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How China Is Expanding Its Coast Guard

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Asia Defense

How China Is Expanding Its Coast Guard

Beijing is converting old frigates into coastguard patrol vessels.

How China Is Expanding Its Coast Guard
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has transferred an unknown number of old frigates to the China Coast Guard, IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly reports.

According to the article, work is currently underway to transform two Type 053H2G Jiangwei I-class frigates into coast guard cutters at a Chinese naval yard:

Photographs show two ‘Jiangwei I’ frigates alongside at a naval shipyard in Pudong, Shanghai, one of which has had most of its armament removed and the hull painted white. Limited work has been undertaken on the second so far.

The pictures indicate that the ship has largely been disarmed with the YJ-83 anti-ship missile launchers, the HQ-61 surface-to-air missile (SAM) launcher,  the twin 100 mm gun turret, and two twin 37 mm gun mountings removed. “The two forward twin 37 mm mountings are currently still in place,” however, according to IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly.

Built and commissioned between 1991 and 1994, Type 053H2G Jiangwei I-class ships were the PLAN’s first multi-role frigates, boasting  a range of 5,000 miles, a top speed of 28 knots and a crew of approximately 170. However, only four vessels were built before the introduction of the more capable Type 053H3 Jiangwei II-class in the late 1990s.

The Pentagon’s Office of Naval Intelligence summarized in an unclassified assessment of China’s maritime forces the ongoing expansion of Beijing’s white-hull patrol cutter fleet:

The current phase of the construction program, which began in 2012, will add over 30 large patrol ships and over 20 patrol combatants to the force by 2015. This will increase by 25 percent the overall CCG force level in a fleet that is also improving rapidly in quality. Most MLE ships are either unarmed or armed only with light deck weapons (12.7mm, 14.5mm, and 30mm guns) and generally use commercial radars and communications equipment. Several of the largest ships are equipped with helicopter landing and hangar facilities as well.

The report also notes that “China prefers using its Coast Guard as the primary enforcer of its maritime claims.” All in all, the China Coast Guard currently consists of 205 vessels of all types.

“With new ‘China Coast Guard’ ships entering service at regular intervals, it is easy to forget that the China Coast Guard as an organization does not yet exist in any complete sense,” noted Ryan D. Martinson in a piece for The Diplomat last year. Chinese officials only announced in March 2013 that they would merge four out of five maritime law enforcement agencies into a new coast guard; however, details on the new organization’s structure remain murky to this day.