Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Stirling Engine used in PLA newest conventional Submarine

(other news story used by Jane's Defense Weekly in May, possibly)
In March 2007, Science & Technology Daily, One of China official newspapers, publish a news story, which showed that China has used Stirling Engine as AIP power for PLA navy newest Type 039A conventional Submarines.

The background of “Science & Technology Daily” showed that it has deep relations with China governmental Sci & Tech organizations, including the COSTIND (commission of science technology and industry for national defense). Type 039A is the so-called “Yuan” class submarine named by western countries.

The news story unleashed that the Project of Stirling Engine AIP is run by No.711 research institute under CSIC (China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation). And in 2007 the of project successfully won the first class prize of State Science and Technology Advancement Award (J-10 Fighter is given the special award).

The father of Chinese edition Stirling Engine is Dr. Jin Donghan (金东寒). In China, He is the first people with Doctor degree in Stirling engine research area. And the research on kinds of AIP powers for conventional submarines can be traced to early 1980s.

To fulfill the strategies of “liberating Taiwan” and “Breaking through the US-Japan Blanking off”, PLA navy needs powerful submarine fleets to fight against submarine and anti-submarine forces of US and Japan. However, lots of aged conventional submarines can not realize those tasks.

PLA admitted that the stealth level is very important in judging a submarine’s performance. Of course China can not stand a full-nuclear submarine force like U.S navy, so PLA has always been focusing on AIP powers, such as Closed Cycle Diesel AIP, Stirling Engine AIP and Fuel Cell AIP. Besides, Huang Xuhua, the designer of “Han” class nuclear submarine, even believed that the mini nuclear reactor is the best choice.

Some other resources likely proved that some pre-research activities have begun in those areas since 1980s. After almost 15 years, PLA navy has made rational selection: the nuclear reactor is expensive; fuel cell’s safety is unstable and it is an unpractical goal to China’s technologies; the CCD AIP’s disadvantage is higher noise.

For 10 years (from 1991 to 2000), No.711 Research Institute has made the most excellent achievements. In 1998, Jin Donghan and his team made China’s first theoretic demonstrating Stirling Engine, which power is 75KW. Unlike ROK and Australia, China has solved related technological and engineering difficulties in Stirling Engine. In 2002, Jin Donghan’s team worked out an engineering demonstrator. After 20,000 hours’ testing, China’s own Stirling Engine was installed in China’s Type 039A submarine in 2004.
China’s fruition in Stirling Engine can not be realized without substantial investment for years. From 1991 to 1996, the annual investment is only 70,000 RMB and from 2000 to 2005, the number changed to 10 million RMB.

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