New manned submersible being developed

Updated: 2013-12-11 15:31

By Wang Qian (

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China is developing a manned submersible suitable for depths of 4,500 meters and the project is expected to be completed by 2016.

"The key parts of the submersible, including the vehicle's pressure hull made of titanium alloy and batteries, will be designed and manufactured by China independently," said Hu Zhen, a senior engineer with China Shipbuilding Industry Corp who is in charge of the program.

He said 90 percent of the submersible's components will be made in China, adding Chinese scientists have been studying the key technologies such as materials and batteries for nearly three years.

"We hope a mother ship will also be designed and manufactured for the new submersible to guarantee its future operations," Hu said.

As China's second manned submersible, he said the new one will be easier and more comfortable for the crew to operate with five windows for observing the ocean depths.

Although the submersible program was inaugurated by the Ministry of Science and Technology, no further details, such as the investment, were released so far.

Liu Feng, director of the National Deep Sea Center, said 4,500 meters is a good choice, because studies show most deep-sea mineral resources were about 4,000 meters below sea level.

Jiaolong, the first 7,000-meter manned submersible, made a record dive to a depth of 7,062 meters last year, marking China's capacity in exploring most of the country's sea floor.

"If you use a 7,000-meter submersible to conduct missions of depth below 5,000 meters, it is not cost-effective," Liu said, adding Jiaolong is just a start for the country's deep-sea manned submersible programs.

"We need manned submersibles with designed depths of 1,000, 3,000, 4,000, 7,000 meters and 11,000 meters to meet various demands," Liu said.

Liu added the National Deep Sea Center is drawing a deep-sea technology development plan to show the direction of the country's deep-sea equipment development and research, such as the series of manned submersibles, in the coming 10 to 20 years.

"Humans have a strong desire to explore the unknown, which makes 11,000-meter submersible possible in the coming future," Liu said.