The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned a new warship, the Type 054A Jiangkai II-class frigate Binzhou, into its East Sea Fleet on December 29, according to images that appeared on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website.
It is the ninth Type 054A frigate to enter active service with the East Sea Fleet, the PLAN’s oldest fleet assigned to patrol the East China Sea. One of the fleet’s primary responsibilities is to support an amphibious invasion of Taiwan in the event of war. Type 054A frigates are also the mainstay of PLAN escort and patrol missions in the South China Sea.
The Binzhou is the 23rd Type 054A frigate on active duty with the PLAN and constitutes the cornerstone of China’s surface warfare capabilities. The PLAN expects to commission another four Type 054 frigates by 2018. According to a cost estimate published in The Diplomat, the per unit price is set at around $348 million.
Type 054A frigates have seen sustained operational deployments. For example, ships of the class have been deployed for anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden since 2009. Type 054A frigates also participated in Sino-Russian maritime exercises in 2015 and 2016, next to a number of other unilateral and bilateral naval drills (See: “China and US Navies Conduct Joint Search and Rescue Drill”).
The stealth frigate is armed with HQ-16 medium range air defense missiles and boosts a 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 also features a Russian-made AK-630 fully automatic naval close in weapon system and a Chinese variant of the AK-176 76 millimeter naval gun.
Some frigates of the class are also known to have been equipped with variable depth sonar and towed array sonar systems. In addition, the ship is equipped with a Type 382 phased-array radar system and Type 344 and Type 345 multifunctional fire control radar systems, capable of over the horizon targeting.
Type 054A frigates also feature a hangar capable of accommodation Kamov K-27 and Harbin Z-9 helicopters or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). As I reported elsewhere, the ship has a standard range of about 3,800 nautical miles—7,037 kilometers–at a speed of 18 knots, and a maximum un-refueled radius is 12,000 kilometers or 8,000 miles.
According to an analysis, the Type 054A class “remains a limited design in terms of its size, armament, and electronics outfit and is viewed as an intermediary design intended to play a specific, limited role in fleet defense.” It will almost certainly be part of the PLAN’s first carrier strike group, where it most likely would be deployed within a second, inner screen for anti-submarine warfare and defense against any air or missile threats that make it through the outer defense perimeter.