The Type-49 was the first in the series to be fitted with a vertical launch system. They were only ever armed with small (sub)surface-to-air and (sub)surface-to-surface missiles fitted with chemical explosive warheads, but the ability to fit nuclear devices was factored in to the design. The type-49's main armament was two standard forward-facing torpedo tubes.
Type-49s were 162 ft in length with a maximum beam of 18 ft. The underside was equipped with viewing ports and robotic manipulation arms. With a crush depth of 5,000 feet, the sub was capable of reaching objects on the sea floor much lower than many civilian vehicles. The Type-49s, like the Type-48s, could deploy and retrieve a tethered ROV through one of it's torpedo tubes, further extending exploration depth. The Type-49s expanded on this capability by making it possible to set and deploy the ROV entirely while submerged(the Type-48s had to have the umbilical attached on the surface).
Type-49s continued to improve upon underwater speed, which had long been a primary goal of the program. Explorer vehicles were typically used as pre-production test platforms for new military technology. The Type-49 could reach 45 knots submerged and sustain 42 knots for long durations. This made it faster underwater than most civilian research ships were on the surface, which further necessitated the need to operate independently.
Like the previous ships in the series, the Type-49s were designed to operate very far afield with minimal support. The The Type-49 featured improved life support systems and some crew comforts, and as with the previous vessels the only real factor limiting dive-time was food. Drinking water could be filtered from seawater and oxygen produced via electrolysis. The newly perfected Hapgood System for C02 mitigation meant the filters need only be replaced every three years. Because Type-49s frequently had civilian sceitists onboard, it was often joked that they were 'the real limiting factor' as typical Crimson Blade sub-mariners can endure months submerged.
Type-49s could support a crew of 15 comfortably. The life-support system could handle 30 souls without causing a strain, and the upper-limit was regarded to be about 45(though it was probably impossible to fit more than 30 people inside. In practice, crew sizes larger than 15 were extremely uncommon and limited to only short-duration missions.
The military crew consisted of a captain, executive officer, conning officer(driver), dive officer, and three reactor operators. This left room for eight dedicated civilian or military scientists to occupy the remaining berths. If a combat mission were ever required, these would usually be replaced by crewmen trained to fire the torpedoes and missile systems. In certain unique circumstances, one reactor operator might be substituted for an additional scientist, if either the duration of the dive was short or the other crewmembers possessed sufficient understanding of reactor operation to assist.
Like most vehicles in the Explorer Program, the Type-49s were primarily used for scientific research. They were especially favored for exploration, due to the enormous operating range and significant speed. Curiously, not all missions were even underwater in nature. On Aren, for example, Type-49s made numerous expeditions to Yanomamo, being among the few research vessels capable of reaching the distant landmass.
In a few situations, Type-49s were pressed into active service in military engagements where not enough fast-attack submarines were available. The high speed and suite of sensors made them capable in this role; hwoever Type-49s made many sacrifices on noise-cancelation in favor of speed.