Chinese Researchers Working on Supersonic Submarines

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Chinese Researchers Working on Supersonic Submarines

Virginia Class Submarine 2 310x

Supercavitation could allow for faster-than-sound travel underwater.

Researchers at the Harbin Institute of Technology want to send submarines on a supersonic voyage that would cover Shanghai to San Francisco in under two hours.

The Heilongjiang-based Institute's Complex Flow and Heat Transfer Lab is working on sub designs that would allow underwater craft to travel at the speed of sound, or over 3,500 miles per hour (and that is not a typo -- sound travels significantly faster in water than in air).

How would this be possible? Water produces more drag on a moving object than air, so the trick is to surround a submarine in an air bubble. This "supercavitation" technique would offer the drag/friction benefits of air, all while remaining under the ocean's surface.

This is all still very much in the R&D phase. Supercavitating torpedoes do exist, dating back to Russian research in the Cold War. But current subs and the majority of their armament are still limited by the drag of the briney deep. Other issues with such travel include the necessity of a fast launch, as well as steering difficulties. The new research claims to address these problems.

"Once in the water, the team's supercavitation vessel would constantly 'shower' a special liquid membrane on its own surface," says the SCMP report. "Although this membrane would be worn off by water, in the meantime it could significantly reduce the water drag on the vessel at low speed."

The membrane would also help with steering, thanks to its controllable affect on drag.

This all definitely has a military feel to it, but if commercial travel could achieve such speeds? That's a game-changer.

Sources: South China Morning Post | Engadget

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Devin Connors:
This all definitely has a military feel to it, but if commercial travel could achieve such speeds? That's a game-changer.

If we got commercial submarine travel existing to this effect Madagascar would never be safe again.

I wonder what implications this has for marine life, in terms of sound pollution and all that.

Yeah, what happens when you slam into something underwater at 3500 mph? There are a lot more things underwater than in the sky, and it's a lot harder to detect those things ahead of time...

3500 MPH?

What kind of speeding ticket do I get for that?

The main problem with supercavitation its that you are effectively blind. You can't see through the air bubble that allows you move that fast. The other problem with supercavitation is that you can heard across the entire width of the ocean. Being in 10,000 ton submarine doing 3500 knots blind not the best idea

The supercavitating torpedoes only do 250 knots and were originally designed to armed with nuke. You only had to be within a mile to get a kill. A conventionally armed one good for close range shot but at 10 miles you wouldn't hit anything.

I thought the oceans were in enough trouble! D:

To be fair, hitting a shark at supersonic speeds sounds like Jaws 5 in the making.

Alpha Maeko:
3500 MPH?

What kind of speeding ticket do I get for that?

At the risk of answering a question you didn't ask, not as high as you'd think. In Canada (as an example) ticket brackets only go up to 279 kph, which means that past that tickets don't get any higher.

And a German manufacturer of submarines was all proud when they managed to build a screw without cavitation....

Dimitriov:
Yeah, what happens when you slam into something underwater at 3500 mph? There are a lot more things underwater than in the sky, and it's a lot harder to detect those things ahead of time...

Same thing as planes hitting birds I'd imagine. On the bright side, fish are squishy, and subs don't need to made out of the same light materials as planes, the front could have some decent armor plating going for it.

And of course, the article is worded rather poorly in how it states the speeds. 'Allows speeds of 3,500 mph' isn't the same as actually doing it. The source is really just saying that it would technically be possible, the same way that travelling .999 of light speed might technically be possible.

In reality, creating a fancy air bubble int the water still leaves you having to deal with the traditional limitations of applying thrust to move an object through the air, I'd be surprised if they tended to go any faster than airlines (if it works at all, of course), which generally cruise at the much lower speeds of 500-600mph.

albino boo:
The main problem with supercavitation its that you are effectively blind. You can't see through the air bubble that allows you move that fast. The other problem with supercavitation is that you can heard across the entire width of the ocean. Being in 10,000 ton submarine doing 3500 knots blind not the best idea

The supercavitating torpedoes only do 250 knots and were originally designed to armed with nuke. You only had to be within a mile to get a kill. A conventionally armed one good for close range shot but at 10 miles you wouldn't hit anything.

Or you could put a sensor of some kind on a pole, put it on the nose, and have it stick out of the front of the bubble. And I've heard of the plans for rocket powered supersubs; The way they described it, I imagine it operating like the Saiyen pods from Dragonball Z. You load up, get fired out of a cannon, essentially, and make minor adjustments to reach your destination, where a special receiving dock catches your mach 3 traveling ass and slows you down (I'm picturing a big cube of jello).

Jadak:

Dimitriov:
Yeah, what happens when you slam into something underwater at 3500 mph? There are a lot more things underwater than in the sky, and it's a lot harder to detect those things ahead of time...

Same thing as planes hitting birds I'd imagine. On the bright side, fish are squishy, and subs don't need to made out of the same light materials as planes, the front could have some decent armor plating going for it.

And of course, the article is worded rather poorly in how it states the speeds. 'Allows speeds of 3,500 mph' isn't the same as actually doing it. The source is really just saying that it would technically be possible, the same way that travelling .999 of light speed might technically be possible.

In reality, creating a fancy air bubble int the water still leaves you having to deal with the traditional limitations of applying thrust to move an object through the air, I'd be surprised if they tended to go any faster than airlines (if it works at all, of course), which generally cruise at the much lower speeds of 500-600mph.

170 ton blue whales aren't squishy.

Machine Man 1992:

albino boo:
The main problem with supercavitation its that you are effectively blind. You can't see through the air bubble that allows you move that fast. The other problem with supercavitation is that you can heard across the entire width of the ocean. Being in 10,000 ton submarine doing 3500 knots blind not the best idea

The supercavitating torpedoes only do 250 knots and were originally designed to armed with nuke. You only had to be within a mile to get a kill. A conventionally armed one good for close range shot but at 10 miles you wouldn't hit anything.

Or you could put a sensor of some kind on a pole, put it on the nose, and have it stick out of the front of the bubble. And I've heard of the plans for rocket powered supersubs; The way they described it, I imagine it operating like the Saiyen pods from Dragonball Z. You load up, get fired out of a cannon, essentially, and make minor adjustments to reach your destination, where a special receiving dock catches your mach 3 traveling ass and slows you down (I'm picturing a big cube of jello).

Even supposing that you could put a sensor through the air bubble you still have major problems. Sound in water does not travel in straight lines, its curves up and down and reflects depending on water temperature and salinity. It takes time to work up a passive contact and at 3500 knots you don't get much.
image

Active sonar is useless because you will be traveling at the same speed as the pulse.

Super-sonic submarines, just like that Chinese weather control satellite...

I can't help but feel the possibilities are lost on some of the folks who have commented here. It can go up to that speed, doesn't mean there will ever be anything traveling at that speed. You could also solve the issue of running into things by having an under sea tunnel that is intentionally filled with water. Under sea tunnels aren't viable because of how hard it is to keep the water out under that pressure. In the presence of such technology, you only need to keep large fish out of the tunnel which could easily be accomplished.

Not only that, but what about just removing the drag on boat hulls. This technology applied to boats could make sea travel far more viable for trips over seas, kind of like a bullet train makes far travel by train for daily activities more viable. Large enclosed passenger boats going at similar or greater speeds than jets could make for better travel than plane.

Baresark:
I can't help but feel the possibilities are lost on some of the folks who have commented here. It can go up to that speed, doesn't mean there will ever be anything traveling at that speed. You could also solve the issue of running into things by having an under sea tunnel that is intentionally filled with water. Under sea tunnels aren't viable because of how hard it is to keep the water out under that pressure. In the presence of such technology, you only need to keep large fish out of the tunnel which could easily be accomplished.

Not only that, but what about just removing the drag on boat hulls. This technology applied to boats could make sea travel far more viable for trips over seas, kind of like a bullet train makes far travel by train for daily activities more viable. Large enclosed passenger boats going at similar or greater speeds than jets could make for better travel than plane.

Except the sea has waves, unlike the track of a bullet train. Go fast enough and those waves become ramps. I'm not convinced this technology is viable.

Baresark:
I can't help but feel the possibilities are lost on some of the folks who have commented here. It can go up to that speed, doesn't mean there will ever be anything traveling at that speed. You could also solve the issue of running into things by having an under sea tunnel that is intentionally filled with water. Under sea tunnels aren't viable because of how hard it is to keep the water out under that pressure. In the presence of such technology, you only need to keep large fish out of the tunnel which could easily be accomplished.

Not only that, but what about just removing the drag on boat hulls. This technology applied to boats could make sea travel far more viable for trips over seas, kind of like a bullet train makes far travel by train for daily activities more viable. Large enclosed passenger boats going at similar or greater speeds than jets could make for better travel than plane.

That would be all well and good if the article said something like "hey isn't the idea of supercavitation neat? and doesn't it open up some cool possibilities?" But instead they are saying they want to go from "Shanghai to San Francisco in under two hours."

That is a very specific statement, and for various reasons mentioned above, seems quite absurd. Not from a technology standpoint but from a navigation one.

Baresark:
I can't help but feel the possibilities are lost on some of the folks who have commented here. It can go up to that speed, doesn't mean there will ever be anything traveling at that speed. You could also solve the issue of running into things by having an under sea tunnel that is intentionally filled with water. Under sea tunnels aren't viable because of how hard it is to keep the water out under that pressure. In the presence of such technology, you only need to keep large fish out of the tunnel which could easily be accomplished.

Not only that, but what about just removing the drag on boat hulls. This technology applied to boats could make sea travel far more viable for trips over seas, kind of like a bullet train makes far travel by train for daily activities more viable. Large enclosed passenger boats going at similar or greater speeds than jets could make for better travel than plane.

Building 1000s of mile long tunnels through the geologically active areas is not easy. There are 1000s of undersea volcanos and undersea landslips all the time.

The technology is based on creating an air bubble in which the sub flies in, it won't work unless the ship is fully submerged.

Not only that, but what about just removing the drag on boat hulls. This technology applied to boats could make sea travel far more viable for trips over seas

Not really, assuming the tech could be applied to a boat to the same degree then you encounter a new problem, air friction. Do you know how much heat would be generated on the stern of a boat travelling at 3500mph at sea level? Well lets put it this way Concordes nose tip reaches some 150 odd degrees travelling at half that speed in air a fraction of the density. The tech has no application for surface vessels what so ever.

The concept of a sub that creates a huge amount of detectable noise to allow it to travel, it's quite the concept given that it flies totally in the face of the primary purpose and design of a submarine. The question has to be asked what happens if it goes wrong? You're travelling at 3500mph in your low resistance pocket of bubbles, then something goes wrong and you drop out of the pocket hitting solid water at 3500mph? Well think of what a 3500mph 18750 ton (weight of a T Boat) belly flop would be like... it ain't gonna be pretty for anyone involved

I was not aware submarines were still a thing. I mean, we have planes, right? Stealth planes, long-range planes, planes with nukes, pretty much everything a submarine has only with the added benefit of not being totally screwed if you fall out(assuming you have a parachute). What is the benefit of being underwater?

And damn, way to set the bar really high. I'd tell people I was making a faster submarine, not that I was going to break the underwater sound barrier.

It would be very fast, and very very loud. Which is not what you want in a naval submarine.

albino boo:
170 ton blue whales aren't squishy. The main problem with supercavitation its that you are effectively blind. You can't see through the air bubble that allows you move that fast. The other problem with supercavitation is that you can heard across the entire width of the ocean. Being in 10,000 ton submarine doing 3500 knots blind not the best idea

The supercavitating torpedoes only do 250 knots and were originally designed to armed with nuke. You only had to be within a mile to get a kill. A conventionally armed one good for close range shot but at 10 miles you wouldn't hit anything.

Even supposing that you could put a sensor through the air bubble you still have major problems. Sound in water does not travel in straight lines, its curves up and down and reflects depending on water temperature and salinity. It takes time to work up a passive contact and at 3500 knots you don't get much.
image

Active sonar is useless because you will be traveling at the same speed as the pulse.

Quoted for truth. The major issues with a system like this also lie in fluid dynamics, which at high speeds become rather chaotic, in the scientific sense. While the sub would be interacting with its own cavitation, that cavitation is still exerting an equal and opposite force on the water surrounding it. This means, even assuming you could avoid large sea life like whales and sharks, the trajectory of the sub itself is chaotic and would be difficult to control, exponentially as distance increases. Effectively, the pilot of the sub would be blind, and they would be launched on a trajectory more than anything. Even the temperature and density of the water on one side of the sub as opposed to the other could be catastrophic in terms of hitting any kind of destination, and by the time the sub reaches the other side of the pacific, it could be off by thousands of miles.

Really, this is yet another project designed by China not to work, but to increase its own international stature and distract its own people from the messy politics of Beijing. Believe me, I have traveled extensively in China, and while I love the Chinese people, their government is simply ludicrous. In Shanghai, there are still many hovels, many populated by those who were injured in the construction boom for the 2010 World Expo. The government simply cannot provide them with their basic needs, and we are supposed to believe that they can solve the problem of Chaos Theory and build this sub? The story is the same in Beijing as well, though the more old-guard communists are very public about their dissatisfaction at the growing poverty and wealth gaps, and the massive systemic corruption in the bureaucracy. This -as well as the current controversies over rocks in the Pacific owned by Japan and Vietnam- are really state distractions.

Well I came into this thread thinking it was another TacoNews thread. Either way it sounds like a bunch of bullshit to me. The only advantage I can think of for going underwater over doing it in the air is to avoid radar, and either way I don't think that it would be particularly stealthy because going that fast underwater would probably be quite loud. Plus there are tons of sonar stations in the Pacific to track earthquakes making tsunami's.

Didn't we already have supersonic passenger travel with the Concord? I believe that whole idea was canned for being too expensive. Someone will correct me if I'm wrong I'm sure, but I can't see this ending any better, as last time I checked, submarines were more expensive to operate than planes.

another issue with the pole idea is that since it's not being protected by the bubble, it would be sheared off almost instantaneously

Daaaah Whoosh:
I was not aware submarines were still a thing. I mean, we have planes, right? Stealth planes, long-range planes, planes with nukes, pretty much everything a submarine has only with the added benefit of not being totally screwed if you fall out(assuming you have a parachute). What is the benefit of being underwater?

And damn, way to set the bar really high. I'd tell people I was making a faster submarine, not that I was going to break the underwater sound barrier.

Subs can be very hard to hide and one with ICBM's can ensure it's home country has a second strike capability in the event of a decapitating first strike by another nuclear armed country.

Assuming this all works (and this is doubtful) an object travelling at that speed would fuck up the local ecosystem something fierce, think blast fishing only with a small nuke.

LostCrusader:
Well I came into this thread thinking it was another TacoNews thread. Either way it sounds like a bunch of bullshit to me. The only advantage I can think of for going underwater over doing it in the air is to avoid radar, and either way I don't think that it would be particularly stealthy because going that fast underwater would probably be quite loud. Plus there are tons of sonar stations in the Pacific to track earthquakes making tsunami's.

The advantage comes from being able to burst to high speed. The fastest homing torpedo in service is 80knots, being able to burst to 250-300 knots takes you out of danger. There is also the ability to stealthy approach the edge of the inner ASW screen and sprint the last 50 miles in 20 seconds, use active sonar or even raise a radar mast, fire 6 torpedoes at a carrier and sprint way. At 250-300 knots you are moving faster than any torpedo and even at the same speed as the asw helicopters making a submarine very difficult to deal within ranges of 100 miles or so.

The sonar stations in the Pacific and Atlantic were actually built to track the movements of soviet submarines and vector fixed wing asw aircraft on them. Sustained high speed is useless but high speed sprints invalidates all asw tactics and weapons in service.

"This all definitely has a military feel to it"
Uhm... This is the ULTIMATE game changer for global war power!
Nuclear attack subs are extremely dangerous, and if they could travel that fast... it would have INSANE consequences for world power and security.

This is really an absurdly stupid idea that will never work and will never have a practical application. No seriously, flying blind at such ridiculous speeds, underwater... There's just so much wrong there I don't even want to think about it. There's a reason people these days travel long distances by plane rather than by boat.

Daaaah Whoosh:
I was not aware submarines were still a thing. I mean, we have planes, right? Stealth planes, long-range planes, planes with nukes, pretty much everything a submarine has only with the added benefit of not being totally screwed if you fall out(assuming you have a parachute). What is the benefit of being underwater?

And damn, way to set the bar really high. I'd tell people I was making a faster submarine, not that I was going to break the underwater sound barrier.

Lots of reasons we still use subs. Subs can stay in places far more remote than planes for longer periods. Subs carry ICBMs and are much harder to detect than aircraft. Subs work as a counter to fleet movements without needing the same type of fleet support that planes do (A sub can operate on its own for extended periods, planes need a carrier, and thus a whole fleet to protect the carrier.)

albino boo:

Jadak:

Dimitriov:
Yeah, what happens when you slam into something underwater at 3500 mph? There are a lot more things underwater than in the sky, and it's a lot harder to detect those things ahead of time...

Same thing as planes hitting birds I'd imagine. On the bright side, fish are squishy, and subs don't need to made out of the same light materials as planes, the front could have some decent armor plating going for it.

And of course, the article is worded rather poorly in how it states the speeds. 'Allows speeds of 3,500 mph' isn't the same as actually doing it. The source is really just saying that it would technically be possible, the same way that travelling .999 of light speed might technically be possible.

In reality, creating a fancy air bubble int the water still leaves you having to deal with the traditional limitations of applying thrust to move an object through the air, I'd be surprised if they tended to go any faster than airlines (if it works at all, of course), which generally cruise at the much lower speeds of 500-600mph.

170 ton blue whales aren't squishy.

Machine Man 1992:

albino boo:
The main problem with supercavitation its that you are effectively blind. You can't see through the air bubble that allows you move that fast. The other problem with supercavitation is that you can heard across the entire width of the ocean. Being in 10,000 ton submarine doing 3500 knots blind not the best idea

The supercavitating torpedoes only do 250 knots and were originally designed to armed with nuke. You only had to be within a mile to get a kill. A conventionally armed one good for close range shot but at 10 miles you wouldn't hit anything.

Or you could put a sensor of some kind on a pole, put it on the nose, and have it stick out of the front of the bubble. And I've heard of the plans for rocket powered supersubs; The way they described it, I imagine it operating like the Saiyen pods from Dragonball Z. You load up, get fired out of a cannon, essentially, and make minor adjustments to reach your destination, where a special receiving dock catches your mach 3 traveling ass and slows you down (I'm picturing a big cube of jello).

Even supposing that you could put a sensor through the air bubble you still have major problems. Sound in water does not travel in straight lines, its curves up and down and reflects depending on water temperature and salinity. It takes time to work up a passive contact and at 3500 knots you don't get much.
image

Active sonar is useless because you will be traveling at the same speed as the pulse.

I never said my idea was flawless, but there has to be someway you can see where you're going, even if you have to navigate by satellite.

Machine Man 1992:

I never said my idea was flawless, but there has to be someway you can see where you're going, even if you have to navigate by satellite.

Satellite signals can't penetrate the water.

Kenjitsuka:
"This all definitely has a military feel to it"
Uhm... This is the ULTIMATE game changer for global war power!
Nuclear attack subs are extremely dangerous, and if they could travel that fast... it would have INSANE consequences for world power and security.

Not really. The biggest ally to submarines is stealth. It doesn't matter if it was able to cross the Pacific in 2 hours, doing so would be easily detectable in time to react.

Avaholic03:

Kenjitsuka:
"This all definitely has a military feel to it"
Uhm... This is the ULTIMATE game changer for global war power!
Nuclear attack subs are extremely dangerous, and if they could travel that fast... it would have INSANE consequences for world power and security.

Not really. The biggest ally to submarines is stealth. It doesn't matter if it was able to cross the Pacific in 2 hours, doing so would be easily detectable in time to react.

Not to mention, a ballistic missile takes on the order of tens of minutes to reach anywhere in the world.

Daaaah Whoosh:
I was not aware submarines were still a thing. I mean, we have planes, right? Stealth planes, long-range planes, planes with nukes, pretty much everything a submarine has only with the added benefit of not being totally screwed if you fall out(assuming you have a parachute). What is the benefit of being underwater?

And damn, way to set the bar really high. I'd tell people I was making a faster submarine, not that I was going to break the underwater sound barrier.

Higher level of stealth, maybe? Security? The dampening effect of thousands of feet of water above you in times of shit goin' down? In a lot of end of the world stories, it's the people in submarines who end up surviving.

Daaaah Whoosh:
I was not aware submarines were still a thing. I mean, we have planes, right? Stealth planes, long-range planes, planes with nukes, pretty much everything a submarine has only with the added benefit of not being totally screwed if you fall out(assuming you have a parachute). What is the benefit of being underwater?

Let's just put it this way - if we have a nuclear war, the first strike nukes aren't coming from the strategic bombers hours away from your country, but are actually five minutes away in the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines parked right in your waters that nobody knew of.

Subs are so fucking stealthy that they have been known to collide because each of them didn't know the other was there.

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