Report: China Developing Supersonic Sub

250px-Chinese_Kilo_in_serviceChina appears to be close to one of the greatest technological breakthroughs in military history: the supersonic submarine. I know that that sounds ridiculous but it is possible. As a military buff, I had to share the story. The submarine is based on “supercavitation” technology that was used earlier on torpedo technology but the Chinese have reportedly used to envelop an entire submarine that could theoretically allow it to cover the distance between Shanghai to San Francisco in less than two hours. If that (likely hyperbolic claim) is attainable, it would constitute less time than it sometimes takes to just get through the security line at Dulles International airport (of course some international flights seem shorter than TSA lines these days). It is not clear what the submarine would look like (this is a conventional nuclear Chinese submarine).

250px-ShkvalThe new submarine is being developed at the Harbin Institute of Technology’s Complex Flow and Heat Transfer Lab. It uses the concept of an air “bubble” that reduces resistance for the sub. The technology has worked with torpedoes. Supercavitation technology was used on a torpedo called Shakval by the Russians that was able to reach a speed of over 370km. The problem has been the rudder within such a bubble (and the corresponding limits on steering) as well as other challenges.

The new sub would constantly have to “shower” a special liquid membrane on its own surface to achieve the level of supercavitation. The question is whether such technology could be made practical for deployment even in small numbers. I would also have environmental concerns (that generally do not concern the Chinese government) over these liquids released into the oceans as well as the obvious danger to sea life with a submarine moving at such a high speed under water.

China’s close ally, North Korea, in the meantime appears to be working on subcavitation technology.

40 thoughts on “Report: China Developing Supersonic Sub”

  1. reply to: Bill H
    “I think cold fusion has reared its head in another form.”

    but of course! what else would they be expected to use for power?

    as for the detectability (assuming this ever becomes possible), if the sub is traveling faster than sound then I would expect it to arrive faster than any active or passive sonar signal needed to detect it. I would think the energy/power issues will prevail in keeping us safe for at least our lifetimes.

    btw, for clarity, I double checked the speed of sound in water – (from Yahoo Answers):
    “about 1500 meters/second or about 3000 miles/hour but it is effected [sic] by the temperature it is true that it is about 4 times faster in water than air …”

  2. BFM,

    Thanks to T-Stoff, the ME-263 is the only airplane ever put into production that was more dangerous to the ground crew and pilot than to the enemy. I haven’t looked it up, and don’t recall the details, but I do remember reading that the Kursk sank due to a malfunctioning torpedo peroxide tank.

    T-Stoff = H2O2

    1. Charlton – the first test torpedo to explode had high test peroxide. Then later probably 5-7 torpedoes exploded. The first one seems to have set the fire that set off the others later.

  3. War is a Racket
    By Smedley Darlington Butler, Major General USMC

    WAR is a racket. It always has been.

    It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

    A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

  4. Since ALL countries are collectivist/socialist/progressive/liberal/communist/

    democrat now, why does China want to kill us?

    We need to find the head communist and tell him we’re not enemies anymore,

    I mean, since we got rid of capitalism, right?

    And China could just kill us all with dollars anyway.

    Why do they need to kill us again with submarines?

    We gave over to communism. What more can those pesky Chinese want?

    This is turning cruel and sadistic.

    Maybe we have to pay for the sins of our capitalistic fathers (the very evil product innovation, economic expansion, job creation, wealth creation and historical enhancements of lifestyle).

    P.S. Anybody notice; Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to Mexicans and sold out America to the Japanese/Chinese through “globalization.” Looks like Reagan BROUGHT Mexicans to America and SENT American dollars to China.

    That dudn’t make any sense.

  5. Ha Ha Ha Samantha great comment I think we should set up a company to scam …. er … I mean investigate this technology for the US Government.

    And please Nick … enough already with how great the US Military is… I got it … truly I see it every day in every way that military service is worshipped in the USA.

    1. “Well, what about viscosity?”

      Wiki describes the USSR VA-111 torpedo in service with the navy of the former Soviet Union:

      “The speed of the VA-111 far exceeds that of any standard torpedo currently fielded by NATO. This speed is a result of supercavitation: the torpedo is, in effect, flying in a gas bubble created by outward deflection of water by its specially shaped nose cone and the expansion of gases from its engine. By keeping water from coming into contact with the surface of the body of the torpedo, drag is significantly reduced, allowing extremely high speeds.”

      It further reports that speeds of 200 to 250 Knots have been achieved. Fuel is reported to be hydrogen peroxide and kerosene. My recollection is that there was conjecture that the K-141 Kursk burned and sank due to problems fueling such a torpedo.

      Of course, scaling up and applying principles of supercavitation to a vehicle the size of a submarine must be formidable. The torpedo is reported to carry 2000 kg of fuel to drive a weapon weighing 2700 kg to deliver a warhead of 210 kg at a range of 7 km.

      I think the proportions of fuel, vehicle weight, and range evident from the torpedo suggest that a submarine based on supercavitation is not a practical weapon.

  6. You can bet the Chinese are doing something DIFFERENT than this.

    Funny thing is, American dollars are paying for this.

    It’s OK though, the collectivists always intended for REDISTRIBUTION to


    Oh yeah. It’s in the Manifesto.

  7. “This is a test.

    This is only a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. The broadcasters of your area in voluntary cooperation with the Federal, State and local authorities have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. If this had been an actual emergency,

    (optional — stations may mention the types of emergencies likely to occur in their area)

    the Attention Signal you just heard would have been followed by official information, news or instructions. This station

    (optional — insert station call sign)

    serves the (operational area name) area.

    This concludes this test of the Emergency Broadcast System.”

  8. Man will figure out how to travel through space at warp speed before we push a submarine underwater at speed of sound in water.

  9. Sorry, I still think this is a joke.
    There are a number of things here that do not comport with what I know about physics.
    The friction alone involved in cavitating a huge bubble, then collapsing it behind seems untenable.
    Call me a fuddy duddy.

    1. Gary T – I know the cavitating is not a joke because the US and a couple of other hi-tech countries have been investigating it for torpedoes. However, a whole submarine does seem a bridge too far. If I were the Chinese, and they do have this thing designed, I would have a Western country build it. Their manufacturing processes cannot be trusted. That is a lot of money to spend to have the damn thing sink on its maiden voyage.

      1. Paul C.
        Yes, I know of the phenomenon of cavitation, in fact it regularly occurs at the tips of ship propellers, and literally pock marks them over time.
        That kind of classicly describe cavitation comes about from the water itself vaporizing due to the supersonic agitation of the object moving through the water.

        However, even in the torpedo you mention, a lot, if not all, of the ‘gas bubble’ it rides in is not due to cavitation, but rather the exhaust gases coming from the engine and then routed to the front of the torpedo.

        So, I think a bit of mis-nomenclature is occurring here at the onset.

        1. Gary T – Personally, seeing is believing. This sounds like N. Korea’s announcements of new fighter jets.

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