Type 03 class submarines (1956)

Type 03, the Chinese “Whiskey”

Chinese PLAN Chinese PLAN (1956-63) – 21(+5) boats

The famous NATO codename was given to the most important serie of submarines post WW2. They were an integral part of the USSR defence policy and represented a mass of 215 modern submarines integrating many of the innovations bring by the fabled German Type XXI. The “Whiskey” (Soviet designation Projekt 613) class was among those proposed to China in an effort to bolster the PLAN, before the Sino-Soviet split of 1960 cut short many further transfers and collaboration works. As part of the initial deal, five of these submarines were to be shipped in China, while parts and equipments, plus advisors were sent to assemble 21 more. These local copies were called “Type 03”. Now they are all long retired.

Whiskey III class

USSR submarine transfer history

Before going in the “Whiskey” type, the Chinese PLAN saw a lot of former Soviet vintage units declared surplus and shipped to China circa 1955. These were:
-One M IV coastal submarine (stricken 1963)
-One MII submarine (stricken 1963)
-Four (M200-203) MV coastal submarine (stricken 1963)
-Four Schch class submarine (stricken 1963)
-Four Series IX Stalinetz (S400-403) (stricken 1963).
The coastal submarines were mostly used for training, and gradually until 1963, the others followed. These were all WW2 generation submarines, designed in the early 1930s to late 1930s (like the series IX), ranging from small coastal units to large oceanic ones. That way, the Chinese PLAN could build operating experience on the whole spectrum of submarine warfare. However it was evident that in the mid-1950s the submarine fleet could not compete against American or Japanese submarines operating in the region. They were conceived as a defensive force, delaying enemy efforts before the Soviet-allied Pacific fleet could intervene.

Unidentified Whiskey class

About the “Whiskey” class transfer

About the same time in 1954-58, the Soviet government decided to supply its Chinese ally with the most modern submarine in inventory, the Type Proyekt 613 conventional attack submarines. Commonly named and known as “Whiskey” by NATO. Units were transferred entire, and according to Conway’s register, numbered 119-123, 127, 129, 131, 201-207, 221, 241, 243, 244 and 265-267. This total made 21 submarines. They were allegedly in service in 1956, up to 1964, the latter dates corresponding to the boats properly built in China. However there are conflicting sources about exactly known many submarines were transferred versus how many were actually built. If indeed five more submarines were shipped in parts according to Conway’s, while wikipedia (no citing a precise source) argues that was the reverse, five transferred entire plus 21 built in China.

Cutaway of a Whiskey I in 1949
Cutaway of a Whiskey I in 1949

According to globalsecurity.org, assembly began in 1953 in Jiangnan and Wuchang shipyards. The first fully built and operational was started in April 1955 (Jiangnan), launched in March 1956 and completed in October 1957. According to Robert Whiston, also 21 boats were assembled in China. According to “The Dragon’s Teeth: The Chinese People’s Liberation Army—Its History”, the Type 6603 later abbreviated as “Type 03” was part of this 6.4 agreement to give Chinese shipbuilders gradual experience in this type of boat, which went with Soviet expertise, Engineers and naval architects.
In any case, the idea was a transition towards a submarine fully built in China, that was realized later with the Chinese Romeo class. These submarines were assembled in Kiang Chou, Canton, Kiangnan and Shanghai shipyards but most sources argue that was Jiangnan (Shanghai) which started first, followed by Wuchang shipyard. Things gets complicated when counting transfers as five were also transferred to North Korea, but in the 1960s.

Whiskey Type in 1980
Whiskey Type in 1980

Design of the PLAN’s Type 6603 submarine

Since the exercise was not to improve on an existing model, but only to gain shipbuilding experience in this type of modern boat, the Type 6603 was a virtual copy of the “Whiskey” and there is no mention of something that stands out in their design to make them properly Chinese. All equipment was indeed supplied from USSR and Soviet naval engineers were there to ensure assembly was made according to original plans. In facts, some authors argue that the 21 Chinese boats were even integrated into the absolute total of Soviet “Whiskey” class submarines -denominated SSG.

The Type 613 was elaborated from 1947 by order of the TTz, and based on the hull of the Type XXI. Development was hold until licence could be obtained for a workable Walter system, however since it was needed fast, Soviet engineers proceeded the same way the Germans did on the Type XXI, by multiplying the electric power almost by three while the rest of the diesel propuslion was rather classic. Unlike the original, they did not had two remotely-operated twin AA guns on both ends of the kiosk, preferring the old school deck gun and a twin AA 25 mm mount in the kiosk’s “bathtub”. However the Chinese Type 03 omitted these apparently. As specified, the type was able to dive below 200 meters, and had a greater autonomy. However since the transfer occured in 1954, the serie was probably a I, II, III or IV and not the serie V which was a real step forward, despite the fact the licenced Type 04 were built in 1959-63.

The Type 03 are supposed to develop 6800 hp. which was enough for a top speed of 18,25 knots surfaced and 13 knots submerged. These were 1050-1350 tonnes in displacement, measuring 76 x 6.3 x 4.55 m. Armament comprised six 533 mm torpedo tubes, four in the bow ad two in the stern with 12 spare torpedoes while deck armament could have been two 57 mm, and two 25 mm AA on paper.

Whiskey I type

Follow-up: The Type 6613 submarines

During a second stage of operations, in late 1950s, the Chines attempted to design and built their own submarine model, bt apparently without success. Instead, in a third-stage, the 2.4 agreement was signed with USSR in February, 4, 1959, in order to deliver six submarines, and locally built the greatly improved Projekt 6631 NATO “Romeo” class.

Fate of the Type 03 submarines

They were operational from 1961. These submarines could have been deployed during the Sino-Vietnamese war of 1979, but no records are known. However No.418 was sunk 1.12.1959 after a collision with net minelayer Yun Chie.

Whiskey class in the Pacific circa 1964
Whiskey class in the Pacific circa 1964

Type 03 class specifications (1960)

Displacement: 1050-1350 tons Surface/submerged
Dimensions: 76 x 6.3 x 4.55 m
Propulsion: 2 diesel, 4 electrical generators, 6800 hp. 18,25/13 knots, Max. Dive 220 m max
Armament: 6 TLT 533 mm 4 bow 2 stern (12 torpedoes), 2 guns 57 mm, 2 of 25 mm AA.
Electronics: Feniks, Tamir, Sonars Nakat and Flag Radar sensors

Author’s HD Profile of the Chinese Type 03


On rwhiston.wordpress.com
Project 613 on russianships.info
The Dragon’s Teeth – The Chinese People’s Liberation Army—Its History
People’s Liberation Army Navy: Combat System Technology, 1949-2010 James Bussert, Bruce Elleman
Jane’s fighting ships 1955-60
The Dragon’s Teeth: The Chinese People’s Liberation Army—Its History – Benjamin Lai
Conways all the world fighting ships 1947-1995

Author: naval encyclopedia

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