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China Navy's Type 039C submarine reportedly undergoing sea trials.

| 2023

According to a tweet published by 无条件爱国 on December 20, 2023, a video has emerged showing a Chinese PLA Navy Type 039C submarine undergoeing sea trials.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Chinese Type 039C submarine. (Picture source: 无条件爱国)

This new class of submarine features a distinctive 'mushroom-head' style design for its command tower enclosure, a first of its kind in active service globally. The design minimizes radar echo and reduces noise generated by unstable vortices, enhancing the submarine's stealth, maneuverability, and detection capabilities. It represents the most advanced conventional power submarine in the Chinese Navy.

The Type 039C's command tower, or the enclosure that rises above the main body of the submarine, is crucial for the vessel's overall stealth, quietness, and maneuverability. The tower's unique mushroom shape is composed of two parts: the upper section protrudes outward, resembling a spindle, while the lower section is slant-walled.

Conventional power submarines like the 039C, unlike nuclear submarines, cannot stay submerged for extended periods and must frequently surface to charge their batteries using diesel generators. When partially submerged, only the top part of the 039C's tower is exposed, and its special polygonal design reduces radar reflection.

The mushroom shape of the tower on the 039C helps in reducing vortex effects and drag while also dispersing enemy sonar echoes, enhancing underwater stability, maneuverability, and stealth.

The Type 039C is China’s first submarine fully equipped with photonic masts. These systems, replacing traditional periscopes, consist of retractable masts with electro-optical sensors, antennas, and electronic display control terminals.

They integrate functions like detection, surveillance, communication, and navigation. The mushroom-shaped tower of the 039C allows for more internal space, enhancing the functionality of these systems.

The Type 039C is armed with six torpedo tubes capable of launching various anti-ship missiles and heavy torpedoes, showing excellent anti-ship and anti-submarine capabilities. It also features a towed sonar array, a first for Chinese conventional power submarines, enhancing underwater detection abilities.

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