The authors of the text in the Daily Mail refer to a secret British intelligence report. The accident occurred on August 21 in the Yellow Sea. The Type 093 (NATO designation: Shang) nuclear submarine was scheduled to collide with an underwater obstacle while submerged. According to the British, the Chinese were supposed to have placed it in this area in order to make the work of the submarines of the Western fleets more difficult.
The collision was supposed to cause a series of serious malfunctions, which were not brought under control until six hours later, when the ship was finally able to surface. However, by this point, 55 crew members would have died from hypoxia caused by a failure of the air handling system.
Rumors start in August
Such a scenario is not entirely impossible. Such an event was speculated in Chinese and Taiwanese media at the end of August. More precisely, from the 22nd of the month, which exactly matches the date reported by the Daily Mail. One day after the accident, the information could have already spread throughout the Chinese fleet and found its way onto the Internet. Details were also provided that are consistent with what the British are writing now. That is, a collision with an underwater obstacle, a series of failures, taking control of the situation and resurfacing six hours later, and the death of 55 crew members as a result of hypoxia.
There were also rumors of the death of the entire crew, but this is unlikely given the fact that the standard crew for a Type 093 ship would probably be around a hundred people, which would also be closer to global standards for units of this type. This version of the speculation also speaks of hydrogen sulfide poisoning resulting from the accident, not hypoxia.
These claims, which appeared in Chinese and Taiwanese media, were followed by renowned underwater weapons expert Hai Sutton. In his opinion, many of the details in the descriptions of the alleged incident cannot be relied upon in the least. But the specialist points out that it cannot be ruled out that an actual accident involving a Chinese nuclear submarine occurred in the Yellow Sea at the end of last August. This is supported by the many rumors on this subject, which come from different sources, but agree on the basic elements.
But there is no official or unofficial information from a reliable source that confirms the incident in any way. The Daily Mail is not known for its credibility. China officially denied this. The Taiwanese military said it had found nothing to support these rumours. Additionally, some of the details of the story are at least puzzling. For example, the ship’s side number appears regularly – 417 (the Chinese fleet does not give the names of most of its ships, only numbers). Meanwhile, according to available information, the number of the six Type 093 nuclear submarines built so far ranges from 407 to 412. Two more submarines are planned to be built. Why suddenly 417? It is possible to manipulate numbers to confuse competitors, which was previously standard practice in the fleets of the Soviet Union or the Polish People’s Republic. However, nothing is known about this regarding Type 093 ships.
Additionally, some rumors include claims about running out of energy or oxygen. Type 093 are nuclear ships, in which both of these elements will be on board, during normal operation of the reactor, for up to 20-25 years, after which the fuel elements in the core will have to be replaced. However, reactors on submarines have a number of safeguards that could lead to their shutdown in emergency situations. For example, as a result of a strong collision with an underwater obstacle and damage to some reactor elements. There have been such cases in history. Hence, most nuclear submarines can operate for some time thanks to power from emergency batteries. However, we are talking about periods much longer than a few hours. Power exhaustion and shutdown of air handling systems as a result of a series of serious malfunctions cannot be ruled out, but are very unlikely.
The lack of information about any unusual activity of the Chinese fleet or neighboring countries also contradicts the narrative that a serious accident occurred and half the crew was killed. During the period during which this allegedly occurred, no movements of rescue units or unusual activities of surface vessels were observed. Such as, for example, an emergency exit from port, or a sudden change of course and movement to assist a damaged submarine.
The previous incident was unforgettable
But the rumors about the incident are very vivid because they touch on painful memories. Almost 20 years to be exact since An event of this kind occurred, but much worse in terms of details. On April 16, 2003, China’s No. 361 conventionally powered submarine conducted exercises in the Yellow Sea. It was a Type 035 (NATO: Ming) unit, a development of the old Soviet Project 633 (NATO: Romeo), dating from the post-World War II period. However, it was built in the 1990s, so it wasn’t particularly old.
While Ship 361 was submerged, a system malfunction occurred that shut down the diesel engines, which ran longer than they should have. They can usually operate at the surface only when the hatches are open, or in shallow submersion, using air supplied by so-called snorkels, a system of tubes exposed above the surface. However, in this state, deprived of access to outside air, they sucked it from within the already enclosed vessel, quickly exhausting most of the oxygen in it. This caused rapid hypoxia for the entire crew, who may have lost consciousness before realizing what was happening. All seventy people on board never regained consciousness. The ghost ship and its dead crew drifted underwater for the next nine days. The search did not begin immediately because radio silence was to be maintained as part of the exercise. The ship was found by chance by fishermen only on August 25.
Then the Chinese officially announced the tragedy. On May 2, representatives of the higher authorities did so, expressing their condolences to the families of the victims. Six days later, when the ship had already been towed into port, the preliminary causes of the accident were announced. As a result of the search for his position, he lost a number of important fleet officers. The strong reaction was partly driven by the fact that in 2003 there were still very vivid emotions related to the Russian submarine Kursk tragedy three years earlier. It sank during training exercises in the Barents Sea as a result of a malfunction and explosion of its torpedo. The entire crew of 118 died, and 23 sailors survived the explosion but died within a few hours after it, unable to escape the partially flooded ship lying at the bottom. Much of the negative sentiment in Russia was caused by the slowness of the rescue operation and the delay in accepting assistance from NATO countries, which have much better equipment for this type of activity.
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