While now being denied by Taiwan and most outlets, rumors are still swirling that a Chinese Type 093 Shang-class nuclear submarine is rumored to have suffered a serious accident near the Yellow Sea off Lianyungang, according to a number of social media reports. Many of these reports claim the entire crew is dead.
China’s major state-controlled media outlets were silent about the rumor.
Other reports suggest the incident took place closer to the Taiwan Strait, which would be a major combat flashpoint in the event of an invasion of Taiwan.
The Type 093 is the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) most modern attack submarine. The class represents an important element of China’s modernization of its navy. The Type 93’s mission is to defend the country’s limited number of nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) from threats from hostile navies.
The submarine carries powerful YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles that can be launched from a buoyant launch canister. It can carry up to 22 torpedo-sized weapons, Naval News reports.
Submarine Rumored Lost With All Hands
A Type 093 carries at least 100 crew, and there were six boats in the inventory before the rumored accident.
“There are no further details at this stage. After all, more than 100 people have died, and more than 100 families. In all fairness, I also hope that this news is not correct,” a Chinese naval observer wrote on X.
Several nuclear-powered submarines have sunk over the decades.
The U.S. Navy lost the U.S.S. Thresher in 1962 with all hands and the U.S.S. Scorpion in 1968, likewise with all hands.
The Russians lost the Kursk in 2000. The Soviet Navy lost a Golf-class diesel ballistic missile submarine K-129 that sank in 1968, and the CIA unsuccessfully attempted to recover it with Project Azorian in 1974.
Yellow Sea Fairly Shallow and Training Could Have Contributed
The area off the Chinese coast is not conducive to submarine warfare due to its shallowness.
Submarines need access to deep waters such as the waters off Taiwan’s east coast, to be militarily effective.
What the Experts Told 19FortyFive About the Possible Submarine Accident
Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Bryan Clark, a veteran submariner, told 19FortyFive that if the rumor is true despite the denials the likely cause of the boat’s sinking was human error.
“It’s a very challenging operating environment for submarines. There are weird currents. It’s shallow. The depth varies. There’s a lot of rivers out there, so there’s silt. So sometimes the depth is not predictable,” Clark said. “You could see getting into trouble there if you are a submarine trying to remain submerged. China’s submarine force is getting better. It’s got some of the better people in it.
Clark continued, “If you read the report like that out of the Naval War College, it’s not like they get the cream of the crop. And the training they get is not necessarily the best training in the world … That’s not their strength.”
The recent grounding of the U.S. Navy’s Seawolf-class USS Connecticut on an uncharted seamount in the South China Sea shows that even the most highly trained crew can have navigational problems in the waters off the Chinese coast.
John Rossomando is a defense and counterterrorism analyst and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, The National Interest, National Review Online, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award for his reporting.
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