Home' Defence Technology Review : DTR MAY 2015 Contents 43
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 09 | MAY 2015
China’s claimed EEZ and assert Beijing’s interests in the South
China and East China Seas. The 1,500 tonne Jiangdao-class is
equipped with 76mm, 30mm and 12.7mm guns, four YJ-83
family ASCMs, torpedo tubes and a helicopter landing area. The
Jiangdao-class is ideally-suited for general medium-endurance
patrols, counter-piracy missions and other littoral duties in
regional waters, but is not sufficiently armed or equipped for
major combat operations in blue-water areas. At least 20 Jiangdao-
class vessels are already operational and 30 to 60 total units may
be built, replacing both older small patrol craft as well as some of
the PLAN’s aging Jianghu I-class (Type 053H) frigates (FF).
China’s amphibious ship force has remained steady in recent
years after a modernisation program in the early 2000s. China
has built four large Yuzhao-class (Type 071) class amphibious
transport dock ships, which provide a considerably greater and
more flexible capability than the older landing ships, signalling
China’s development of an expeditionary warfare and OTH
amphibious assault capability, as well as inherent humanitarian
assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) and counter-piracy capabilities.
The Yuzhao-class can carry up to four of the new 150 tonne Yuyi-
class air cushion landing craft, as well as four or more helicopters,
armoured vehicles and troops on long-distance deployments.
Additional Yuzhao-class construction is expected in the near-
term, as is a follow-on amphibious assault ship that is not only
larger, but incorporates a full-length flight deck for helicopters.
Low numbers of Yuting II-class landing ship tank are currently
being built to replace older Yukan-class units that are reaching
the ends of their service lives.
An expanded set of missions further into the western Pacific
and Indian Ocean, such as counter-piracy deployments, HA/DR
missions, survey voyages, and goodwill port visits have increased
demands on the PLAN’s fleet of ocean-going replenishment
and service vessels. In 2013 China added two new Fuchi-class
replenishment oilers (AOR), bringing the total AOR force to seven
ships; two more were launched in 2014. These ships constantly
rotate deployments in support of China’s Gulf of Aden counter-
The PLAN also recently added three state-of-the-art Dalao-
class submarine rescue ships, which use the LR-7 submersible,
and three Dasan-class fast response rescue ships, which have a
Newer ships entering the force are equipped with medium to
long-range area air defence missiles. The PLAN produced a
total of six Luyang II-class (Type 052C) destroyers with the
HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile (~55nm), and is now receiving the
new Luyang III-class (Type 052D) destroyer, which carries an
extended-range variant of the HHQ-9.
Additionally, at least 20 Jiangkai II-class (Type 054A) frigates
are now operational with the vertically-launched HHQ-16
missile (~20-40 nm), with more under construction. These newer
platforms use modern combat management systems and air-
surveillance sensors, such as the Chinese Sea Eagle and Dragon
Eye phased-array radar.
While some older platforms with little or no air defence
capability remain in the PLAN inventory, the addition of
these new units allows the PLAN surface force to operate with
increased confidence outside of shore-based air defence systems,
as one or two ships are equipped to provide air defence for the
entire task group.
The PLAN continues to emphasise ASuW as a core strength,
with continued development of advanced ASCMs and OTH-T
systems. Most combatants still carry variants of the YJ-83 ASCM,
while the Luyang destroyer is fitted with the YJ-62, and the
newest class, the Luyang III-class destroyer is fitted with the new
vertically-launched YJ-18 ASCM. While the maximum effective
ranges of the export variants of the YJ-83 family (C802, C802A)
and YJ-62 family (C602) are advertised as 65nm, 100nm and
650nm respectively, it is likely the domestic versions of these
systems have much longer ranges.
A new cruiser to be built in China in the latter half of the
decade will carry a variety of anti-surface weapons, some of
which will be newly developed. The PLAN recognises that
these extended-range weapons require OTH-T capability
to realise their full potential and has invested in maritime
reconnaissance systems at the national and tactical levels, as well
as communication systems such as datalinks, to provide targeting
information to launch platforms.
Historically, ASW has lagged behind ASuW and AAW as
a priority for the PLAN. Although ASW remains a relative
capability gap, recent new-construction classes are equipped
with a variety of new sonar systems, including towed arrays and
variable-depth sonars, as well as hangars to support embarked
During the past two decades, China phased out hundreds of
Cold War-era Osa and Houku-class missile patrol boats and gun-
armed Shanghai and Hainan-class patrol craft (among others)
as the PLAN transitioned from coastal defence missions towards
offshore and far seas operations.
However, China retains a modern coastal-defence and
area-denial capability with 60 Houbei-class (Type 022) missile
patrol craft (PTG) built in the mid-2000s to supplement
25 1990s-vintage Houjian and Houxin-class missile patrol
combatants. The Houbei-class design integrates a high-speed
wave-piercing catamaran hull, waterjet propulsion, signature-
reduction features and the YJ-83 ASCM. Although poorly
equipped for offshore patrol duties, the Houbei-class is valuable
for reacting to specific threats in China’s exclusive economic zone
(EEZ) and slightly beyond.
In 2012, China began producing the new Jiangdao-class (Type
056) corvette (FFL), which offers precisely the flexibility that
the Houbei-class lacks. The Jiangdao-class is equipped to patrol
trimaran hullform. Other recent additions include the Anwei-
class hospital ship, the Danyao I/II-class island resupply ships,
Yuan Wang-class 5 and 6 (satellite and rocket launch telemetry),
five Kanhai-class survey ships, two Yuan Wang 21 missile
tenders, and the large Daguan-class auxiliary ship, which
provides berthing and logistical support to the Kuznetsov-class
aircraft carrier Liaoning.
In addition, several new Dongdiao-class intelligence collection
ships have been launched since early 2013 and have begun
to join the fleet, bringing the Dongdiao-class fleet to four at
present. Several additional large, specialised auxiliary ship
construction programs are currently underway as well, including
new icebreakers and logistic support ships for South China Sea
PLAN SUBMARINE FORCE
Similar to the surface force, China’s submarine force appears to
be concentrating on a smaller mix of units when compared to the
late 1990s and early 2000s, suggesting the PLAN is more satisfied
with current designs. For its diesel-electric force alone, between
2000 and 2005, China constructed Ming-class SS, Song-class
SS, the first Yuan-class SSP, and purchased an additional eight
Kilo-class SS from Russia. While all of these classes remain in the
force, only the Yuan-class SSP is currently in production.
Reducing the number of different classes in service helps
streamline maintenance, training, and interoperability. Currently,
the submarine force consists of five nuclear attack submarines,
four nuclear ballistic missile submarines, and 57 diesel-electric
attack submarines. By 2020, the submarine force will likely grow
to more than 70 submarines.
China’s submarine force is very different from that of the US
Navy (USN), but has characteristics that are well suited for its
more limited mission set. Most of China’s submarine force is
conventionally powered, with ASCMs, but without towed arrays.
These submarines are optimised for regional missions that
concentrate on ASuW near major sea lines of communication.
China’s small nuclear attack submarine force is more capable
of operating further from the Chinese mainland, conducting
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and ASuW
missions. China’s submarines are not currently optimised for two
missions at the core of US submarines -- ASW and land attack.
The Yuan-class is China’s most modern conventionally powered
submarine. Twelve are currently in service, with as many as eight
more slated for production. Its combat capability is comparable
to the Song-class, as both are capable of launching Chinese-
built ASCMs, but the Yuan-class has the added benefit of an air
independent propulsion (AIP) system and may have incorporated
quieting technology from the Russian-designed Kilo-class.
The remainder of the conventional submarine force is a mix
of Song-class, Ming-class and Russian-built Kilo-class. Of these,
only the Ming-class and four of the older Kilo-class lack an ability
to launch ASCMs. Eight of China’s 12 Kilo-class are equipped
with the SS-N-27 ASCM, which provides a long-range anti-
surface capability out to approximately 120nm. China’s newest
indigenous submarine-launched ASCM, the YJ-18, extends a
At least 10 of the new Luyang III-class Type 052D destroyers are
planned by the PLAN for commissioning by 2018. Armament includes a
130mm main gun and a 64-cell vertical launch system, plus the ability
to fire the YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile.
The new 1,500 tonne Jiangdao-class (Type 056) cor vette is intended to patrol China’s claimed EEZ.
BY 2020, THE SUBMARINE
FORCE WILL LIKELY GROW
TO MORE THAN 70
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