• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 9:47am

Chinese ultra-high-speed submarine technology put into perspective

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 7:16pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 August, 2014, 9:10am

A technology that envelopes an underwater vessel in a large bubble, allowing it to travel at supersonic speeds underwater has attracted tremendous interest around the world - and caused some controversy, too.

The Post last week reported that Chinese scientists had come up with an innovative approach to advance this so-called supercavitation technology, which is also being developed by several other countries.

The advance involves applying a liquid additive to the vessel's surface, allowing the submarine to enter into the supercavitating state more easily and to be more easily controlled, said Li Fengchen, a professor at the Harbin Institute of Technology.

Li spoke by telephone for about 20 minutes on the breakthrough to a Post reporter, who had identified himself as a journalist. But in the wake of the huge public interest generated by the story, Li has sought to distance himself.

While the concept may sound incredible to many people, China is not alone in pursuing supercavitation technology. Russia, the US, Germany and even Iran have conducted tests of supercavitating vessels.

The VA-111 Shkval torpedo, developed by the Soviet Union during the cold war, was the first underwater vessel to employ such technology and was capable of reaching speeds of more than 370km/h.

German media in 2005 reported that researchers there had developed an underwater missile system named Barracuda, which allegedly could travel at speeds of up to 800km/h.

The United States started developing the technology at least two decades ago. In 2011, a New Hampshire company, Juliet Marine Systems, announced it had developed the world's first prototype supercavitation boat that was capable of travelling both on and below the surface.

Technology used in its prototype stealth boat, codenamed Ghost, allowed the vessel to reduce water friction by a factor of 900 and travel undetected underwater at speeds of up to 96km/h.

Iran claimed it successfully tested its first supercavitation torpedo, named Hoot, in 2006.

In theory, supercavitating vessels could reach the speed of sound underwater, or about 5,800km/h, according to the California Institute of Technology. But there are still many barriers to overcome, and no current technology allows vessels to get close to this top speed.

While the advance by Chinese scientists may allow them to move a step closer to the holy grail of ultra-high-speed underwater travel, there are many technical problems to solve before they can make it a reality.


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This article is now closed to comments

Grateful to see some sort of retraction from the SCMP, graceless though it is. It is sadly revealing. Some, it has to be said, dumb reporter is duped into making a call by a CCP plant, greedily laps up the trash he/she's fed and from there straight to print. A few cursory checks would have revealed how lightweight this speculative science is and injected some balance and sense into the article. But, no, that doesn't happen and the article rockets to front-page news. I can't believe the SCMP's journalism has become that sloppy and amateurish; what's really happened is the turning of the cogs in the CCP propaganda machine in Hong Kong. Even the source has got coy, having been made something of a laughing stock around the globe.
From reading the comments from the previous article, I came away with the sense that some of the comments are ignorant comments based on false assumptions and biased against Chinese research, that it has to be stolen from some where else outside of China.
I did some research and came up with this - ****curj.caltech.edu/issues/articles/1-2/CURJ%20v1n2%20Sturgeon.pdf, a paper written by Cal Tech mechanical engineer undergraduate senior (at the time) for CURL.
Supercavitation is not new, as pointed out in the article, it started back in the 40s.
It's just that the Chinese "claimed" they have solved some of the "kinks or issues" that may make it a reality.
Problems or kinks are not new to advancement in technology, whether it is in the US or Europe. I am sure everyone wants to have success in their first try, but that is more luck than the norm. But that does not mean everyone should stop "dreaming". Otherwise we will all still be living in caves and using our stone tools. BTW, even stone tools are "advancements".
As under further reading in the article, it listed "warp drive under water" in the Scientific American back in 2001. I wonder if the article at that time received the amount of negative comments like here at SCMP.
Why can't Chinese do original research without everyone else criticize them when they just started. Can't we be patient and wait a bit longer?
Even if the research did not yield the 2 hour travel, some other "unintended" surprises might come.
"... still many technical problems to solve before they can make it a reality – as the Post pointed out in its report."
Or rather, as Post readers pointed out in their comments.
"Or rather, as Post readers pointed out in their comments."
This is true of so many "news" papers today. Especially regarding more local events.
The readers comments are often more accurate and informative than the article.
Of course, there is a lot of noise as well, but you have to learn how to sift through all that.
Because there is no proof that China can do original research. Name one topic where China initiated or actually improved upon a technology. For the longest time, under the CCP, there is disincentive to actually develop any technology. Hundreds of millions have been spent on new energy vehicles. But, about 5% is leaked off in contracts to UK and German consultants. If ever Chinese SOEs can actually develop their own guo nei technology, then the funding will stop and where will the corrupt 5% leakage come from? This is why, from 2006 to now, there has been no improvement for China to develop an advanced car engine. They pay consultants one after another to design and develop new engines each time, complete. The "joint development" term used in reality means, GM Europe does the work, and SAIC pays to subscribe to the GM IP so they can build the new SGE engine family in China. That's all.
correct bayside
How is a surface vessel that's essentially a hovercraft comparable to an underwater super-cavitating submarine?
Yeah, believe it or not, burgerlanders did not do everything first.
"Boo hoo! The environment! The whales! The Dolphins!".
What is the impact on the environment ?
if i wanted to cover the development of a supercavitation torpedo or nuclear weapon, i'd say it was a submarine. a submarine is more difficult, and less likely to succeed. it could be done without raising suspicion. but, then, i don't trust anybody.



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