China has developed a new magnetic propulsion motor that could make nuclear submarines far stealthier, state media have claimed.
According to a new report, the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) has tested the country’s first permanent system of this kind, paving the way for quieter and more elusive high-speed vessels.
The new magnetic drive, if successful, could bring the Chinese navy more on par with the US and other Western naval forces.
‘Submarine and anti-submarine technology and capabilities have long been considered a weak link in Chinese naval power,’ Eric Wertheim, author of Combat Fleets of the World, told Motherboard.
‘It appears that they are making concerted efforts to address this shortfall.’
Engineers around the world have long been working to create reliable magnetic ship drives.
Such propulsion systems could vastly reduce the noise emitted by vessels; according to Chinese media, this particular system could cut noises down to their lowest levels.
In a statement from the CSIC’s official WeChat public account, officials claim a Chinese patented permanent magnet motor was tested on naval vessels docked at Sanya, in South China’s Hainan Province.
This site is China’s base for conventional and nuclear submarines.
According to the state media, the tests were conducted on October 18, and vessel achieved the designated speed.
The magnetic drive uses a superconducting magnet to force water through the submarine’s shaft, according to Motherboard.
It’s then funneled out the back.
With few moving parts, the magnetic drive is much quieter than conventional systems.
In recent years, China has been ramping up its efforts to catch up to Western navies.
This past summer, it was revealed that the Chinese navy is developing submersible ‘arsenal ships’ that can fire missiles at the surface, or dip below the waves to attack from underwater.
According to Chinese media, naval experts have been looking into two types of partially-submerged warships, both of which would displace about 20,000 tons, Popular Science reports.
This type of design could make the massive, missile-carrying warships stealthier by masking their radar signatures as they submerge – or, it could allow for high-speed operations up at the surface.
According to the Popular Science blog Eastern Arsenal, researchers in China have been testing models of the technology since 2011, and rumours claim a full-scale proof-of-concept from the Bohai Shipbuilding Heavy Industrial Corporation will be ready around 2020.
Chinese media claim studies on submersible arsenal ships are underway, including a version with high-speed capabilities, and a ship with two conning towers that operates almost fully submerged.
The first type of arsenal ship would remain mostly underwater for stealth operations.
But, to switch into high-speed mode – which would sacrifice stealth – it would ‘use the flat hull bottom to hydroplane at high speeds’ to cut across waves, PopSci explains.
The second type of ship would have a more traditional design and act much like those used during WWII, with most of its operations taking place at the surface.
It would only dip below the surface in times of combat, or if attacked, according to PopSci.
And, just months ago, the Chinese navy released a rare glimpse at the Type 093B ‘Shang’ submarine, which can launch missiles vertically at ships and other targets overhead.
China’s new nuclear attack submarine is among the military’s most secretive platforms.
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