China’s newest ballistic missile submarine has been glimpsed for the first time.

The Jin-class vessel, which has been under development for many years, was photographed south of the north-eastern Chinese city of Dalian in late 2006, news service Reuters reported today.

Although the photographs are unclear, the Federation of American Scientists director of the Nuclear Information Project Hans Kristensen says it appears to be based on Russia’s Victor-3 model, and resembles China’s early 1980s Xia-class submarines.

Mr Kristensen says the sighting of the submarine is no accident and China likely sees a deterrent effect in allowing it to be seen by outsiders.

“The fact that they have it and the fact that it moves around, I’m sure they want the world to know about it,” he says.

The submarine will probably carry Julang-2 sea-launched ballistic missiles in its estimated 12 launch tubes.