSNs) ensuring that the sub program of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will soon be a deadly global force. Once fully operational, the assembly line will enable China to at least match USN SSN production.
Bohai Shipbuilding Heavy Industrial Corporation (BSHIC) is putting the finishing touches on its new facility, which as profiled by Popsci, will start production this year. BSHIC, based in Huludao, Liaoning Province, is China’s only builder of nuclear submarines. It previously built the Type 091, 093 nuclear attack submarines (SSN) and Type 092 and 094 nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN).
Why is this building such a big deal? Simple: inside a superstructure, submarines are hidden from snoops, spies, and satellites. It also provides a controlled environment for development and construction.
According to Popsci, the massive new assembly hall, which measures more than 430,000 square feet, has enough room for two parallel production lines; each production line has one half dedicated to assembling and attaching together submarine modules, and the other half dedicated to finishing the hull with quieting measures like anechoic tiles. That’s enough space for four SSN’s to be built simultaneously (two sets of modules being assembled at one end, and another pair of assembled hulls being fitted out before launch). Once completed, the SSN is rolled off the line and into the ocean. The assembly hall can also handle construction of the next generation SSBN, the Type 096.
The module assembly hall is well equipped, with gantry cranes for lifting SSN modules in
position and parallel rails for moving completed hull sections further down the assembly line.
The facility is reported to begin construction on the first Type 095 SSN later this year. The Type 095 is expected to have a single/hybrid pressure hull, pumpjet propulsion and vertical launch system cells, making it (at least) superior to older SSNs like the U.S.’s Los Angeles III and Russia’s Akula II.
The Type 095 SSN, swhon in this rendering, will likely have VLS cells for launching a wide range of cruise missiles, plus pumpjet propulsion and improved quieting technology. The first Type 095 will likely begin production in late 2017 at the new BSHIC factory, with many more to follow in the 2020s.