China builds mystery midget submarine

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China has apparently built a previously unseen midget submarine at its Wuchang shipyard in Wuhan.

DigitalGlobe satellite imagery dated 24 October 2014 showing the submarine was posted on Google Earth and was highlighted by a contributor to the Bellingcat open source intelligence website.

The imagery shows the craft berthed at the pontoon used for fitting out submarines. The midget submarine had left the pontoon by late November and by mid-January 2015, another submarine, probably a Type 041 Yuan-class boat, occupied the berth.

Based on the imagery the midget submarine has an approximate length of 35 m and beam of 4 m, suggesting a surface displacement in the region of 400-500 tonnes.

The Wuchang shipyard is at the forefront of conventional submarine production in China and has constructed most of the Type 039 Song-class and Type 041 Yuan-class boats, including the most recent variant, with its distinctive hydrodynamic fairings between the casing and the fin. It also built the world’s largest conventional submarine, the Type 032 Qing-class ballistic missile trials submarine.

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