Asia Defense

Chinese Navy Commissions Sub Killer Stealth Warship for Service in South China Sea

Recent Features

Asia Defense

Chinese Navy Commissions Sub Killer Stealth Warship for Service in South China Sea

The People’s Liberation Army Navy’s latest surface warship entered service on March 31.

Chinese Navy Commissions Sub Killer Stealth Warship for Service in South China Sea
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/樱井千一

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has commissioned a new Type 056/056A Jiangdao-class corvette at Yulin naval base in the port city of Sanya on Hainan Island on March 31, China Military Online reports.

The new warship, named Liupanshui (pennant number 514), will serve in the PLAN’s South Sea Fleet, the force responsible for conducting Chinese naval operations in the South China Sea, and is specifically designed to conduct anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations.

The 1,500-ton ASW variant of the corvette (designated Type 056A) is equipped with towed and variable depth sonars in addition to the standard fit that I outlined previously:

Next to four YJ-83 anti-ship missiles (two launchers with two missiles each) and a 76-millimeter main gun, the ASW variant is also equipped with two 324 millimeter triple torpedo launchers, as well as variable depth and towed sonars. The ship’s flight deck also allows operation of a Harbin Z-9 military helicopter, specifically equipped for ASW missions.

Yet, “the corvette does not feature a helicopter hangar suggesting that it will be difficult to permanently station a helicopter with airborne dipping sonar aboard a Type 056A corvette,” I observed. ASW has emerged as one of the top priorities of the PLAN and the service aims to rapidly improve its capabilities in the field.

The PLAN reportedly aims for a fleet of up to 60 Type 056/056A Jiangdao-class corvettes — designated light missile frigates by the PLAN — with one new ship launched ever six weeks. According a The Diplomat estimate, the PLAN currently operates a fleet of 30 Type 056/056A Jiangdao-class corvettes, with approximately half of force consisting of Type 056A ASW vessels.

On April 1, the PLAN also launched yet another 4,000-ton Type 054A Jiangkai II-class guided-missile frigate. An estimated 23 to 25 Type 054A Jiangkai II-class frigates are currently in service with the PLAN with at least five additional ships of the class under construction. As I explained elsewhere, the frigate also boasts ASW capabilities, next to its capacity for air defense and surface warfare operations:

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).  (…) 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.

Type 054A frigates are the PLAN’s mainstay for escort and patrol missions in the South China Sea. Ships of the class have also been deployed for anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden since 2009 and participated in a number of bilateral naval exercises over the least years.