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Is China’s Coast Guard About to Field a Modified PLA Warship?

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Asia Defense

Is China’s Coast Guard About to Field a Modified PLA Warship?

Images of a new vessel suggest that the China Coast Guard is inducting a new PLA warship into its ranks.

Is China’s Coast Guard About to Field a Modified PLA Warship?
Credit: China Defense Forum via Twitter

The China Coast Guard (CCG) appears to be continuing its program of converting People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) frigates into CCG white-hull cutters, according to images that have appeared on Chinese internet forums and social media sites.

An image found on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website, appears to show a ship resembling a 4,000-ton Type 054A Jiangkai II-class guided-missile frigate already painted in the white, red, and blue color scheme of the CCG.

Type 054A Jiangkai II-class frigates are multirole warships and have been deployed for anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden since 2009, and also participated in Sino-Russian maritime exercises in 2015. There are currently 20 Type 054A Jiangkai II-class frigates in service with the PLAN (with five under construction).

Inducting a guided-missile frigate into its ranks will boost the CCG power projection capabilities due to the ship’s range and speed (the ship has a standard range of about 3,800 nautical miles—7,037 kilometers–at a speed of 18 knots; the ship’s maximum un-refueled radius is 12,000 kilometers or 8,000 miles), as well as its size—at 4,000 tons it is substantially larger than most other CCG cutters currently in service, with some exceptions.

Over the last five years, more than 100 vessels have been added for maritime law enforcement operations. As of 2016,  the CCG consists of around 220 vessels of all types, including two new “monster” cutters, the CCG 3901 and CCG 2901, which displace around 12,000 to 15,000 metric tons each, outclassing all other coast guard vessels in the region — even Japan’s 6,500-ton Shikishima-class coast guard cutters, formerly the largest maritime patrol vessels in the world.

As I explained previously:

Unlike actual surface naval combat, in hostile encounters between coast guards the size of the ship plays a large role, particularly in the South China Sea, which has seen numerous instances of ‘ramming contests’ with two vessels often engaging in games of chicken trying to scare the other vessel off. The CCG 3901 appears to be first and foremost a coercive instrument for such encounters and will help to advance China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

An image published on Popular Science suggests that the new CCG vessel, bearing the pennant number CCG 46301, will not be equipped with the Jiangkai II-class’ 32-cell vertical launching system (VLS) in the forward section, capable of firing anti-ship and air defense missiles as well as anti-submarine torpedoes.

It is unclear whether the ship will retain its 76 millimeter cannon PJ26 cannon, but it almost certainly will be equipped with water cannons, rapid fire and heavy machine guns. The ship will also likely be fitted with commercial radars and communications equipment. The ship also features a hangar to accommodate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and helicopters.

Converting PLA warships into CCG cutters is nothing new. As I reported last year, China, among other things, has been working on transforming two Type 053H2G Jiangwei I-class frigates into coast guard vessels, next to a number of former PLAN corvettes.