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The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is the Naval branch of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). The PLAN force consists of approx. 250,000 men and over a hundred major combat vessels, organized into 3 fleets: the North Sea Fleet, the East Sea Fleet, and the South Sea Fleet. Below are some of the ships currently in operation with PLAN. In addition to ships, the PLAN also has its own air arm, the PLANAF.
Note: Currently the PLAN does not operate any aircraft carriers. Part of the PLAN's ultimate bluewater aspirations has been to operate an aircraft carrier. Though there have been such plans since the 1970s, and more prominently in the 1980s, purchases of second hand carriers remain somewhat out of reach for the PLAN, and an indigenous building programme has yet to start. With so many associated technologies and large amounts of funding needed, it is not surprsing that PLAN may take a long time to acquire an operating carrier. Even afterwards, a carrier would require years of trials and training. China is still behind the other four major security council powers that each operate aircraft carriers. However, with its substantial shipbuilding capacity, experience, and a highly supportive/ambitious naval leadership, China will eventually acquire a carrier fleet with battle group concepts similar to the US CVBG. Chinese carrier groups will undoubtedly allow PLAN operations to be extended over long ranges, while the use of carrier aircraft would be able to provide protection to Chinese ships operating further away from home, while also striking the enemy's sea or land based targets. A PLAN carrier would also have great political impact in the region. It could spark up another regional arms race, though a Chinese carrier will be an invaluable instrument of power demonstration. China has had valuable knowledge on carrier development with the acquisition of retired hulls such as the Australian HMAS Melbourne acquired in 1985. Through various ventures, China has also purchased the ex-Soviet carriers Minsk and Kiev. These carriers have become floating amusement parks for tourists, but in the process of being refitted it is without doubt that Chinese experts have thoroughly inspected these ships as well. There have had been plans to purchase foreign second-hand carriers in the past. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, China had reportedly sought to purchase a Kiev class aviation cruiser, but these deals did not fall through. Another possible deal between China and France for the sale of the Clemenceau failed to go anywhere in 1997. The PLAN has had considerable interest in European carriers and sought the purchase of the blueprints for Empresa Nacional of Spain (Bazan) Spanish proposed conventional take off/landing ships, the 23,000 ton SAC-200 and the 25,000 ton SAC-220 designs. Negotiations were started between 1995 - 1996 but it did not go anywhere. The 67,500 ton ex-Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag (Admiral Kutznetsov class), which was only 70% completed and floating in the Ukraine, was purchased through a private Macau tourist venture in 1998. Since its troublesome tow to Dalian shipyard, the carrier has undergone a long refit. This has been the focus of much debate amongst military and civilian analysts whether this will become China's first carrier. The Varyag was stripped of any military equipment as well as its propulsion before it was towed. If the speculations are true that Varyag will become China's first carrier, then it will take much refit in terms of cutting the hull apart to install propulsion, as well as installing arrester wires and catapults. Although it may not be fully operational as a carrier, it may serve as a training platform or a helicopter carrier to support ASW or marine operations. If it does become a floating amusement park, the tight security and rather long refit indicates that the navy has had substantial knowledge gained from the carrier which could be used for an indigenous design.
Using knowledge gained from inspecting carriers, an indigenous design may emerge with both Russian and Western influences. China has shipyards that are capable of building a ship of such tonnage and size. It is debated however, whether the first carrier will be a fully conventional ship, or a ship with V/STOL ship, or a helicopter carrier. The first seems likely as the eventual choice of carrier type for the PLAN as it would carry combat aircraft of which China could buy or develop. However conventional takeoff/landing carriers are costly and would take years to train up an air group. Tonnage of such a ship is expected between 48,000 to 65,000 tons. A second ship may emerge smaller at around 24,000 tons, and operate V/STOL aircraft with a ski jump arrangement. China has yet to develop such an aircraft however, and buying V/STOL like the American-British Harrier may not be a viable option. Such ships would be more economical and smaller in size, which could be much more suitable for current operations. The third type, a helicopter carrier, would be undoubtedly the cheapest and less risky option. It would be easier to train up an air group from this smaller platform, and its applications in amphibious and anti-submarine warfare would be invaluable. But a helicopter carrier will not possess the fleet air defense or attack capabilities of the first two designs. It remains debatable what type of carrier the PLAN would prefer as their first.
Currently, the destroyers are the largest principal surface combatants in the People's Liberation Army Navy and will continue to be so for sometime in the near future since larger warships such as aircraft carrier and cruisers are not planned to enter service anytime soon.
Classes of ships
Harbin (112) entering harbor
Type 051 Luda class — 16 ships Type 052 Luhu class — 2 ships Type 051B Luhai class — 1 ship Type 052B Guangzhou class (NATO Name: Luyang I Class DDG) — 2 ships Type 052C Lanzhou class (NATO Name: Luyang II Class DDG) — 2 ships Type 051C Luzhou class (NATO: Luzhou Class DDG) — 2 ships (on sea trials) Project 956 Sovremenny class (NATO: Sovremenny I Class DDG) — 2 ships Project 956EM Sovremenny class (NATO: Sovremenny II Class DDG) — 2 ships
The PLAN indigenous destroyer classes (051-052-051B-052B-052C-051C) listed above is in the historic sequence, that is, 051 is oldest and 051C is newest. At first glance, the alternating of 051 and 052 is confusing. In the PLAN nomenclature, however, 051 and 052 are not names of generations, but indicate the types of the ship's main engine. Destroyers with name 051 use steam turbine and ones with 052 use gas turbine. China can not produce gas turbine indigenously for the destroyers yet and the gas turbine has to be imported. Type 052 ships use LM2500. Since 1989, however, LM2500 can not be imported anymore due to the arm embargo. The newer 052 ships (052B/C) use gas turbine from Ukraine, which is less reliable than its western counterpart. It seems that PLAN does not fully trust the Ukraine gas turbine, and the steam turbine versions (Type 051B and 051C) are still developed parallelly. The list in generations is: 1G/1.5G: Type 051; 2G: Type 052; 2.5G: Type 051B; 3G: Type 052B/052C/051C.
The People's Liberation Army Navy had traditionally focused on the principles of coastal defense. With this came a series of warship designs based on the Soviet Navy's own destroyers and
frigates. The first PLAN destroyers were the Anshan class, directly purchased from the Soviet Union. These were armed with torpedoes and various surface and air warfare guns. The Anshan's effectiveness in naval warfare was significantly enhanced with the torpedo tubes being replaced by anti-ship missile launchers. Although retired from the active service, the Anshan class destroyers remain on PLAN's list and act as training ships for patriotic education and public relations duties, and in fact, even though the ships are docked at naval museums, the funds for these ships come directly from PLAN. History
Luhu-class destroyer Qingdao (DDG 113) entering Pearl Harbor
The Luda class followed from the 1970s onwards, with many similarities to the Soviet Kotlin class. The Ludas are armed with six anti-ship missiles and various artillery and ASW weapons. Both the Luda and Anshan were key vessels to PLAN's coastal defense doctrines, as small coastal defense destroyers. These ships were all armed with mostly manually operated air defense artillery with no Surface to Air missiles and no ASW torpedoes. One Luda class ship, 160, was lost in an accident. By the mid 1990s, all Anshan class destroyers were retired. PLAN focus shifted in the 1980s. With the opening to the West, the PLAN had greater accessibility to acquire better Western technologies. With the import of Western systems, and a focus on bluewater multi-role operations, the Luhu class emerged. The first vessel, Harbin 112 (seen and commissioned by the early 1990s), was a significant shift from traditional Chinese warship design. It featured a Western layout and a vast array of Western technologies. There was also much more focus on air defense and ASW warfare, areas that PLAN destroyers had been lacking in. Air defense was fulfilled by the fitment of an 8-celled French Crotale launcher, a short range missile system imported from France and later indigenously produced as HQ-7. A second vessel, the Qingdao was launched later in the mid 1990s.
Luhai-class destroyer Shenzhen (167) entering harbor
Towards the end of the 1990s, a new class of indigenous destroyer was seen. The Luhai class was another major step forward for the PLAN. It was similarly armed like the Luhu class, but was much larger and featured a stealthy design. There were great hopes that this class would feature vertical launched air defense missiles (VLS). However the single vessel Shenzhen 167, like the Luhu class, only featured short ranged air defense capabilities and its equipment greatly relied upon Western technologies. These three ships were great milestones in PLAN history as the first truly modern combat vessels with blue water and multi-role operations in mind. However, all three vessels had the fundamental weakness of relying upon Western technologies. This has proven to be a difficult obstacle for crew training (as it is believed the crew had to familiarize themselves to English in order to operate the systems). Despite being quite new in terms of technology and weapons, these PLAN destroyers were considered obsolete to current Western surface combatants by at least a generation. Furthermore, these ships experienced serious problems that delayed their construction and thus only three were built. After the first Luhai class, there was little optimism for new indigenously designed PLAN destroyers, as no more ships were laid down or launched before 2000. In 1996, China signed a deal with Russia for the purchase of two Sovremenny class destroyers (a deal believed to be worth $800 million). The first ship arrived in January 2000 and the second in January 2001. These ships have significantly improved the PLAN's fighting capabilities. Each ship is 7,940 tons full loaded, and armed with a full array of modern Russian weapons. These include ASW torpedoes and mortar launchers, AK-630 automatic CIWS cannons, two twin mountings of 130 mm rapid fire cannons, and the short-medium ranged SA-N-7 Gadfly Surface to Air Missile. The most potent weapon however is the SS-N-22 Sunburn anti-ship missile. With ramjet propulsion, this missile could achieve very high velocities (Mach 2.5), and has a high probability of penetrating modern ship air defenses. Two more vessels are being acquired through a $1 billion deal in 2002. These ships are significantly upgraded with enhanced weapons capabilities. The first of these ships arrived in December of 2005. Notable improvements include a longer range SS-N-22 missile, improved air defense missiles, and the Kashtan rapid fire cannon and missile combination (that achieves an effective short range air defense against aircraft and incoming missiles). Since 2003, three new classes of indigenous destroyers have emerged. The Type 052B (LUYANG I) class was ground breaking in PLAN destroyer designs. It featured a stealthy design, modern layout, and adopted many Russian and indigenous weapons/sensors. Its armament included two indigenously designed Type 730 CIWS (first of its kind in China), sixteen YJ83 anti-ship missiles, two SA-N-7 Gadfly air defense missile launchers, torpedoes, anti-submarine rockets, a 100 mm artillery mount, and a hangar to hold one Kamov KA-28 ASW helicopter. The design was taken a step further
with the Type 052C (LUYANG II). This introduced for the first time an air defense concept with PAR radars, providing the ship with a 360 degree coverage. The Type 052C is the first PLAN warship to utilize VLS missiles, with the HQ-9 long range air defense missile (48 rounds, 100 km ranged, similar to the Russian S-300 missile). It is also additionally armed with a potentially new anti-ship cruise missile, believed to be the YJ-62. Though still being speculated, it is believed the YJ-62 possesses a range beyond 280 km and possibly capable of striking land targets. It is also widely debated whether the Type 052C possesses a system as capable as AEGIS combat system. Although mostly argued to be inferior in terms of software and electronics processing capability, the PAR radars of the Type 052C nonetheless demonstrate China's capability of building modern long range air defense vessels. The latest class is the Type 051C. This class uses the same hull and layout as the original Luhai class seen nearly a decade earlier. Therefore it has been speculated the Type 051C is a design that pre-dates the Type 052B/C, but its construction being delayed by the slow acquisition of the Russian SA-N-6 long range SAM. The ship like the Type 052C uses VLS launchers with 48 rounds of the SA-N-6. The SA-N-6 is a high performance Russian missile, with capabilities of engaging low to high altitude targets as far as 100 km. The Type 051C is more dependent on Russian technology, using a Russian designed radar that does not have 360 degree coverage. All three of these ships have significantly addressed the once pressing issue of air defense in the PLAN. With their latest sensors and air defense weapons, these ships are believed to provide PLAN with a capability to protect its fleet from long range air threats. Only two of each class has been built so far, but these ships were completed between 2003-2006. In this short space of time, Chinese shipyards had accomplished the construction of six destroyers and numerous other warships, showing an unprecedented rapid naval building programme. It can be expected that PLAN will evaluate these designs and select one class for mass production in the near future. Since the late 1980s, the PLAN has kept its older Luda, and subsequently improved its Luhu and Luhai designs through various upgrade and refit programmes. Both 112 and 113 of the Luhu class, and 167 of the Luhai class have undergone major refits. All three now possess sixteen modern and potent YJ83 Anti-ship missiles, improved HQ-7 SAM (Based on the Crotale), and enhanced electronic, sensor and weaponry capabilities. The Luda class has gone through a more varying and interesting upgrade programme. One vessel was refitted with a double hangar and helicopter deck. At least four others have been upgraded with HQ-7 short range SAM, new automatic air defense artillery (as opposed to the old manual mounts), torpedoes and sixteen YJ83 anti-ship missiles. Though the other remaining ships continue to retain original weaponry, they have all undergone major refits to extend their surface lifes. All Ludas are being fitted with satellite communications and navigation systems, giving significantly improved capabilities to operate beyond coastal waters. The PLAN's destroyers will likely become the spearhead of the PLAN's aspirations for blue water operations. Chinese destroyers will form the core of future carrier battle groups, and with long range weaponry, will play major roles in fleet air defense and surface strike operations. The future of the PLAN destroyer fleet is mostly speculation now. There have been some reports of a new class of destroyer, the Type 052D which is expected to be a mature design to the Type 052C. PLAN has the option to buy two more Sovremenny class destroyers, and it is uncertain whether PLAN will acquire more of these potent ships. With the resurgence of indigenously designed combat vessels, it is likely PLAN will acquire Russian technology to enhance its own home-built destroyers. New PLAN destroyers possess modern air defense systems, but the lack of ASW weapons beyond a helicopter, rockets, and the torpedo, continues to be a mounting weakness.
Outlook The PLAN destroyer fleet has progressed significantly since its humble beginnings in 1949. Modern Chinese destroyers are in no way built in such great numbers as the US Arleigh Burke class. However, China's industrial and military acquisition capacity allows the PLAN to acquire large numbers of modern ships at a high rate if required. Japan operates destroyers that have similar capabilties to the Arleigh Burke class (Kongo, while South Korea is building a new class of destroyers with a similar capability (KDXIII). Taiwan has acquired four improved Kidd class destroyers. In addition, the US 7th Fleet operates many air defense cruisers and destroyers, while Australia is set on acquiring a new class of air defense warship. China's four new classes of destroyer (052B, 052C, 051C, and the improved Sovremennys) shows its urgency to build up a modernized destroyer force that rivals and supersedes other navies regionally. Although still technologically behind, this gap is closing between Chinese technology and Western designs. While training, ASW, and air defense remain pressing issues, in the coming decades the Chinese navy could very well be operating one of the Western Pacific's most potent destroyer fleets, if not the largest.
Frigates are the most numerous principle surface combatants in the People's Liberation Army Navy and historically, most construction were for frigates as well. However, the trend has drastically changed in recent years as construction emphasis is increasingly geared toward larger warships, namely, the destroyers for PLAN, but frigates remain the most numerous principle surface combatants in PLAN service, and this status will unlikely to change in the near future.
Classes of ships
Type 053H Jianghu I class - 14 built, ~12 in service. Type 053H1 Jianghu II class - 8 built, 5 ships in PLAN service, 2 sold to Egypt, 1 sold to Bangladesh Type 053H2 Jianghu III class - 5 built, 3 ships in PLAN service, 2 (053T) sold to Thailand Type 053HT-H Jianghu IV class - 3 built, 1 ship in PLAN service, 2 improved (053HT) version sold to Thailand. This is a modified Jianghu II/III with helicopter deck in the rear. Type 053H1G Jianghu V class - 6 ships in PLAN service Type 053H2G Jiangwei I class - 4 ships in PLAN service. The 053H2G is "Gai" (modified) version of the 053H2 (Jianghu III) with HQ-61B SAM for air-defense role. Type 053H3 Jiangwei II class - 10 ships in PLAN service Type 054 Jiangkai I (Ma'anshan) class - 2 ships in PLAN service Type 054A Jiangkai II(Improved version of 054 with VLS missiles) - 4 ships confirmed under construction (the first 2 ships was launched in late 2006)
Frigates were the first large surface combatants made available to the PLAN. The Soviet Union sold several frigates to the PLAN in the 1950s, including the Riga class frigates. These frigates became the foundation of Chinese built designs, such as the Jinan class. These ships were mostly armed with artillery only, though later designs managed to replace torpedo tubes with a twin launcher for SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missiles. There were attempts to fit anti-aircraft missiles to Chinese warships. The first attempt was made on the Jiangdong class, which was completed in 1970,carried two twin launchers for the HQ-61B short ranged SAM. Only one ship was completed, and served as the sole PLAN frigate with SAM until the 1990s. Its effectiveness in engaging missiles and aircraft was thought to be limited. The use of the same hull led to the Jianghu class. Following the Luda class destroyers, the PLAN acquired frigates that appeared to be smaller versions of these destroyers. They would serve to complement the larger designs, but possess similar fighting capabilities and armaments on a more compact hull. This led to the Jianghu class, a large class of missile frigates with many follow-on variants. The first hull, 515 Xiamen was completed in 1975, and mass production followed, often stopped temporarily before being restarted, until 1996. All Jianghu
class shipsare armed with four SY-2 anti-ship missiles (indigenous and improved versions of initial Soviet SS-N-2 Styx). Gun armaments vary across the class, for instance some have only a single 100 mm mount, others are armed with the modern Type 79 modern 100 mm twin mounts. The latest eight hulls (built during the early 1990s) feature automatic twin 37 mm Type 76A AA guns. A total of 27 Jianghu Is were built, and they remain in use today with various upgrades and refits to extend their service life. Although in most aspects obsolete in modern sea warfare, the Jianghu has proven itself as a reliable and effective ship in patrol or escort duties. Otherwise, it is defficient in modern anti-aircraft, anti-ship and anti-submarine fighting capabilities. One Jianghu, hull 516, was refitted recently to carry a battery of land bombardment 122 mm rockets, fixed on stabilized launchers. This maybe a possible upgrade in the future, making the Jianghus shore bombardment frigates. The first Chinese frigate to carry a helicopter was a modified Jianghu II, the 'Siping' 544, dubbed as the Jianghu IV class. Only one ship was modified, despite great optimism that most of the class would follow suite. The Siping is believed to perform more as a test ship, with a single helicopter hangar and a new single 100 mm gun mount similar to the French Creusot-Loire rapid fire main gun. Its fighting capabilities have been retained with twin SY-2 missiles and AA guns. The fitting of the helicopter hangar meant the sacrifice of the aft SY-2 missile launchers. A further step for the Jianghu class was made by the appearance of the Jianghu III/V class, first commissioned in 1986. These ships are the first to have air conditioning onboard Chinese warships. They feature heavy Western influence, and instead of using the SY-2 missiles, they are armed with the YJ8 series. The 'V' carries the YJ82 with extended range. Only three ships were built (two III's and one V), but older ships are planned to be converted to the standard of latter units. A breakthrough in Chinese frigate design was found on the Jiangwei I class, first launched in 1991. This class featured significant Western influence, shifting away from the old Jianghu concept. Major features included a sextuple HQ-61B SAM launcher, modernized electronics and radar, six YJ8 missiles, automatic Type 76F anti-aircraft guns and a hangar and helicopter deck for one French AS 565 or Z-9C helicopter. Four of the Jiangwei I were built between 1990-1994. Though a great versatile design, it suffered the same weaknesses in air defense, as its SAM had to be manually reloaded as well as performing unsatisfactory. The four ships have been refitted since for life extension, and continue to serve the PLAN. The HQ-61 SAM system was later replaced by HQ-7 Crotale SAM systems during refits. It was a three year gap before the first Jiangwei II was launched in 1997. This shared the similar design layout of the Jiangwei I, but had major improvements. These included eight (not six) YJ82/3 missiles, octuple HQ-7 Crotale SAM (replacing the HQ-61B), improved fully automated main gun, and a redesigned aft structure. Ten Jiangwei IIs have been built, the last ship commissioned in 2005. The Jiangwei altogether is a well balanced and highly efficient frigate design, with considerable firepower and multi-role versatility. All Jiangweis have since been refitted with a stealthier gun casing for their 100 mm main guns. In 2005, two new stealthy frigates entered PLAN service (hulls 525 and 526), much similar to modern European designs such as the French La Fayette class. The Type 054 Ma'anshan class is armed with an HQ-7 octuple launcher, eight YJ83 anti-ship missiles, a 100 mm main gun, four AK630 CIWS turrets, ASW torpedoes and rocket launchers, carries one Ka-28 Helix or Z-9C, and displaces 3,400 tons.
This represents a new generation of frigate design in the PLAN, and a shifting focus on larger multi-role platforms. Though the air defense missile armament is no better than the Jiangwei II class, it is thought to only be a temporary solution before a new vertical launched short range SAM is available. Currently, up to four Type 054As, the improved and series-production variant of the 054, are under construction. Various internet photos have shown this frigate in production several yards, and the success of the first few ships will probably decide whether full scale building will proceed into a large class of ships. The 054A features a number of important improvements over the original 054. The main air defense armament has been upgraded to VLS (32 celled?) missile system, either the indigenous surface launched version of the SD-10 missile (currently used by the PLAAF as a medium range fire and forget missile), or the Russian designed SA-N-12 system. In addition, the four AK630 CIWS have been replaced by two Type 730 CIWS. In late 2006 the first 2 ships of the 054A class was launched.
Littoral and coastal warfare vessels
Contrary to the common erroneous classification of west for the Chinese littoral and coastal warfare vessels, most minor surface vessels in the People's Liberation Army Navy are not FAC, and they are not patrol boats either. The reason is that most of the boats in the Chinese inventory do not meet one of the most important criteria of FAC, the speed: most Chinese boats do not have the 40+ knot speed commonly required (which is also the Chinese requirement). Furthermore, there are no patrol boats in the People's Liberation Army Navy, because there was never such tradition and practice like in western navies, and the roles of patrol boats are filled by other ships and boats. The Chinese own classification such as missile boat, torpedo boat, and gunboat for its small naval vessels is therefore far more accurate. The concept of patrol boats only applies to paramilitary organizations in China, such as the maritime police and customs, and for the People's Liberation Army Navy, it is a brand new concept: it was not until mid 2000's when 4 newly built harbour security boats classified by the west as PBI's entered the service recently had the People's Liberation Army Navy finally begin to have something that meet the classification of the patrol boats.
Classes of boats
Although the People's Liberation Army Navy classify its surface combatants with displacement less than 1,000 tons as boats, the maximum displacement of its boats in the inventory is only around 500 tons. Submarine chasers
Haiqing class submarine chasers - 20 Haijiu class submarine chasers - 2 Haizhui (Type 062-I) class submarine chasers - 13 Hainan (Type 037) class submarine chasers - ~40+ and dozens in reserve Kronshtadt class submarine chasers - less than 20 (in reserve)
Type 022 Houbei class missile boats - 8 craft plus 4-8 more under construction Houjian (Type 037-II) class missile boats - 5 boats Houxin (Type 037-IG) class missile boats - 24 boats Houdong class missile boats - 1 Type 021 Huangfeng (Soviet Osa-I) class missile boats - 40 + (being rearmed) with 60 - 70 in reserve Hola class missile boat - 1 China Cat (C 14) class missile boat - 1 Heku/Hegu/Houku/Hougu (Type 024) class missile boats - 20 + (being rearmed) with up to 50 in reserve Torpedo boats
Huchuan (Type 025) class Torpedo Hydrofoils - ~20, nearly 100 being in reserve P 4 class torpedo boats - 50 (in reserve, being transfered to patrol duties)
Shanghai III (Type 062-I) class gunboats - 2 Shanghai I & Shanghai II (Type 062) classes gunboats - 150+ active and at least 100 in reserve Huludao (Type 206) class gunboat - 1 Shantou class gunboats - less than 25 (in reserve, subordinated to naval militia) Beihai class gunboats - less than 30 (in reserve, subordinated to naval militia) Huangpu class gunboats - less than 15 (in reserve, subordinated to naval militia) Yulin class gunboats - less than 40 (being transfered to logistic duties)
Harbour security boat (PBI) - 4 newly built 80 ton class harbour security / patrol boats, and more are planned in order to take over the port security / patrol duties currently performed by the obsolete Shantou, Beihai, Huangpu, and Yulin classes gunboats, which are increasingly being converted to inshore surveying boats and range suppport boats.
The PLAN's main focus until the 1980s was a sharp emphasis on coastal defense. This could be seen influenced from early engagements against the Republic of China naval forces, where Communist forces found the value of small manoeuvrable craft against larger, better armed but slower Nationalist ships. Early littoral craft in the PLAN's inventory included riverine craft and gun boats converted from various ships. This was later added to in the 1950s by Soviet designed gun and torpedo attack craft. Such gun craft included the Kronstadt class heavily armed gun boats which served the PLAN until the 1980s. Soviet missile attack craft were later added to the fleet, including the Komar and Osa type fast attack missile craft. Although most littoral designs bore Soviet influence, there were quite a few indigenous designs or copies of Soviet-type craft. Hundreds of vessels were deployed by the fleet, serving as the backbone of the PLAN until a higher emphasis was placed upon bluewater naval operations. Despite availability of frigates and destroyers, the brunt of PLAN involvement in small scale conflicts have been borne by the littoral forces. For instance, the various naval engagements between Chinese and Vietnamese naval forces were carried out by PLAN littoral craft. Blue-water capabilities are now the most sought by the PLAN with increasing acquisition of destroyers, advanced submarines, frigates and auxiliary support assets. The torpedo attack boat has mostly disappeared from the PLAN fleet, and the force of missile, ASW and gun boats have reduced dramatically. Littoral warfare has not been completely pushed aside however. New classes of missile attack boats continue to be built to replace older types. Anti-submarine warfare is still seen as a high level mission of PLAN littoral craft. With more emphasis placed upon multi-role capabilities of sea borne rescue, patrol, transport and counter-piracy, littoral gunboat also remain important.
Missile boats compose of a new tri-maran class, Houjian, Houxin, Huangfeng, Hoku class. The Hoku class is similar to the Soviet Komar class, but with a steel (rather than wooden) hull. Its armament composes of a twin 25 mm anti-aircraft gun and a double launcher for two SY-1 anti-ship missiles. Most of these boats have been retired from active service, with a handful remaining in the fleet. The Soviet Osa I class was copied by the Chinese into the Huangfeng class. Armaments and equipment vary across each class; early variants are armed with the manual 25 mm AA mounts, while some are fitted with a fire control radar for two 30 mm twin cannon turrets, based on the Soviet AK230. Missile armament comprises of four SY-1/2 missiles. A large number (over 100) were built for the PLAN and for export. Several dozen remain either in active service or in reserve. The next generation of missile craft are the Houxin and Houjian class. The 478-ton Houxin design is based on the Hainan-class hull, but with a redesigned superstructure, new systems, two automatic twin-37 mm guns and four YJ8 series anti-ship missiles. Around 28 are in service, built since the 1990s. A much more sophisticated and stealthy design is the 520-ton Houjian class. Main armament of the Houjian design is the twin 37 mm mount, two 30 mm twin turrets, and six YJ8 series anti-ship missiles. The Houjian is far more capable, larger and more flexible than the Houxin, being based primarily in Hong Kong. The total number produced is not certain, but five (or some sources state nine) craft are in service. The latest third generation missile attack craft is the 220X design. Seen since 2005, its most distinctive feature is its trimaran hull that can achieve maximum wave piercing performance at high speeds. The stealthy design has two missile-houses, that can possibly be fitted with various ordanances. Four missiles of the YJ83 anti-ship missiles are believed to be carried, as well as a single AK630 CIWS for self-defense. Four hulls emerged by 2005, with another eight to twelve others being constructed in 2005-2006. This indicates a new class being mass produced for the PLAN to replace the aging Hoku and Huangfeng classes. With these second and third generation missile attack craft, the PLAN possesses a large number of potent missile platforms that could be launched either in defensive or offensive sorties. PLAN gunboats have been a traditional part of PLAN coastal defense strategies, and this category is further divided into two subcategories: gunboats and submarine chasers. One of the main missions of littoral gunboats are to search and destroy submarines, although the lack of ASW torpedoes and modern sonars hinder this role. Other roles include engaging enemy shipping, bombarding enemy shore targets, minelaying, transport, escort and patrol. Currently, there are three prominent classes in the frontline service. The Shanghai I/II class built since the 1960s in large numbers have been the main type of coastal attack vessel of the PLAN. It is considerably well armed for a vessel its size, equipped with two 37 mm mannual AA guns and two 25 mm AAA. The Hainan class has proven itself to be a reliable design in many roles. Its main armament is two twin 57 mm guns, and two 25 mm AAA. The Hainan is also armed with anti-submarine multibarrelled rockets and depth charges. There is provision for the fitment of four YJ8 serie anti-ship missiles as well. The third class is a second generation improvement of the Hainan design, the Haiqing class. This has improved superstructure and automatic 37 mm AA guns. Unlike other Western Navies, the PLAN has no dedicated patrol craft. Most patrol craft are operated by maritime paramilitary forces. There are at least four newly built dedicated harbour patrol craft operated by the PLAN (classified as PBI by the west), but mostly, numerous gunboats are deployed
for harbour security and harbor patrol missions. Patrol roles of course can be carried out by the current gun attack and missile boats, as the PLAN focuses less upon coastal defense and more on multi-purpose littoral ships.
Submarine has long been one of the three focuses of the People's Liberation Army Navy (the other two are aircraft and attack boats), and when the decision was made in the late 2006 to concentrate on building other principle surface combatants to strengthen the air defense and to further delay the construction of aircraft carriers due to insufficient air cover, submarines will continue to play the lead dominant role in the assult force for the PLAN.
Classes of boats
Type 091 Han class - 5 ships Type 093 - 1 confirmed, one thought to be under construction
Type 092 Xia class - 1 ship Type 094 - 1 confirmed, one thought to be under construction Diesel-electric o Type 033 Romeo-class - mostly retired, <20 remain in service o Type 035 Ming-class - version of Romeo, <17 ships o Type 039 Song-class - 12+ ships o Kilo-class - 4 in service and 8 upgraded Kilos in service o Yuan-class - Improved version of Song class submarine, 1 ship + 2 under construction
Nuclear attack submarine force
A Han class submarine in 1993
Nuclear submarines have been envisaged in the Chinese Navy since the 1950s. Despite ambition and a long history of development, the acquisition of nuclear submarines has been a difficult process. The Cultural Revolution had greatly disrupted nuclear submarine development. The Sino-Soviet split prevented any Soviet assistance in nuclear propulsion, and these propulsion problems have been troublesome to this day. The first Chinese nuclear powered submarine was laid down in 1967 but not completed until 1974. The Han class has experienced more than 20 years of development, the last of the class not being commissioned until 1990. Only five hulls have entered service and have been reported to have
experienced nuclear reactor difficulties (though this has been greatly overcome in some aspects by French and subsequent Russian assistance). The Han class since their commissionings, have gone through major upgrades and numerous refits. It is believed that long refits have often meant that these submarines spend more time in port than out at sea, greatly affecting their operational capacity. Combat capabilities of the Han seem to be undermined by the poor and noisy nuclear reactors. Their initial design and weapons fit seem inadequate if confronting other submarines and ships in Western navies. Hull 401 (and possibly 402 as well in the near future) has been retired from active service by 2005. All remaining hulls however have been greatly refitted with new sonars and anechoic tiles (that reduce noise levels). The Han has mostly operated in local waters, but since the 1990s, Hans have been used more aggressively. A Han shadowed a US carrier battle group in the mid 1990s, and more recently, a Han was operating around Japanese waters, prompting a Japanese task group to pursue the submarine out of its territory. The Han is far from being as capable or effective as the American Los Angeles class SSN. But with their recent improvements, they can pose a great threat by operating deep in the Western Pacific and attacking targets that are not so well protected by ASW coverage. A new class of SSN has been in development since the 1980s, as the PLAN sought a replacement for the Han class. Little information has emerged about the Type 093 SSN project, but it is believed to have great Russian influence. The 093 design maybe similar and comparable to the Russian Victor III class, signifying a significant step forward for Chinese nuclear attack submarines. The 093 has been the focus of much attention from US and Asian military analysts. Its improved capabilities will undoubtedly increase PLAN power in the region and its ability to carry war to the West Pacific. Such submarines can escort future SSBNs as well as attacking US Navy carrier battle groups in the deep ocean. There have been reports that the first hull was launched around 2001, with a second hull also launched a few years afterwards. There has been a lack of photographic evidence, though these submarines being a top secret priority of the PLAN, have been reported operating from submarine cave-bases in Northern China. There have been numerous reports that China has the option of buying or leasing Russian nuclear attack submarines, particularly the Akula class. It is unlikely however that Russia in the forseable future is willing to sell such high level platforms to China, nor is China interested in wasting money on purchasing run down Russian attack submarines considering the near completion of 093 developments.
Ballistic missile submarine force
China had engaged in the development of submarine launched ballistic missiles since the 1950s, with the acquisition of a single Soviet Golf class conventional powered ballistic missile submarine. The Golf class has three launch tubes. Using this single hull, the PLAN acquired experience and tests from this platform. The Golf played a major role in China's JL-1 SLBM development project. The first successful launch of the JL-1 SLBM took place in 1982 from a submerged pontoon, and the first successful launch from a submerged submarine was in 1984 from the Golf test submarine. It is believed the single hull is still serving as a test platform for different missile technologies, as well as a test launcher of the JL-2 missile. China's first SSBN, the Xia 092 class hull 406, was laid down in 1978, launched in 1981 and commissioned by 1983. The JL-1 missile was not ready until the first successful test launch of the missile from the Xia in 1988. Previous launch attempts from 1985 had failed. Its primary weapon is the JL-1 SLBM, with 12 launch tubes, as well as six 533 mm tubes for self defense. Because of only one
hull, the PLAN does not possess the capability of the other superpowers to maintain a constant SSBN patrol. The missile's short range also permits the 092 to launch its missiles against regional targets only. Striking targets far away require the submarine to travel dangerously closer to enemy waters. The PLAN currently has plans to acquire a new class of SSBN, with a projected number between three to six projected. The 094 is believed to have been heavily influenced by Russian assistance. It features 16 launch tubes for the longer ranged JL-2 missile, which has an 8000 km range that can carry 3 to 4 MIRVs. The 094 would be permitted to patrol nearer Chinese waters, with the ability to launch its missiles against continental US targets. Some reports have indicated that one hull has been launched, though there is a lack of photographic evidence.
Conventional submarine force
A Chinese Kilo class submarine on its delivery voyage in 1995.
Submarine warfare is regarded as a vital part of PLAN's coastal defense doctrine. Large numbers of conventional powered submarines have therefore been in service, and this force makes up the bulk of the PLAN's submarines, making it the third largest submarine force in the world today. The PLAN currently operates five different classes of conventional submarines. In times of war, these submarines can be used for disrupting lines of shipping, laying mines, attacking ships, defending against enemy submarines and later generations of Chinese SSK can employ use of anti-ship missiles. Being quiet underwater combatants, they represent a considerable threat to regional navies. History The first class of submarine to be operated by the PLAN was the Soviet Whiskey class. These were little different from the German U-Boat designs later in the war years. The Whiskey was imported from the Soviet Union and subsequently built in considerable numbers (40+). Most of these hulls have been removed from service by the mid 1990s. The second type to be operated also owed its origins to the Soviet Union. The Romeo class was principally based upon late war German U-boats. The Romeo was also copied in China as the Type 033 submarine. Production of this submarine took place since the 1960s until the 1980s (even till the early 1990s). It has been estimated that more than 100 have been produced for the PLAN and for export. The 033 formed the backbone of the PLAN submarine forces, mostly patrolling near the coast. Their main armaments were primitively guided or unguided torpedoes and mines. The 033 generally had very limited ability to engage more advanced submarines in modern warfare as well as being quite vulnerable
to modern ASW sensors and weapons. By the late 1990s, a large number of 033s had been retired from active duty and pulled into reserves. A handful of upgraded hulls remain in service. These upgraded hulls have new sonar fits and other improvements that keep them effective as patrol submarines. The Ming class 035 is based on the 033. It could be considered as China's first indigenously designed submarine despite its similarities to the Romeo class. The Ming did not particularly perform well in initial hulls, being first commissioned in 1974. One of the first boats were scrapped after a fire. Initial hulls have since been scrapped, but major improvements and eventual reliability have permitted production to have proceeded at a rate of one to two boats a year between 1988-1995, then resuming again from the late 1990s to 2001. At least 17 hulls are still in service, with later hulls using modern sonar including the French DUUX-5. The later hulls of the Ming class may have been employed for testing Air Independent Propulsion (AIP), which would significantly reduce the noise level of the submarine. Mings have been reported to have been exercising more frequently, particularly the recent incursions into Japanese waters. On one occasion the Ming surfaced for a brief period within Japanese waters before submerging again. In 2003, Ming 361 was lost with all hands. It was speculated that 361 was testing an AIP system which could have caused the death of the entire crew almost instantaneously (as the crew were found dead at their quarters with the submarine intact). The PLAN in the 1990s had sought to acquire a modern conventional submarine with emphasis on sensors, weaponry, and modern capabilities to engage enemy submarines in modern warfare. In 1994 it ordered two Kilo 877EKM type submarines from Russia, which were delivered by 1995. In 1996, two improved Kilo 636 submarines were ordered, delivered between 1997-1998. In 2002, a $2 billion deal was signed for eight more Kilo 636, these submarines particularly fitted with the capability of launching the Russian Novator 3M-54E Klub S cruise missile capable of engaging land and sea targets at 220 km. The Kilo class represents a huge leap forward in the PLAN submarine fleet. Originally a Soviet design in the 1980s, the Kilo was meant to be one of the world's quietest class of submarines, said to be as quiet as the US Los Angeles class. With 12 Kilos operational by 2006, it is unclear whether PLAN will buy anymore of these potent vessels. But these Russian boats have undoubtedly increased the capability of the PLAN submarine force.
Song class submarine
Despite the purchase of the Kilos, the PLAN has continued to develop indigenous designs. The Song class design was first launched in 1994 with sea trials in 1995. It featured Western influences with a German propulsion system, seven blade skewed propeller and noise-reduction rubber tiles; however, the first hull retained the traditional stepped sail. The first hull was not fully operational until 1999. As a result of the sea trials a significantly modified design emerged as the Song 039A, with a number of improvements, including a conventional sail. Song 039A appears quite similar to the Agosta class in
appearance. By 2006 about 12 hulls have been confirmed to be built so far, indicating the class has performed satisfactorily. The Song presents a major milestone to indigenous submarine designs, being comparable in capabilities to contemporary Western submarines. Song submarines are armed with torpedoes and a sub-launched variant of the YJ8 anti-ship missile. An AIP system may be installed in the future. Internet photos emerged in 2005 of a new class of submarine dubbed the Yuan class. The hull seems to resemble Russian influences (as it is similar to the Kilo) while also adapting features found on the 039A. The Yuan is expected to adapt an AIP system to achieve maximum quiet operational capabilities. The Yuan could be armed with advanced Russian and Chinese torpedoes and cruise missiles. The Yuan came as a surprise to US military intelligence, as the submarine's existence was entirely unknown until internet images emerged. This unprecedented class of SSK is expected to have capabilities which surpass the Kilo and Song designs. Series production could begin as soon as sea trials are deemed successful. Outlook The future fleet of conventional Chinese submarines is a deadly quiet force that could perform defensive and offensive operations. The future fleet will compose of the Kilo, Song and Yuan types, as the Romeos and Mings are phased out of service. China is reported to have the option of purchasing the more advanced Russian Amur class SSK. With the success of indigenous programmes however, future purchases of foreign submarines look bleak.
Mine warfare vessels
The Chinese coastal and littoral waters are ideal for minefields and when the naval doctrine emphasized on coastal defense, this proved to be an advantage for the Chinese defenders. However, when the naval doctrine is shifted from coastal defense to venturing into blue water operations, the People's Liberation Army Navy suddenly found itself in serious deficit of mine countermeasure vessels and this situation is unlikely to change in the near future despite the Chinese effort to catch up.
Classes of ships
Wochi class minehunter (MHS) - 1 (hull # 804) Wozang class minehunter (MHS) - 2 under construction (hull # 328) Wolei class minelayer - 1 (Hull # 814) Type 010 class oceangoing minesweeper - 14 (+ 26 in reserve) T-43 class oceangoing minesweeper - less than 5, all in reserve Wosao class minesweeper, coastal - 9 (+ new additions) Fushun class coastal minesweeper - ~20, modified Shanghai-II class gunboat for minesweeping, all in reserve and being scrapped. Futi class (Type 312) minesweeper / minesweeping drone - 4, with an additional 42 in reserve Auxiliary minesweepers converted from fishing boats - over 80, all in reserve.
Despite the extensive use of mines as a strategically important defensive and offensive weapon, the PLAN operates only a small number of mine warfare ships. These boats comprise of Minelaying and Minesweeping types. The PLAN operates a single Wolei class minelayer. This ship was commmissioned in 1988 and displaces 2400 tons full load. It can carry and lay up to 300 mines. There is little need of a dedicated minelaying type however, as most PLA surface and submarine combatants can lay minefields. Minesweepers have served the PLAN since its founding. The most common type was the Type 010 minesweeper based on the Soviet T-43 Ocean minesweepers, imported and subsequently produced with modifications in reasonable numbers. 40 or so remain in active or reserve service. The T-43 is an aging but reliable design. One ship took part in one of the Sino-Vietnamese sea battles over the Spratley Islands. The T-43 is due to be replaced by a new class of ocean minesweeper. Currently two new classes of minesweeper have emerged since 2004. Coastal minesweeping is primarily conducted by the Wosao class. The number of these craft are unknown, but around a dozen is a safe estimation. This class first entered service in the late 1980s, and is still in low rate production. Coastal sweeping can also be conducted by around 20 modified Shanghai class named as Fushun class, and 46 Futi class minesweeping drones similar to the German design.
The unique problem of territorial disputes has put Chinese designers for amphibious warfare vessels in a dilemma: in the unfortunate yet many have deemed inevitable military confrontation with Taiwan, it is better to have smaller amphibious warfare vessels to reduce the probability of kills and to minimize the damage, since the relatively short distance between Taiwan and mainland coastal regions means that smaller ships can make more trips under sufficient protection. However, in order to maintain long term military power projectiong in the disputed south and east China seas, larger ships are needed to sustain longer operations. Majority of the amphibious warfare vessels in the Chinese inventory are small in comparison to that of major estern navies and this clearly reflects the priority given to Taiwan by the Chinese, but the construction of large dock landing ship indicates the shift toward blue water operations.
Classes of ships
Amphibious Transport Dock (LPD)
(1) Type 071 Yuzhao class (building, just launch)
Landing Ship Tank (LST)
7 Type 072 Yukan class 9 Type 072II Yuting I class 9 Type 072III Yuting II class (+ more building)
Landing Ship Medium (LSM)
~31 Type 079 Yuliang class 13 Type 074 Yuhai (Wuhu-A) class 3 Type 073 I/II/III class 11 Type 073 IV Yunshu class
Landing Craft (Mechanized/Personnel/Utility/Vehicle)
100 Type 271 Yupen class 200~300 Type 067 Yunnan class 30+ Type 068/069 Yuch'in class 10+ NEW Yubei class twin hull high capacity LCU
4 Qiongsha class
2 Qiongsha class
Additional Sea Lift
Large numbers of reserved and retired landing ships and craft. In wartime, can utilize civilian transport ships of various types. Several small air cushion LCVPs that serve from LSTs. Air Force and Army services operate their own amphibious assets. Naval and Army helicopters operating from ships or land bases.
Type 71 Amphibious Transport Dock (LPD) has launched in December with NATO name "Yuzhao" New class of air cushion vehicle transport (operating from LSD) Acquisition of large indigenous or Russian built air cushion transports.
Despite shifting naval warfare doctrines from coastal defense to bluewater operations, the component of the PLAN that has always been consistent in its role and constantly expanding, are the amphibious warfare assets. PLAN amphibious vessels have played a key role in its history, including in past naval conflicts. Initial attempts to retake coastal islands held by the Republic of China (especially Hainan Island) have involved the PLAN's amphibious transport arm. It is interesting to note however, that most of the amphibious assets available in those early conflicts were mostly derived from fishing junks and small civilian craft. Some of these operations were largely a success, others were complete failures. In these early engagements against the Taiwanese Navy and Air Force, these primitive amphibious vessels suffered high combat or attrition losses. Learning from these lessons and with the eventual aim of retaking Taiwan itself, the PLAN embarked on a long programme to build up large forces of landing vessels. Landing ships would also partake in the Sino-Vietnamese sea battles near the Spratley Islands. Current sea lift capabilities of the PLAN are hard to estimate without declassified documents. Most sources have estimated a total lift capacity between 45,000-60,000 infantry and around 800 tanks/APCs. These estimates only concern PLAN assets. In times of conflict, a large force of paramilitary, civilian, army and air force craft could also be utilized. The PLAN has exercised frequently with large civilian ships. These civilian types include Roll-on/Roll-off ships, freighters, ferries, vehicle transports and various logistical assets. Therefore if the PLAN could effectively utilize all these transports, the actual sea lift capacity of the Chinese sea forces is significantly higher. Helicopters and air dropped troops/vehicles in any amphibious operation will also greatly increase the number of troops in a sea lift. Although this combined military lift is very impressive and the second largest sea lift capability in the world, it is distributed across three different fleets. Although Taiwan is the main target of amphibious operations, an increase in South China Sea interests (as well as island claims in the Yellow Sea) have ensured that PLAN amphibious assets are well spread between the three fleets. The largest types of amphibious transports in the PLAN are LSTs. Since the PLA's victory in the civil war, a handful of ex-US LSTs were captured (or salvaged) from the Nationalists and impressed into
service. These craft were built for US forces between 1942-1945. The first indigenously designed LST was completed in 1980 as the Yukan Type 072 class. Sea lift of the Yukan is 200 troops, 10 tanks and two LCVPs (up to 500 tons), as well as a heavy armament of 57 mm/37 mm/25 mm cannons. Production ended in 1995 after seven ships were built. A much improved class was the Yuting 072II, with nine ships built by 2001. Improvements included longer hull to accommodate an aft helicopter deck, larger internal flood bay for four LCVP and improved self defense artillery. The notable advantage of the Yuting II is its ability to operate helicopters. Despite being without hangar facilities, the heli-deck could operate two medium sized helicopters. With this combination of helicopter and LCVP operations, the Yuting could insert small groups of infantry from over the horizon. In addition, marine and army amphibious tanks/APCs have exercised swimming operations off LSTs while being a distance away from shore. This reduces the vulnerability of the LSTs from operating on beachheads. From 2002 onwards, another improved class, the 072III was seen in large numbers. This class features a redesigned superstructure. At least nine have been confirmed with more being built in shipyards. LSMs substitute the core of PLAN amphibious operations. With more than 50 LSMs confirmed in service, the PLAN possesses medium ranged amphibious assets capable of operating in littoral operations as well as a limited capability in outer sea landings. Like their larger LST counterparts, the LSMs of the PLAN can carry tanks and infantry. The largest class is the Yuliang 079, with some 31 ships in service. This class started series production in the 1980s from multiple shipyards, and can lift three-five tanks. This class was followed by the smaller Wuhu (or Yuhai) class, with around 13 in service since 1995. This class can carry 2 tanks and 250 troops. Simultaneously, another class of large LSM was planned as the Yudeng 073 class (commissioned in 1994). Following this unsuccessful design were two other prototypes, as the 073II and 073III. The class finally entered mass production 2003 as the improved IV variant. Sea lift of the Yudeng class is six tanks (or 12 vehicles) and 200 troops. 11 hulls have been confirmed so far with many more expected. The mainstay of littoral amphibious operations can be carried out by the hundreds of LCM/LCU/LCT/LCVP types of craft. These craft can mostly transport infantry, while some can also carry between one to three tanks/vehicles. The most common type is the Type 067 (built since 1968) which could lift 46 tons. The larger Type 271 has served more exclusively as a logistics transport more than an amphibious transport. Type 271s have also seen service with army and air force sea units as the main logistics workhorse. In times of war however, this class could lift quite a heavy load for its size (3 tanks or 6 amphibious light tanks/APCs). Over 100 have been produced for various military/logistics/non-military transport roles. The latest landing craft is the Yubei class LCU, which features a unique tank deck that runs across the whole length of the ship, while the superstructure is located on the side. This gives the Yubei a significant lift capacity (150 troops and up to four tanks). More than ten have been confirmed built, with production continuing at several yards, indicating this is going to be a large clas. The Yubei may end up replacing some of the older or smaller LCMs/LCUs and even LSMs in littoral transport roles. Finally, the PLAN has long projected to operate large amphibious ships similar to the LSD/LPD concept. The Type 071 17,600 ton transport will operate helicopters, large LCVPs and various self defense armaments. Such ship will enable PLA/Marine forces to operate far from home waters, and enhance the PLAN's ability to rapidly moblize troops in any amphibious assault. The large air cushion LCVPs would be able to carry tanks at high speeds at over-the-horizon range. If so, this would be China's first LSD type of ship, reportedly already laid down. China's first aircraft carrier maybe another
addition to the PLAN's amphibious assets. If it would operate helicopters for the meanwhile, then it would prove invaluable as a helicopter assault transport. The LPD/LSD was launched in late December from Hudong-Zhonghua dock. The NATO name for it is "Yuzhao" class LPD.
Air cushion craft
The PLAN has expressed great interest in the acquisition of fast landing craft in the form of air cushion craft. Air cushion craft have been demonstrated to be versatile in most coastal terrain, and their high speeds mean rapid deployment of troops from long distances from larger landing ships that are less mobile. There have been future plans to develop an LCAC class that would be large enough to carry tanks and vehicles from large landing ships. The navy has also expressed great interest in the acquisition of Russian air cushion assault transports, particularly the Zubr class that could lift tanks and infantry. Until these future projects are fulfilled, the PLAN currently operates only two types of air cushion transport. The first is the Type 724 design. This is a small craft capable of speeds of up to 40 knots. Crewed by two or three, the design only permits ten infantry to be carried. The Type 724 operates primarily from the Yuting and Yukan class LSTs (each ship carrying two-four of these LCVPs). Although unable to carry larger numbers of infantry or any vehicles, the Type 724 nonetheless provides the PLAN with valuable experience in cushion deployments from amphibious ships far from shore. Its high speed and small size makes it a hard target to attack, and is ideal to insert small bands of marines or special forces. The second type is the Type 722II, a large indigenous design built in 1989 and the first to operate indigenously designed gas turbine engines. This craft could carry 100 infantry or 15 tons of cargo. Although generally comparable to most Western and Russian air cushion craft, only one boat entered service. It was retired from service in 2001. Air cushion craft could be overtaken by wing in ground effect (WIG) craft. This concept has also been the focus of much PLAN interest.
Naval auxiliaries are the major constraints for the Chinese ambition of having a blue water navy. In order to have full blue water operation capability at any given time on its own (without the support of foreign ports), the tonnage ratio of auxiliaries to combatants alone should be 40%, i.e. for every five tons of displacement of combatants, there should be two tons of displacement of the auxiliaries. Not only Chinese lack the necessary tonnage ratio needed, most of its naval auxiliary force is consisted of aging ships that were near the end of their life.
Classes of ships
3 Fuchi (Qiandaohu) class 2 Fuqing (Taikang) class 1 Fusu (Nancang) class
8 Fulin class (coastal/garrison replenishment) 2 Shengli Class (coastal/garrison replenishment) 7 Fuzhou class 5 Guangzhou class ? Fujian class (new class) ? Fubei class (new class) ? Fuchang class (new class)
2 Dayun class (supply ship) 2 Yantai class
13 Danlin class 3 Dandao class 5 Hongqi class 9 Leizhou class
3 Dajiang class 1 Yudong class 1 Dazhi class 2 Dazhou class 4 Daliang class
2 Rescue DSRV
1 Shichang class 1 Zhenghe class 2 Dahua class (used for testing weapons, sensors, electronics)
Space Event Ships
4 Yuanwang Class (+1 new version building) 1 Shiyan
1 Ganzhu class 5 Yenlai class 6 Yannan class
1 Yanbing class 3 Yanha class
4 Tuzhong class 1 Daozha class 17 Gromovoy class 9 Hujiu class 19 Roslavl class
The demands of modern day warfare has meant that logistic support ships in the navy are becoming vital. The PLAN operates a very large number and variety of auxiliary vessels that are capable of supporting fleet and military operations both in a coastal and ocean theatres of war. PLAN auxiliary vessels are present in all three fleets, stationed in many naval bases and have increasingly exercised frequently alongside combatants. PLAN auxiliaries include tugs, fleet replenishment ships, freighters, tankers, submarine tenders, research, survey ships, space event/monitoring platforms, ice breakers, repair and communications, electronic warfare and monitoring, transport and training ships. Fleet replenishment has been an expanding element in PLAN auxiliaries. The PLAN view the need of replenishment ships as vital for blue water fleet operations. Since the 1970s, underway replenishment has been widely practised by destroyer and frigate combatants. In many overseas visits, a tanker has traditionally accompanied the visiting ship. The first replenishment ships built for the
dedicated task of fleet refuelling was the Taikang class, of which two remain in service (one was sold to Pakistan and another converted to civilian duties). The next fleet replenishment vessel was purchased from Russia in the 1990s, being the single Nancang. This ship is significantly superior to the Taikang in terms of refueling systems and the storage capacity. Two new hulls of the indigenous Qiandaohu class were commissioned into service by 2005. With five ships (and possibly a sixth vessel), the PLAN's ability to operate further away from home has been significantly enhanced. There are several classes of submarine support ship, including the Dajiang and Hudong class. With such a large submarine fleet, it remains quite important for the PLAN to field a large number of coastal and ocean submarine support assets. The Hudong in particular is a rescue ship built during the 1960s, accommodating a rescue bell device. The larger Dajiangs can perform a wider range of support tasks, as well as carrying the Chinese designed DSRV for deep sea rescue operations. The PLAN is known to operate two dedicated training platforms. The first is the single Zhenghe, a converted liner fitted with armaments to train PLAN cadets. The other training ship is the Sichang. It was designed with a double helicopter deck to operate as an aviation training ship. It has proven its usefulness as a multi-role platform though, capable of freighting operations due to the large amount of space on the helicopter deck. Sichang is very versatile, similar to the British Argus concept. It can perform aviation training, aviation operations, act as a freighter, hospital ship and military transport, and can carry small ships on its deck, in addition to regular cadet training operations.
Developments in 2006 and Beyond
Though the PLAN had gone through extensive modernisation and acquisition between 2003 to 2005, it appears that this growth has not slowed down at all (and in fact may have even accelerated) through 2006. It is expected that more ships will be acquired at even faster rates in 2007 and beyond. In 2006, the following ships have been launched or are in their advanced stages of building: 1x Type 071 LPD (already launched in water, being fitted with equipment), 3-4x Type 054A Frigates, 20+ Type 220X Stealthy Fast Attack Missile Craft, 1x Weapons testing vessel. In addition, several Song 039 class submarines were also launched or inducted into service in 2006. The former Soviet aircraft carrier 'Varyag' has been undergoing major refits. It has been speculated by many online sources and forums that this would be likely to become China's first training platform designed for gaining experience in aircraft carrier operations. At the current forecast, 2007 maybe a busy year in which those listed ships will be undergoing major sea trials and training exercises before being fully accepted into service. However, various ship yards are expected to be busy with more 054A frigates, possibly an additional 071 LPD and more missile craft and submarines. In addition, it is reasonable to establish that by 2008, the PLAN would have finalized their plans on a selected future air defence destroyer (either based on the 052C, 051C, or both). By 2010, it is also reasonable to estimate that the PLAN will receive several new SSNs and SSBNs.
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