Has this guy been forgotten?
View attachment 112531
It hasn't been forgotten, but the question is asking about current SSK (039C) production rates and looking at the rationale of it.
Some people are saying that 039C production rate is exactly what we've seen of it in the last few years from pictures (i.e.: relatively low) -- if it is indeed relatively low, then people are naturally asking what it entails and whether there's some sort of other capability replacement.
We all remember the mini nuke (nuclear augmented SSK), but we haven't had updates of it for a long time without any credible rumours as to when it will emerge, so we do not know if that project is actually related to 039C's relatively low photo presence.
The alternative explanation of course is that 039C production is higher than we've seen but they just have hidden it.
My question is how many more Yuan submarine they need. If they want to replace song Song class, that may be better replaced with those small experimental single hull subs we saw. Eventually, I think PLAN should go to a model of just SSNs for most operations + many large AUVs for patrols. Since SSK's main issue with stay submerged is the need to ventilate, then the best way to deal with that is getting rid of the crews and crew area. Until then, how many more SSKs do you need to keep around for an operational littoral fleet?
I am not necessarily against the idea of having elements of the SSK fleet replaced by other either UUVs/AUVs or new SSK designs. But we have no indication that those systems are of sufficient maturity or even in development for PLAN use (in the case of a new SSK design) yet.
And every year, all of the SSKs that are older than 039A/B/C (i.e.: inclusive of the 035s, 039s, Kilos), keep ageing, so I would actually argue that I think there is a reasonable impetus for replacing old SSK types, and right now the only true replacement type that exists in production is 039C, even if it is to replace some of the most oldest of the pre-039A/B/C SSKs.
Then, once UUVs and AUVs or a new SSK is mature enough in both technology and conops, then they can start to replace some of the older SSKs of the time.
One of the most prevalent ideas that have floated of course is the nuclear augmented SSK, but we are awaiting it and doesn't seem like it'll emerge in the imminent future. Until then, I think continued production of SSKs should be expected at a moderate pace.
As for going to a SSN + UUV/AUV fleet only, I'm not necessarily against that, but I think we wouldn't be seeing a drawdown of their SSK fleet so early at this stage without a like for like replacement, given how small their SSN fleet is and also given that their SSN production rate is only beginning to ramp up.... as well as the relative technological and conops immaturity of capable UUV/AUVs.