Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), spotted the images, photographed by the commercial Quickbird satellite in late 2006.
One photo is of what is apparently the new Type 094 Jin-class SSBN at the Xiaopingdao base near Dalian, FAS reported.
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The Jin-class is about 35 feet longer than the Xia-class SSBN, "primarily due to an extended mid-section of approximately 115 feet (35 meters) that houses the missile launch tubes and part of the reactor compartment," according to the report.
The extended section is to make room for the larger Julang-2 ballistic missile and may also be due to the size of the reactor.
In late 2006, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence projected China could build five Jin-class SSBNs. The estimate was not cited by the Pentagon's May 2007 annual report on China military power.