The Stealthy Advancements: China’s Type 096 Submarines

China’s Type 096 Submarines: Emerging Submarine Arms Race

In recent times, an emerging submarine arms race has taken center stage, with China’s unveiling of its next-generation Type 096 ballistic missile submarines. These formidable vessels are poised to challenge the existing order in the Indo-Pacific region and create new complexities in submarine surveillance. In this blog, we delve into the significant developments surrounding China’s Type 096 submarines.

A Silent Revolution

Analysts and defense experts have been closely monitoring China’s progress with the Type 096 submarines. These submarines, expected to become operational before the end of the decade, are heralded for their unprecedented quietness, a feature critical for stealthy underwater operations. What’s intriguing is the role of Russian technology in enhancing the acoustic stealth of these submarines.

Retired submariner and naval technical intelligence analyst Christopher Carlson comments, “The Type 096s are going to be a nightmare,” emphasizing the difficulty of detecting them. Their enhanced stealth capabilities are a significant leap forward from their predecessors.

Shifting Submarine Surveillance

The discreet effort to track China’s nuclear-powered and -armed ballistic missile submarines, known as SSBNs, has been a core concern for U.S. Navy and other allied forces in the Indo-Pacific region. With the anticipated entry of the Type 096 submarines into service, this challenge is expected to intensify. These submarines are set to redefine the rules of underwater warfare.

A Comparative Advantage

China’s Type 096 submarines are set to rival state-of-the-art Russian submarines in terms of stealth, sensors, and weapons. This leap in capabilities carries profound implications for the U.S. and its Indo-Pacific allies. The research draws insights from Chinese military journals, internal speeches by senior People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officers, and patent data, providing a comprehensive overview of China’s nuclear submarine development spanning over five decades.

Timeline and Technological Advancements

Satellite imagery taken at China’s new Huludao shipyard in November reveals the progress in constructing these submarines. The timeline, as stated in the Pentagon’s annual reports, aligns with having the Type 096 submarines operational by 2030. The research also highlights potential breakthroughs in areas like pump-jet propulsion and internal quieting devices, largely influenced by imitative innovation of Russian technology.

A Growing International Effort

In an echo of the Cold War era, tracking Chinese submarines has evolved into an international endeavor. Japan, India, Australia, Britain, and the United States, among others, are actively involved in this subsurface surveillance battle. Anti-submarine warfare drills and deployments of sub-hunting aircraft, such as the P-8 Poseidon, have increased around Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean.

AUKUS and the Future

The prospect of quieter Chinese SSBNs is a driving force behind the AUKUS deal, involving Australia, Britain, and the U.S. This agreement aims to enhance submarine deployments and capabilities in Western Australia. By the 2030s, Australia anticipates launching its first nuclear-powered attack submarines, equipped with British technology, further shifting the dynamics in the Indo-Pacific region.


China’s Type 096 submarines represent a significant milestone in the evolving submarine arms race. Their stealth capabilities and potential impact on regional dynamics demand careful attention from the international community. As these submarines continue to develop, the world must adapt to a new era of underwater warfare, where silence may be the ultimate advantage.


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