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Virtual Earth map of Chinese Nuclear Powered Attack Submarines

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The 4,500/5,500-ton Type 091 (US Department of Defense designation Han-class) was the first nuclear-powered submarine (SSN) class deployed by the People's Liberation Army Navy. The first submarine in the class was commissioned in 1974 and the fifth and final boat of the class was commissioned in 1990. The Han-Class is the among the first generation of nuclear-powered submarine in the People's Liberation Army Navy.

The Han-Class were developed with a backdrop of factional violence and witch hunts for enemy agents. With all the distractions, the Han-Class design became the victim. The Han-Class is well known for having a noisey reactor and poor radiation shielding. This causes health hazards for her crew as radiation levels are higher than they should be aboard the submarine. The submarine is also inhibited by the fact that it cannot launch missiles while submerged. This is a huge tactical drawback and makes a missile launch suicidal against most enemies.

The Han-class have gone through major upgrades and numerous refits since their commissionings. 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. Their initial design and weapons appear to be inadequate for confronting other warships in Western navies. However, it has been proven time and time again that a resourceful crew and captain can turn even a poorly designed boat into an effective killer. The boats have six 21 inch 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.

Hull 401 (and possibly 402 as well in the near future) had been retired from active service by 2005. All remaining hulls however have been refitted with new sonars and anechoic tiles (that reduce noise levels). The Han has mostly operated in local waters. Since the 1990s, Hans have been used more aggressively. A Han shadowed a U.S. carrier battle group in the mid 1990s, and more recently, a Han was operating around Japanese waters, prompting a Japanese task group to pursue the submarine out of its territory. While the Han class are not as capable or effective as the American Los Angeles class submarines, following their recent improvements, they can pose a great threat by operating deep in the Western Pacific and attacking targets that are not well protected by ASW coverage.

All 5 boats (Changzheng 1 to 5; # 401 to 405) of this class were deployed with the North Sea Fleet and are homeported at Qingdao.


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