By Hans M. Kristensen
A new satellite image appears to have captured China's new ballistic missile submarine. Coordinates: 38°49'4.40"N, 121°29'39.82"E.
A commercial satellite image appears to have captured China's new nuclear ballistic missile submarine. The new class, known as the Jin-class or Type 094, is expected to replace the unsuccessful Xia-class (Type 092) of a single boat built in the early 1980s.
The new submarine was photographed by the commercial Quickbird satellite in late 2006 and the image is freely available on the Google Earth web site.
A Comparison of SSBN Dimensions
Two satellite images are now available (see figure below) that clearly show two missile submarines with different dimensions. One image from 2005 shows what is believed to be the Xia-class (Type 092) SSBN in drydock at the Jianggezhuang Submarine Base approximately 14 miles east of Qingdao. The submarine is approximately 390 feet (120 meters) long of which the missile compartment makes up roughly 80 feet (25 meters). Twelve missile launch tubes are clearly visible.
The second image from late 2006 shows what appears to be the new Jin-class (Type 094) SSBN moored at the Xiaopingdao Submarine Base south of Dalian, approximately 193 miles north of Qingdao. The Jin-class appears to be approximately 35 feet (10 meters) longer than the Xia-class SSBN, primarily due to an extended mid-section of approximately 115 feet (35 meters) that houses the missile launch tubes and part of the reactor compartment.
Xia- and Jin-Class SSBN Comparison
These two commercial satellite images of the old Xia-class SSBN (top) and the new Jin-class SSBN show the different major compartments. The Jin-class appears to be approximately 35 feet (10 meters) longer with an extended missile compartment. Both images view the submarines from a "eye-altitude" of approximately 500 feet (152 meters).
The extended missile compartment of the Jin-class seems seems intended to accommodate the Julang-2 sea-launched ballistic missile, which is larger than the Julang-1 deployed on the Xia-class. Part of the extension may also be related to the size of the reactor compartment. The U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence estimated in 2004 that the Jin-class, like the Xia-class, will have 12 missiles launch tubes (see figure below). Other non-governmental sources frequently claim the submarine will have 16 tubes. The satellite image is not of high enough resolution to show the hatches to the missile launch tubes.
Estimated Jin-Class SSBN Layout
The U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence estimated in 2004 (bottom) that the Jin-class SSBN would have 12 missiles.
The U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence estimated in December 2006 that China might build five Jin-class SSBNs. The estimate has been widely cited by non-governmental institutes and some news media as a fact, but the Pentagon's annual report on China's military forces from May 2007 did not repeat the estimate.