One of China’s leading nuclear submarine scientists has been presented with one of the country’s highest honours for his work on the development of strategic weapons. Huang Xuhua, 93, was one of two people to receive the Highest Science and Technology Award of Year 2019 from Chinese President Xi Jinping at a grand ceremony on Friday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The prestigious award was Huang’s second in just three months, after he was given a Medal of the Republic in September, again for his work in advancing nuclear submarine technology. The Chinese navy has two types of submarine capable of providing a sea-based nuclear deterrent – the Type 094A and the next generation Type 096, which is under development. Once in service, the Type 096 will carry the country’s most advanced submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) – the JL-3 – which itself is still in the development stage. The Type 094A is already in service and carries JL-2 missiles. After completing an engineering degree in shipbuilding in 1949, Huang joined China’s inaugural nuclear submarine project in 1958. By the 1980s he had risen through the ranks to be chief designer on the country’s first nuclear-powered submarines. He played key roles in the development of the Type 091 Han-class nuclear attack submarine and the Type 092 Xia-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). He even took part in the Type 091’s first deep diving test. Although now officially retired, Huang remains honorary chief of Institute 716, which is responsible for the development of China’s nuclear submarines. The Type 091 and Type 092 were the first nuclear submarines to be designed and built in Asia, but they were notoriously noisy, which left them vulnerable to detection and attack. The Chinese navy commissioned just one Type 092. It was not until December 2015 that China achieved its goal to have a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent force, when Beijing announced that the Type 094 SSBN had begun task patrols carrying 12 JL-2 SLBMs armed with nuclear warheads. The Type 094 took part in fleet review ceremonies in 2018 and last year, while the JL-2 went on display at the National Day parade in Beijing on October 1. On December 22, China test-fired a missile , which was reported to be a JL-3, the next generation SLBM that will be fitted to the Type 096. The Type 096 will be able to carry 24 JL-3s, which have an estimated range of more than 10,000km (6,200 miles). By comparison, the JL-2 can fly only about 7,000km, while the Type 092’s JL-1 has a range of up to 2,500km. The “2019 China Military Power Report” produced by the Pentagon in the United States predicted that construction of the Type 096 would begin in the early 2020s. China has powerful drones but won’t use them like US Joining Huang in the Great Hall of the People on Friday was 85-year-old Zeng Qingcun, the renowned atmospheric physicist who was honoured for his work in laying the foundations for China’s numerical weather forecasting and satellite remote sensing systems. Zeng is also an honorary member of the American Meteorological Society and in 2016 won the International Meteorological Organisation Prize. As well as the prestige, Huang and Zeng each received a cash award of 8 million yuan (US$1.15 million). Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.