Chinese submarines soon to be equipped with Lithium-ion batteries?

According to the Chinese press, Chinese Type 039A Yuan-class submarines could soon be equipped with lithium-ion batteries, which would give them increased performance, including beyond the first line of islands surrounding the country.

In the event ofmilitary action against Taiwan to take control of the autonomous island since 1949, the submarine fleet of the Chinese navy would be called upon to play a strategic role, in particular by keeping in check any American and allied fleets that could come in support of Taipei.

Indeed, in the absence of a sufficient number of aircraft carriers and tanker aircraft to ensure a naval and air blockade capable of opposing Western power, it would be up to the Chinese Navy's submarines to spot and designate targets to Chinese long-range anti-ship systems, such as the DF-21D and DF-26, but also to guide possible attacks by Chinese long-range bombers.

However, the Chinese navy can only rely, to date, on 6 Type 09-III Shang and Shang-G class nuclear attack submarines, and must therefore mainly rely on its fleet of conventionally powered submarines to carry out this mission.

The forty modern conventional attack submarines of the Song and Yuan classes, as well as the ten submersibles of Russian design Kilo and Improved Kilo, in service within the Chinese fleets, offer far from negligible performance for what concerns anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare near the Chinese coast and in nearby seas, such as the South China Sea

These ships, however, suffer from a low autonomy and energy capacity when diving to carry out interdiction missions on the high seas, such as those which would be necessary to keep the Allied fleet and its cohort of nuclear attack submarines at bay. escort perfectly suited to their mission.

Even the twenties Type 039A Yuan-class, which have an AIP (Air Independent Propulsion) system derived from the Stirling system, and therefore an extended diving autonomy as long as they keep a low speed, would be heavily disadvantaged against Western and especially American SSNs in such a situation. hypothesis, obliged as they are to surface to recharge their batteries and to evolve only at low speed while diving.

Chinese Type 09-III nuclear-powered submarines
The Chinese Navy currently has only 6 modern SSN Type 09-III of the Shang and Shang-G classes

In this area, a new technology inherited from the Chinese automotive industry could soon be a game-changer for Beijing and its navy. Indeed, according to the Hong Kong site (and now very close to Beijing) South-China Morning Post, the Chinese Navy could soon start installing Lithium-Ion batteries on board its conventionally powered submarines, instead of the traditional lead-acid batteries used for nearly a century on board submarines.

For this, the Chinese general staff intends to rely on the progress made in this area by the Chinese automotive industry, which has become the world leader in electric cars, and with advanced expertise in Lithium-Ion batteries. Initially developed for mobile devices such as Smartphones and tablets, Lithium-Ion batteries have since conquered the electric car market.

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