Military Wiki
Type 039 submarine
Song Class submarine 324.jpg
Song class No. 324 moored in Hong Kong
Class overview
Builders: Wuhan Shipbuilding
Jiangnan Shipyard
Operators:  People's Liberation Army Navy
Preceded by: Type 035 (Ming class)
Succeeded by: Type 041 (Yuan class)
In service: June 1999
Building: Type 039G1: 316 318 327
Completed: 13
Active: Type 039: 320
Type 039G: 314, 321, 322, 323, 324
Type 039G1: 315
General characteristics
Displacement: 2,250 tons submerged
Length: 74.9 m
Beam: 8.4 m
Draft: 5.3 m
Propulsion: diesel-electric, 1 shaft, AIP (air-independent propulsion)
Speed: 22 knots (41 km/h)
Test depth: 300 m
Complement: 60
Armament: 6 torpedo tubes
18 torpedoes and anti-ship missiles
36 naval mines

The Type 039 submarine (NATO code name Song class) is a class of diesel-electric submarines of the People's Liberation Army Navy. The class is the first to be fully developed within China and also the first Chinese submarine to use the modern teardrop hull shape.


The People's Republic of China's first submarine design was the locally-produced derivative of the Romeo class submarines provided to China by the Soviet Union. Large numbers of these were built, but their obsolete design, derived from World War II submarine technology, led China to develop a wholly new class on its own, resulting in the Type 039.

Designed for attacking both other submarines and surface ships with torpedoes, the submarine uses a modern teardrop-shape hull for underwater performance. The hull incorporates four rudders and is propelled by a single propeller. For quieter operation, the engine was mounted with shock absorbers and the hull is plated in rubber tiles for sound deadening. Development was not without problems, as a lengthy testing period for the first vessel (320) attests. Problems with noise levels and underwater performance led to revisions in the design and only a single boat was ever built to the original specification.

Improvements led to the specification for the Type 039G, which became the bulk of production, with seven of the type entering service. Elimination of the stepped design for the conning tower is the primary visual cue for identification of the G variant.

This class has three versions: the original Type 039, Type 039G and Type 039A. The most obvious visual difference between the three types is the conning tower. The Type 039's conning tower is stepped, rising aft. In an effort to shrink the submarine's acoustic signature, the Type 039G's conning tower was given a more conventional shape. The Type 039A also has a conning tower of more conventional shape, but the tower lacks the diving planes present on the conning towers of both the Type 039 and the Type 039G.


Primary weapon for the Type 039 is the 533 mm Yu-4 torpedo, a locally produced passive homing 40-knot (74 km/h) torpedo based on the SAET-50 and roughly comparable to the SAET-60. Surface targets may be attacked at up to 15 km. Yu-6 wire-guided torpedoes may also be used for targeting submarines. It is also likely that the Type 039 is capable of carrying the YJ-8 anti-ship missile, a cruise missile which can be launched from the same tube as the boat's torpedoes, and can target surface vessels at up to 80 km. The missile is subsonic and carries a 165 kg warhead. For mining operations, in place of torpedoes, the submarine can carry 24 to 36 naval mines, deliverable through the torpedo tubes. The general designer of the torpedo and missile launching system is Mr. Sun Zhuguo (孙柱国, 1937-), and the launching system is compatible with AShM, ASW, torpedoes of both China and Russian/Soviet origin.

Although Type 039 has successfully test fired the CY-1 ASW Missile under water like the Yuan-class submarine, the status of the missile is in question because nothing is heard about it entering mass production. The CY-1 ASW missile has a maximum range of 18 km (10 nm), and when using A244 or Mark 46 torpedo as a payload.



The main sensor is the medium-frequency sonar mounted in the bow of the submarine, with passive and active modes, which is used for both search and attack. In addition, the system offers a method of underwater communications, and also functions as a torpedo approach warning system. This sonar is the Chinese development of French Thomson-CSF TSM-2233 sonar, and is capable of simultaneously tracking 4 to 12 targets depending on the function it is used for. To enhance passive search capabilities, a low frequency sonar of French Thomson-CSF TSM-2255 design is mounted on the flanks of the hull, with a maximum range in excess of 30 km and capable of simultaneously tracking four targets. The system is further enhanced with the integration of a domestic Chinese passive ranging sonar on board, designated as H/SQG-04 sonar. For surface search, a small I-band radar is fitted.

Electronic Warfare

This class is the first Chinese submarine to be fitted with an integrated electronic support measures / radio direction finder / radar warning receiver system designated as SRW209 Submarine Radar Reconnaissance Equipment, which works at S - Ku bands with 100% detection rate. The SRW209 is fully automatic and can be either operated by a single operator with a console with a color CRT (which can be replaced by LCD) display console, or linked to the combat data system, which is capable of tracking multiple targets.


On October 26, 2006, a Chinese Song class submarine "popped up" and "surfaced within firing range of its torpedoes and missiles before being detected" within 5 nautical miles (9 km) of the carrier USS Kitty Hawk while she was operating in the Pacific Ocean.[1]


China offered the 039 submarine for sale to Thailand in 2007. However, the Royal Thai Navy lacks the infrastructure to support submarines, and no sales are pending at this time.[2]


  1. Michael Goldfarb: Red China & Red Lines. Weekly Standard, 2007-JAN-12.
  2. "Chinese Aspects of Singapore’s IMDEX Naval Technology Show". International assessment and Strategy Center. 20 June 2007. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 

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