China claims to be developing supersonic submarine that could reach California in less than two hours

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Jul 4, 2015, 4:43 PM EDT (Updated)

Scientists in China claim they’ve figured out how to design a submarine that can travel at supersonic speeds — and potentially rocket from China to the California coast in approximately 100 minutes.

So, how does it work? Researchers say they’ve devised a way for the sub to use supercavitation, which essentially amounts to creating a “bubble” around the vessel to drastically cut down on the drag that would typically slow it down. According to the South China Morning Post, the sub could more than crack the speed of sound underwater, maxing out around 3,603 mph. Whoa.

The supercavitation technology was originally developed during the Cold War by Russia, and was used for some experimental torpedoes that could zip around at 230 mph — which is much, much faster than a typical torpedo. The Chinese team claims to have essentially super-sized the concept with a much larger bubble.

Despite the apparent awesomeness of this development, however, there are still a few problems when it comes to execution. For one thing, the craft would have to be launched at 62+ mph to create the bubble, meaning they’d need a new launching mechanism. Plus, when you’re traveling at 3,000+ mph, it makes it almost impossible to steer a sub with a rudder — especially since the rudder is in the air bubble, and not actually touching the water.

The research team is testing a liquid membrane that could potentially help steer the craft by using friction to nudge it in the right direction, but that pitch is still in the early phases. To this point, supercavitation has only been used for unmanned torpedoes, since you don’t really have to worry about turning as much.

Plus, we’d also wonder — what if that sub runs into some undersea life, like a whale, while zipping around at supersonic speeds? You’d think that could get messy in a hurry.

(Via Sploid, South China Morning Post, Daily Mail)