Chinese Type 094 Nuclear Submarine in ‘embarrassing’ South China Sea incident

The Type 094 submarine of the PLAN.

A photo of a Chinese Type 094 nuclear-powered submarine surfacing beside a Vietnamese fishing vessel

Hanoi- On October 17 2019, an enormous nuclear missile submarine has mysteriously surfaced among Vietnamese fishing boats in the South China Sea as Beijing knuckles down on its territorial grab learned GDC quoting Vietnam Express.

A submarine has no value if your adversary knows where you at.

According to international submarine warfare analyst H.I. Sutton, the Chinese 11,000-ton Type 094 Jin Class submarine suddenly emerged from the deep among a fishing fleet operating off the Paracel Islands. The Type 094 is armed with 12 JL-2 SLBMs, each with an estimated range of 7,400 km (4,600 mi). The type 094 is noiser than the 1970s Russian project 667BDR, NATO reporting name Delta III.

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South China Sea Incident

On 17 October 2019, on this occasion, the type 094 submarine surfaced in the middle of fishing boats suggests that something seriously gone wrong, an accident embarrassingly seen by competitors.

The single purpose of ballistic-missile carrying, nuclear-powered submarine such as the Jin Class is to remain underwater for months on end to remain unseen. To be enough of a menace to deter any surprise attack.

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Mr Sutton says using such a submarine to “send a message” to Vietnam goes against all expectations. “Surfacing next to another country’s vessel is unusual and suggests that something has gone wrong,” he writes. “Something serious enough to warrant sacrificing its main asset: stealth.”

The appearance of the submarine does emphasise, however, one of Beijing’s prime motivators for laying claim over what it calls the “Nine-Dash Line”, or “First Island Chain”. In essence, it is the entire mass of water between it and Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Its string of illegally constructed artificial island fortresses turns the entire area into a Chinese-controlled lake. Entry through the narrow island choke-points can be closely monitored. And its nuclear submarines can hide in its depths, secure in the knowledge that any opposing submarine or aircraft will find it challenging to break in.

“The Jin Class is the newest missile submarine in the Chinese arsenal,” Mr Sutton writes in Forbes . “Six have been built and are already the backbone of China’s at-sea nuclear deterrent.”

The fishing boat scare has only just been revealed in Vietnamese media after the incident occurred last month.

“Possibly the submarine had become entangled in a fishing net, or feared that it would be,” Mr Sutton writes. “Surfacing may have saved the lives of the fishermen, or the submariners.”

The submarine surfaced more than 300km from its home base at Sanya on the Chinese island of Hainan.

Chinese navy submarines have been aggressively patrolling the disputed South China Sea for months. Picture: Supplied Source: AFP

East China Sea Incident

This is not the first time Chinese submarines emerged in China Sea and International waters, previously Chinese submarine emerged to surface and raised Chinese flag to identify itself to defend against stealthy Japanese Soryu class submarine. It was reported by Japan Times that a Japanese high-tech stealthy Soryu class submarine continuously followed Chinese submarine which forced the Chinese submarine to surface and identify itself.

After a Chinese nuclear attack submarine was discovered by the Japanese navy while submerged near disputed islands in the East China Sea, military experts say it could be too easy to detect. 

The PLA Navy’s 110-metre Shang-class submarine surfaced in international waters with a Chinese flag on its mast on January 12 2019 after it was followed by the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force for two days reported South China Morning Post.

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Some military experts believe the vessel was forced to surface, but others say there is not enough information to back up that theory.

“This is such a shame for the navy,” said a Beijing-based military source, who requested anonymity, adding that the vessel was detected because it was “too noisy”.

The incident has also shown the strong anti-submarine capabilities of Japan, which has the technological backing of the US military, according to military commentator Zhou Chenming in Beijing.

“It’s not so bad that they’ve been exposed, it could push the Chinese to work harder on making the submarines quieter,” Zhou said. “As a strong military power China should be confident enough not to cover up its weaknesses and failures.”

Once a submarine has been exposed and its unique acoustics have been recorded, it puts them at a great disadvantage,” said Li Jie, a researcher at the Naval Military Studies Research Institute in Beijing.

In 2004, a type 091 Han-class nuclear submarine was detected as it trespassed in Japanese territorial waters near the recent incident. But it remained submerged until it returned to Chinese waters, despite being chased by Japanese ships and planes dropping sonobuoys, which pick up underwater sounds and transmit them.

Macau-based military expert Antony Wong Dong believed the nuclear attack submarine was forced to surface, and said it was “dumb” of the Chinese navy to allow its features to be seen and photographed.

Taiwan Straight Incident

Another incident, Chinese type 039A class Submarine was forced to surface in Taiwan straight for technical difficulties. The type 039A had to wait for a tow, later on the submarine was towed back to home port. The type 039 submarine is based on Soviet era kilo class submarine. The type 039A has been exported to Thailand and Pakistan.

Accident in Yellow Sea

Seventy Chinese sailors have perished in an accident aboard a diesel-powered submarine on a training mission in the Yellow Sea, the official New China News Agency reported on May 2 without revealing when or how the disaster occurred.

The account said that the No. 361 submarine was taking part in drills east of Nanchangshan Island when a ”mechanical problem” caused the accident. The damaged submarine has been towed to its home port, the report said.

The Chinese still use at least 30 of the even more obsolete Soviet-designed type 035 submarines, China sold two of these obsolete submarines to Bangladesh.

Expanding The Grip of Chinese Authority

Chinese navy controlled Coast Guard and survey vessels have been engaged in an extended standoff with Vietnam in the area in recent months. A Vietnamese-Russian gas and oil drilling operation has been the centre of an interference operation, with China attempting to assert its ownership of a region called the Vanguard Bank.

“China is expanding its grip on the resource-rich sea, but has been careful enough to do this gradually, step by step,” geopolitical affairs analyst Bahauddin Foizee writes. “This slow approach attracts lesser outcry from the international community. Using time as a weapon, China is slowly expanding its grip.”

The cluster of about 130 small coral islands and reefs that forms the Paracel Islands covers some 15,000sq km roughly halfway between the Chinese mainland and Vietnam. The People’s Liberation Army of China expelled Vietnamese forces from the area during a short war in 1974.

Vietnam has never relinquished its claim to the territory, even though Beijing has built a fortress-air base on one of the largest land masses — Woody Island.

Vietnam earlier this week told a South China Sea forum being held between ASEAN nations and China that ongoing territorial infringements were harming the region.

Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung said “complicated developments” had strained discussions around China’s proposed South China Sea “Code of Conduct”.

Mr Nguyen asserted Vietnam’s right under the United Nations Law of the Sea to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) based on its shores and continental shelf. Beijing, a signatory to the law, rejects this — and instead insists it owns the entire South China Sea right up to the coasts of neighbouring nations.

But, at the weekend, Vietnam’s Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong said he was “prepared for possible opportunities and challenges” in the South China Sea where he would “tenaciously” defend his nation’s rights.

Of particular concern was the sighting of a Chinese oil drilling rig moving into waters contained within Vietnam’s EEZ. Similar Chinese interference actions have been noted in Malaysian and Philippine waters in recent months.

Woody Island in the South China Sea. Picture: Google Earth

But Beijing’s growing assertiveness appears to have backfired. In September, 10 ASEAN nations engaged in an unusual and rare naval exercise with the United States.

Five days of joint exercise involved eight warships, four aircraft and 1000 personnel and ranged through the Gulf of Thailand, South China Sea and Malacca Strait.

“Although there has been speculation that the association might gradually evolve into a security alliance, that is a far cry from what it as a bloc intends to achieve. However, security alliances among some of the ASEAN member states and some extra-ASEAN countries like Australia, India and Japan cannot be ruled out.”

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