Fishermen in eastern China were offered a rare glimpse of one of the country’s newly upgraded submarines, which was captured on camera on Wednesday while heading out to sea for a suspected training exercise. The Type 039C, the latest redesign of what the Pentagon calls the Yuan class of Chinese navy boats, was seen steaming ahead on the surface of the water in a video shared to the Chinese social media website Weibo by a user based in China’s coastal province of Zhejiang.
Beijing now has the world’s largest navy in terms of hull count, and China continues to launch more naval and commercial ships than does any other country in the world. Its growing surface and submarine fleet is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s desire to create a modern fighting force that can dominate the country’s immediate region by the end of the decade. The People’s Liberation Army Navy has 17 Yuan-class submarines in active service in its various fleets. The diesel-electric boats are thought to be one of the quietest classes of silent killers.
The Type 039C, a variant upgraded with a stealth sail to reduce detectability, was first spotted by satellite imagery analysts in May 2021. It was not until July the following year that the Chinese navy officially acknowledged the new boat in an unveiling ceremony covered by state media.