Type 091 submarine

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Han class SSN mod.svg
Han-class SSN profile
Han class.jpg
A Type 091 submarine in 1993
Class overview
Name: Han class
Builders: Bohai Shipyard, Huludao
Operators:  People's Liberation Army Navy
Succeeded by: Type 093
In commission: 1974–present
Completed: 5
Active: 3
Retired: 2
General characteristics
Type: Nuclear submarine
Displacement: 5,500 tonnes (submerged)
Length: 98 m (321 ft 6 in)
Beam: 10 m (32 ft 10 in)
Draft: 7.4 m (24 ft 3 in)
Propulsion: 1 Nuclear turbo-electric engine – Pressurized water reactor
  • 25 knots (46 km/h) submerged
  • 12 knots (22 km/h) surfaced
Range: Unlimited
Complement: 75
Armament: 6 × 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes

The Type 091 (Chinese designation: 09-I; NATO reporting name: Han class) was the first class of nuclear-powered submarines (SSN) deployed by the China's People's Liberation Army Navy Submarine Force


The first chief designer of the submarine was an engineer and scientist of nuclear propulsion engineering, Peng Shilu (彭士禄),[1] then in 1983 succeeded by Huang Xuhua. The first submarine in the class, the Long March I, was commissioned in 1974[2] and the fifth and final boat of the class was commissioned in 1991.

The Han class have primarily operated in local waters. However since the 1990s, Hans have been used more aggressively. A Han-class submarine shadowed a U.S. carrier battle group in the mid-1990s. In November 2004, a Han made an incursion into Japanese territorial waters and prompted Japan's maritime forces to go on alert for only the second time since the end of World War II. The incursion was through the Ishigaki, Okinawa island group, a lightly populated group of islands very near Taiwan. China later apologized for the incursion saying for "technical reasons", it ventured into Japanese waters.[3]

The Han class have gone through major upgrades and numerous refits since their commissioning. The boats have six 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes and carry 20 torpedoes. Alternatively, they can carry 36 mines in their tubes. The Han class is capable of firing sub-launched variants of the C-801 anti-ship missile as well as a range of indigenous and Russian torpedoes or mines. All remaining hulls have been refitted with new sonars, with Type H/SQ2-262B sonar manufactured by No. 613 Factory replacing the original Type 603 sonar on board. Anechoic tiles were added later to reduce noise levels.


The Han class is well known for having a noisy reactor and poor radiation shielding, which causes health hazards for her crew as nuclear radiation levels are higher than they should be aboard the submarine.[4] The submarine is also inhibited by an inability to launch missiles while submerged.:75[5] This creates a tactical disadvantage against opponents that have well-developed anti-submarine warfare systems.[6]:75[5]

Their design and weapons appear to be inadequate for confronting modern warships.:75[5] It is believed that long refits have often meant that these submarines have spent more time in port than out at sea, greatly affecting their operational capacity.:75[5]

Failed lease to Pakistan[edit]

In 1988, Pakistan Navy was reportedly entered in discussion and negotiation with the People's Liberation Army Navy for the lease of the Han-class submarine. Despite its criticism and reports of poor radiation shielding, Adm. I.A. Sirohey, then-Chairman Joint chiefs, provided a strong lobby to the Benazir's administration to procure the submarine on lease in order to counter the efforts of Indian Navy's nuclear submarine that was leased from the Soviet Union in 1988.:92[7]

The Pakistani war strategists, however, viewed the submarine as "less tactically advantage" for Pakistan over on India, and Pakistan Navy strategists wanted to explore the idea of submarines with capability of the air-independent propulsion on Chinese submarines, which can stay submerged for a longer duration of time without its noise being able to detect.:75[8]

Eventually, Chinese government offered to sell the submarine to Pakistan Navy at the price of $63 million USD in 1992.:contents[9] In 1994, Pakistan eventually backed out from acquiring the submarine when it reportedly went to purchase AIP technology and designs from France.


 Pennant number   Launched   Completed   Status 
401 1970 1974 Decommissioned 2000, preserved as museum, at Chinese Navy Museum, Port of Qingdao
402 1977 1980 Decommissioned 2004
403 1983 1984 Active
404 1987 1988 Active
405 1990 1991 Active

Boat 401 (Long March I) has had its nuclear reactor removed and disposed of. The submarine will be fitted out and serve as a museum exhibit.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Erickson, Andrew S & Goldstein, Lyle J (Winter 2007). China's future nuclear submarine force – Insights from Chinese Writings", Naval War College Review, 60(1): 55–79[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ The Federation of American Scientists & The Natural Resources Defense Council Chinese Nuclear Forces and U.S. Nuclear War Planning p.86
  3. ^ "China Apologizes for Submarine Incursion". Archived from the original on 2006-10-23. 
  4. ^ "China's pirate patrol submarine is too noisy, say naval experts". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 25 September 2018. 
  5. ^ a b c d Naval War College Review. Naval War College. 2012. 
  6. ^ Type 09-1 Han class, globalsecurity.org
  7. ^ Dittmer, Lowell (2015). South Asia's Nuclear Security Dilemma: India, Pakistan, and China: India, Pakistan, and China. Routledge. ISBN 9781317459569. Retrieved 24 September 2018. 
  8. ^ Naval War College Review. Naval War College. 2012. Retrieved 24 September 2018. 
  9. ^ Committee, The Joint Economic (2016). China's Economic Dilemmas in the 1990s: The Problem of Reforms, Modernisation and Interdependence. Routledge. ISBN 9781315485430. Retrieved 24 September 2018. 
  10. ^ "China decommissions 1st nuclear submarine". Xinhua. 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-10-29. 

External links[edit]