The Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army –Navy (PLAN) which christened its Type 09IV nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine as “Changzheng-18” last Friday may have three more such vessels.
Media reports of the vessel’s launch ceremony featured a scene in which three other Type 09IVs could be seen in the background, state-affiliated media, Global Times reported. “Four Type 09IVs are a formidable nuclear deterrent with dozens of submarine-launched ballistic missiles,” it said quoting unnamed analysts.
The Changzheng 18 was also seen with its (vertical) missile hatch open in a CCTV report about the launch of the submarine, a scene Global Times analysts said is “rare and displayed its nuclear capability.”
The Changzheng 18 submarine was launched along with a Type 055 destroyer and a Type 075 amphibious assault vessel by Chinese Communist Party Supremo, Xi Xinping showing the importance of the three vessels to the PLAN.
There are no previous reports of Type 09IV or Type 095 submarines being launched. Much of China’s nuclear submarine development is opaque with little or no official information and even its official media not giving even basic details about the vessels.
The PLAN’s four new nuclear submarines of have found echo in a 2020 U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence report, “After nearly 10 years, China is continuing production with four additional hulls of an improved variant, the first of which was launched in 2012. These six total submarines will replace the aging Han-class SSN on nearly a one-for-one basis in the next several years. Following the completion of the improved Shang SSN, the PLA(N) will progress to the Type 095 SSN, which may provide a generational improvement in many areas such as quieting and weapon capacity.”
In the absence of credible official information, details of the Type 09IV or Type 095 submarines are left to PLAN watchers writing in various Western media.
A February 2021 article in Naval News said, “The new Type-095 (more properly written Type-09V) is an attack submarine which is expected to be more closely comparable to the US Navy’s Virginia-class. The hull section is approximately 30-32 meters long and roughly 11-12 meters across.”