In the December 20th edition of the Russian newspaper “Kommersant” was a story claiming that Russia and China have signed a memorandum of understanding on the sale of four Amur-class (Project 677E) diesel electric attack submarines to China.
The Russian-language article can be viewed at this link.
“Although the fact that the deal exists is true, some details in the article might be wrong,” warned Vasiliy Kashin, a China military specialist at the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST). “I’m not sure, for example, that the Amurs, which will be assembled in China, will be fitted with the Chinese AIP [air independent propulsion] systems using Stirling engines.”
The Chinese have expressed interest in Russian research in this field in the past, which might mean that their Stirling systems are not that reliable, he said. “Compared to Kilo submarines, Amur subs are quieter, have more efficient batteries, much better electronic equipment and other features.”
Kashin said that it was likely that follow-on procurements of more Amurs were possible, due to the fact that China’s domestic production of indigenous submarines is “plagued with…problems.” So the initial four Amurs might follow the same pattern as China’s procurement of Kilo-class submarines in the 1990s from Russia, which started at two 877EKM models then expanded to ten 636M models.