The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned the 41st Type 056/056A Jiangdao-class corvette into service this month, according to local media reports. The commissioning ceremony of the new corvette, christened Nanchong, reportedly took place at a naval port in Guangdong province in Southern China in the presence of representatives of the Nanchong, a city located the northeast of China’s Sichuan province, in the beginning of June.
Based on a calculation by IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, the Nanchong is the 41st Type 056/056A Jiangdao-class corvette to enter service with the PLAN. The last Type 056/56A corvette, dubbed Wuhai, was commissioned at a naval port in the city of Dalian in China’s Liaoning province on January 16. Two additional ships of the class, designated by the PLAN as light missile frigates, were put into service in November 2017. The commissioning of another stealth corvette has so far not officially been confirmed by the Chinese Ministry of National Defense.
Type 056/056A corvettes have been designed and built for patrol and escort operations in the exclusive economic zones of China within 200 nautical miles from the Chinese coastline and are are built in two variants: a multi-purpose Type 056 and a specialized anti-submarine warfare (ASW) variant Type 056A, which is equipped with variable depth sonars used for detecting and tracking submarines.
As I reported elsewhere, Type 056/056A corvettes are multipurpose platforms capable of surface warfare in the littoral region: “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 (…). The ship’s flight deck also allows operation of a Harbin Z-9 military helicopter, specifically equipped for ASW missions.”
However, the ship does not have a helicopter hangar to permanently carry a Z-9 fitted with an airborne dipping sonar for ASW missions. Given the ships’ deployment close to shore, this could possibly be addressed by close coordination between the surface combatants and PLANs growing fleet of land-based ASW aircraft like the Gaoxin-6.
According to a Chinese Ministry of Defense statement quoted by Navy Recognition:
Type 056 Corvettes are new-generation light guided missile frigates independently developed by China. It has a length of 89 meters, a beam of 11 meters and a full-load displacement of 1,500 tons.
The warship, independently developed, designed and constructed by China, is equipped with a variety of weapons and equipment, and is featured by good stealth performance, strong compatibility, and a wide range of applications of advanced technologies.
After commissioned to the PLAN, the warship[s] will perform such missions as patrolling, alert, fishery protection, escort, antisubmarine operation and anti-surface operation.
The PLAN purportedly aims for a force of around 60 Type 056/056A Jiangdao-class corvettes, about half of which are fitted for ASW operations. According to open source intelligence, Chinese shipyards launch one new ship of the class every six weeks.