back to article Chinese whispers: China shows off magnetic propulsion engine for ultra-silent subs, ships

The Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China this week reported the first successful test of a magnetohydrodynamic drive that could let ships and submarines sneak around almost totally silently. The system, built by the imaginatively named state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, was …


    1. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: Whale, whale, whale, let's sea

      The Chinese arent very imaginative when it comes to naming state enterprises; back in 2010 I stayed in..

      "The People's Liberation Army Supply Depot Hotel"

      To be fair, it was a decent hotel, although the hookers were rather obvious.

  1. JJKing Bronze badge

    Marko Ramius is not amused.

    Engage the sirent drive just doesn't have the same ring to it.

  2. Chris Jasper

    The big question..

    ..does it sound like Whales humping?

  3. DanceMan

    The Silentist

    Most silent must be the Canadian subs we bought used from you Brits, who had enough sense to dump them. Don't make any noise sitting in port or in the the shipyard.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: The Silentist

      The Upholder class were perfectly good submarines when in commission with the Royal Navy. It would appear that they did seriously and severely deteriorate in the 6+ years they spent basically unmaintained in storage between being decommissioned by the Royal Navy and being bought by the Canadian Navy.

    2. JLV Silver badge

      Re: The Silentist

      so true. Just as "French military victories" is an oxymoron, so with "efficient Canadian miltary procurement ".

      Although... in a daring move we're moving off the F35 apparently and that has the potential to leapfrog the achievements of many of our Western peers ;-)

  4. Chris Ridley

    Does it sound like "a whale farting"?

    Jeffrey Jenkins, "A Twist of Sand", 1959.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Silent But Deadly

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can Sean Connery do a Scottish Chinese accent?

    Just askin'

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Can Sean Connery do a Scottish Chinese accent?

      How very dare you! Sean Connery is the master of accents!

      That's why in Highlander they got a french-speaker who was still learning English to play a Scotsman, and got the scottish Sean Connery to play a Egyptian guy from Spain. And you can't argue that his accent wasn't flawless...

      1. keith_w

        Re: Can Sean Connery do a Scottish Chinese accent?

        I can't believe you watched that!

        1. BoldMan

          Re: Can Sean Connery do a Scottish Chinese accent?

          The first Highlander movie was excellent... the sequels and subsequent TV series, not so much

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Can Sean Connery do a Scottish Chinese accent?

            Erm. What Highlander sequel would that be? Next you'll be telling me that those long-rumoured Martrix sequels are actually going to happen...

  6. RLWatkins

    It's old technology, so what's the big deal?

    Some things won't change. So we'd best remember Art Martella's immortal wisdom in "Eris Helps Me Bowl", "Say it with me now: IT'S BEEN DONE."

    Seriously, people have been speculating about this since the 1950s, and trying to do it since the 1970s. I have been reading about this idea now and then since I was a child, and I'm now an old guy. After all, anybody with a big batch of superconductors can do it, but is it practical? It wasn't then, and it isn't now, and won't be until someone devises a superconductor which works at reasonable temperatures.

    This isn't a reflection on the writer, so much as it is on the ecosystem of science writers who resurrect this stuff, but can't be bothered to learn anything about the history of technology.

    And it isn't uncommon.

    I recall pointing out on Slash Dot, fifteen years ago, that Toshiba hadn't *invented* the ocean-thermal-gradient power plant, that India had built one in the 1960s. I thought it sad that Toshiba had ignored all the incremental development of that technology since then, and were making the same mistakes all over. They thought I was spoiling the party and reacted in the time-honored manner of surly children.

    So while we're at it, let's carve that final line on the lintel of the temple entrance....



    1. Andrew Alan McKenzie

      Re: It's old technology, so what's the big deal?

      Clarke's First Law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

      Otherwise helicopter design would have stopped with Leonardo, etc.

  7. Identity


    has anyone seen "Operation Petticoat?" Sub looks familiar...

    1. Old one

      Re: Irelevantly

      needed more white - not pink enough...

  8. Tubz

    I bet the American defence industry already a solution in place, but need a blank cheque to write themselves a few billion in R&D that will never see the light of day.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Problem is it only gets 1.5 stars on the EURO NCAP so will never see the light of day outside China

  10. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Operation Petticoat

    The paintwork of the submarine in the photograph that accompanies this article reminds me of "Operation Petticoat" (1959), starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis.

    Incidentally, carrying on the theme of a film featuring a Pink coloured feline, in this case, USS Sea Tiger, director Blake Edwards went on to be better known for the "Pink Panther" films

  11. the Jim bloke Bronze badge

    So its completely silent...

    but every cheap magnetic compass for miles around points directly at it ?

  12. TimeMaster T

    MHD engines will NEVER be used for a Military "Stealth sub"

    Back around the time "Hunt for Red October" came out I had co-worker who had done some contracting work for the US Navy, the sort where he couldn't say more than "I did some work for the Navy awhile back". After seeing "Red October" asked him what he thought about MHD engines and he told me that while they might find a use in civilian ships eventually they would NEVER be used in a military sub because using a HDM engine would always reveal a subs location.

    A MHD engine may be silent but they have large and easy to detect magnetic signature that would reveal the location of a ship from a surprisingly large distance away. Since both "Hunter" and "Boomer" class subs rely on not being detected using something like a MHD propulsion unit would be avoided at all costs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MHD engines will NEVER be used for a Military "Stealth sub"

      This was the observation I was looking for.

      When looking for deadly and dangerous things like submarines, you try a number of things to find it - sonar is only one of many. In the Heyday of the Cold War(TM) Magnetic Anomaly Detection was popular: basically looking for distortion in the Earth's magnetic field caused by a large metallic tube. Such a system would have no difficult in finding a HDM.

    2. Joe Harrison Silver badge

      Re: MHD engines will NEVER be used for a Military "Stealth sub"

      Maybe that's the plan

      1. Build what looks like submarine but is actually giant bomb

      2. Switch on loud magnetic dooda

      3. Enemy detects magnet and sails directly towards you smirking about your stupidity. Fires at you, gets blown up

  13. Jonski

    China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation


  14. 10111101101

    Magnetics propulsion - just follow the new magnectic north lol

  15. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Magnetic fields

    Quick question - does this produce enough of a field that it can be detected from the surface or air?

  16. crap

    mag drive

    Maybe silent, but the magnetic force in the water. Will be detectable. You can't generate that amount guass without a detector picking it up. That thing would have all the mammals and fish that use the earth's magnetism for direction going crazy.

  17. Bob Dole (tm)

    Trolling Successful

    People's Republic of China this week reported the first successful test of a magnetohydrodynamic drive

    The Chinese government claims the hardware has already been patented

    Article dated 2017-10-27

    Uh huh, suure. Is hollywood about to release a new director's cut of a Clancy movie?

  18. tim292stro

    I guess we just need to whip out the magnetic undersea mine triggers again. If they are pushing unshielded water with a giant magnet that should be more effective at triggering a mine than an iron-based ship passing over it... Either that or we start looking at the local electrical charge of the water. Since they have to electrify the water for a motive force to be applied using magnets, I'm sure we can detect this in open sea. That's probably one of the reasons the US Navy never went with this tech. That and you can never get anywhere near a freshwater bay.

  19. Phil Endecott Silver badge

    I can't believe this story is still here.

    The linked press release talks only about a "permanent magnet motor", not a megnetohydrodynamic drive.

    Where did this come from, except the author's imagination?

    N.B. posting "fake news" stories makes me less likely to believe anything else that appears on the site.

  20. Harmon20


    The shipbuilding company is C-SIC? Are they avin a laff?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The biggest recent advance is increasing Tc from 4K to 39K (actually for reasonable current closer to 20K) with MgB2 and replacing liquid helium with closed circuit Linde cycle coolers.

    For some applications you need Type 1 superconductors due to high field requirement, Y123 breaks down at a much lower critical current than needed.


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