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China is developing a new laser propulsion technology for submarines that promises to transform the shipping industry by increasing the speed and stealth of underwater vessels

Written by Rafaela Fabris
Published 16/05/2024 às 13:35
China is developing a new laser propulsion technology for submarines that promises to transform the shipping industry by increasing the speed and stealth of underwater vessels
Tyoe 039C Photo: Chinese Navy/Representation

China is currently testing new laser propulsion technology for submarines, an innovation that could significantly increase the speed and stealth of its underwater vessels, shifting the balance of global naval power. This innovative technology uses laser pulses to vaporize the water around the submarine, creating a blanket of bubbles that drastically reduces water resistance, allowing for near-silent movement and speeds previously unattainable.

The Chinese Navy is currently testing innovative laser propulsion technology for submarines, according to Revista Exame, a breakthrough that could redefine the standards of combat and stealth in the undersea environment. This development, seen as a revolution in naval technology, promises to overcome long-standing challenges associated with the use of lasers in underwater vehicles.

Laser light disperses and is absorbed quickly in water, which restricts its use to short distances. However, nuclear submarines such as the United States' Virginia-class submarines have enough energy capacity to support high-power lasers, a principle that China appears to be exploiting in unprecedented ways.

Development of laser propulsion offers China significant advantages

Chinese scientists claim to have overcome previous limitations with a system that allows underwater propulsion using just 2 MW of laser power to generate 70.000 newtons of thrust. This technique, based on creating a blanket of bubbles around the submarine through the vaporization of seawater, results in supercavitation, reducing water resistance and allowing faster and quieter navigation.

The development of laser propulsion not only offers China significant advantages in terms of speed and stealth, but also has the potential to alter the balance of global naval power. With the Chinese Navy already the largest in the world by number of vessels, this technology could further consolidate its strategic position, especially in areas of tension such as the South China Sea.

China could usher in a new era in the submarine industry

While operational implementation of this technology is not expected for four years, the advances represent a significant shift in global naval dynamics. The United States Navy, realizing the potential of this technology, is also exploring high-energy lasers for use in its submarines, aiming to maintain its competitiveness and naval superiority.

China's technological breakthrough in submarine laser propulsion highlights continued innovation in military technology and the increasing focus on solutions that combine effectiveness with stealth. As these developments evolve, they could usher in a new era in the subsea industry, where speed and stealth become even more critical.

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Rafaela Fabris

Talks about innovation, renewable energy, oil and gas. Updates daily on opportunities in the Brazilian job market.

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