Ships of the People's Liberation Army Navy


Ships of the People's Liberation Army Navy

The ships of the People's Liberation Army Navy number over a hundred combatant ships, organized into three fleets: the North Sea Fleet, the East Sea Fleet, and the South Sea Fleet. The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is the naval branch of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the army of the People's Republic of China. In addition to ships, the PLAN also has its own naval aviation branch, the PLANAF.

Contents

Aircraft carriers

Varyag

Beginning in 1985 with the acquisition of the ex-Australian carrier HMAS Melbourne, Chinese shipyards have gained some exposure to aircraft carrier design. This was followed by the acquisition of the ex-Soviet carriers Minsk in 1994,[1] Kiev in 1996 and Varyag in 1998. A deal to purchase the ex-French carrier Clemenceau fell through in 1997.[2]

In July 2011, a senior researcher of the Academy of Military Sciences said China needed at least three aircraft carriers for its fleet.[3] That month, another Chinese official announced that two aircraft carriers were being built at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai.[4] These ships are believed to be 50,000 – 60,000 ton Type 089 "Shi Lang"-class aircraft carriers based on the Varyag design, and are currently projected to be completed in 2015.[5] Sukhoi Su-33s (navalized Flankers) are the aircraft most likely to be flown from these carriers,[6] but China is also developing its own version of the Sukhoi 33, the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark.[7]

The 67,500 ton ex-Varyag, an Admiral Kuznetsov class aircraft carrier, was only 70% completed and floating in Ukraine when she was purchased through a private tourist venture in Macau in 1998.[citation needed] She was stripped of any military equipment as well as her propulsion before she was put up for sale. She was later towed to Dalian, where she has undergone extensive refurbishment coordinated by Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company. On 10 August 2011, it was announced that the refurbishment of Varyag was complete, and that the ship was undergoing sea trials.[8][9][10][11] The Brazilian Navy is expected to provide training to PLAN officers in carrier operations in exchange for assistance on nuclear submarine technology and additional funding.[12] The PLAN has reportedly constructed a concrete mock-up of an aircraft carrier flight deck on top of a government building near Wuhan, to use for training carrier pilots and carrier operations personnel.[13]

Destroyers

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. Another link between the proposed Chinese aircraft carrier and Chinese destroyers is that all captains and their deputies of the Chinese destroyers were former naval pilot: China was to deploy its aircraft carrier and as part of the preparation, pilots were selected to complete their training for carrier deployment. However, the Chinese aircraft carrier program was delayed and the pilots were reassigned and retrained for destroyer commands, and most of these destroyer commanders are still qualified naval pilots.

Destroyer classes[14]

Type 051 Luda III class destroyer Zhuhai (166)
Type 052 Luhu class destroyer Qingdao (113)

Air-defense destroyers

total - 5

Multi-role destroyers

total - 5

Anti-ship destroyers

total - 15

The PLAN indigenous destroyer classes (051, 052, 051B, 052B, 052C and 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 type prefix 051 use steam turbines and the ones with 052 use gas turbines. China cannot 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 cannot be imported anymore due to the arms embargo. The newer 052 ships (052B/C) use the Zorya-Mashproekt DA80/DN80 gas turbine from the Ukraine. Mechanical difficulties with the Ukrainian gas turbines resulted in the steam turbine versions (Type 051B and 051C) being developed in parallel.

Development

Type 051B Luhai class destroyer Shenzhen (167)
Sovremenny class (956EM) destroyer Taizhou (138)
Type 052B destroyer Guangzhou
Type 052C destroyer Lanzhou (170)

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 and perform public relations duties.

1970s

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 guns 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.

1980s onwards

PLAN focus shifted in the 1980s. With the import of Western systems, and a focus on blue-water 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. There was much more focus on air defense and ASW warfare, including the installation an 8-celled Crotale launcher, a short range missile system later indigenously produced as HQ-7. A second vessel, the Qingdao was launched later in the mid 1990s.

Towards the end of the 1990s, the Luhai class was introduced as an enlarged version of the Luhu. These ships were the first truly modern combat vessels with blue water and multi-role operations in mind. These destroyers were still obsolete by Western standards, and delays in their construction resulted in just three being built.

Since the late 1980s, the older Luda, and later the Luhu and Luhai classes have been 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 carry sixteen YJ83 Anti-ship missiles, improved HQ-7 SAM (Based on the Crotale), and enhanced electronic, sensor and weaponry capabilities. Upgraded to the Luda class have been more sporadic. 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 lives. All Ludas are being fitted with satellite communications and navigation systems to allow them to operate beyond coastal waters.

In 1996, China signed a deal with Russia for the purchase of two Sovremenny class destroyers. The first ship arrived in January 2000 and the second in January 2001. These ships significantly improve the PLAN's fighting capabilities. Each ship displaces 7,940 tons full loaded. Weaponry included ASW torpedoes and mortar launchers, AK-630 automatic CIWS cannons, two twin mountings of 130 mm rapid fire cannons, the short-medium ranged SA-N-12 Grizzly Surface to Air Missile and the SS-N-22 Sunburn supersonic sea-skimming anti-ship missile. Two improved Sovremenny class vessels were acquired in 2002, and include a longer range SS-N-22 missile, improved air defense missiles, and the Kashtan CIWS cannon and missile combination.

21st century

Since 2003, three new classes of indigenous destroyers have emerged:

The Type 052B (Luyang I) class features 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-12 Grizzly air defense missile launchers (48 missiles, 50 km range), torpedoes, anti-submarine rockets, a 100 mm artillery mount, and a hangar to hold one Kamov KA-28 ASW helicopter.

This was followed by the Type 052C (Luyang II) class, which included 4 statically mounted phased array radars of indigenous design, providing the ship with continuous 360 degree coverage for search, tracking and direction for multiple SAM missiles. The Type 052C destroyer was the first PLAN warship to utilize VLS missiles, with HQ-9 long range air defense missile (48 missiles, 200 km range, similar to the Russian S-300 missile). It is also armed with a new anti-ship cruise missile known as the YJ-62.

The third class was the Type 051C destroyer. This class uses the same hull and layout as the Luhai class. Initial construction was delayed by the slow acquisition of the Russian S-300FM long range SAM. The ship uses VLS launchers with 48 rounds of the S-300FM. The S-300FM is capable of engaging low to high altitude targets as far as 150 km.

It is not known if the PLAN will continue construction of all three classes or select one class for mass production in the near future.

Outlook

The PLAN destroyer fleet has progressed significantly since its humble beginnings in 1949. Impressive advances have been made just in the past 2 decades and modern Chinese destroyers are now generations ahead of their earlier counterparts. These destroyers are in no way built in such great numbers as the US Arleigh Burke class. However, China's rapidly expanding military and shipbuilding capacity should be able to keep pace with PLAN requirements.

Frigates

Frigates are the most numerous principal surface combatants in the People's Liberation Army Navy . In spite of the more recent trend to construction of larger warships, like destroyers, this status is unlikely to change in the near future.

Frigate classes[15]

Jiangkai class multi-role frigates

total - 12 in service

Jiangwei class multi-role frigates

total - 14 in service

Jianghu class anti-ship frigates

total - 21 in service

Development

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 naval guns, though later designs managed to replace torpedo tubes with a twin launcher for SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missiles.

1970s

Initial attempts to fit anti-aircraft missiles to frigates resulted in the single ship Jiangdong class, which was completed in 1970. Carrying two twin launchers for the HQ-61B short ranged SAM, this vessel served as the sole PLAN SAM capable frigate until the 1990s. Its effectiveness in engaging missiles and aircraft was thought to be limited. The same hull later used for the Jianghu class.

During the 1970s the PLAN introduced the Jianghu class. Essentially, a scaled down version of the Luda class of destroyers, this large class of missile frigates would have many follow-on variants. The first hull, 515 Xiamen was completed in 1975, and mass production followed until 1996. All Jianghu class ships are 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, including a single 100 mm mount or a more modern Type 79 100 mm twin mounts. The latest eight hulls (built during the early 1990s) feature automatic twin 37 mm Type 76A AA guns. One Jianghu, hull 516, was refitted recently to carry a battery of 122 mm rockets, fixed on stabilized launchers. A total of 27 Jianghu Is were built, and they remain in use today with various upgrades and refits to extend their service life. The vessels are deficient in modern anti-aircraft, anti-ship and anti-submarine fighting capabilities.

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 suit. 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.

1990s

Jiangwei II class frigate

The Jiangwei I class was launched in 1991 and represented a shift 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 unsatisfactory performance. 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 SAM systems during refits.

The first Jiangwei II was launched in 1997. This has a similar design layout to the Jiangwei I but has incorporated major improvements. These included eight (not six) YJ82/3 missiles, octuple HQ-7 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. All Jiangweis have since been refitted with a stealthier gun casing for their 100 mm main guns.

21st century

Type 054A frigate

In 2005, The Jiangkai I Type 054 frigate entered PLAN service (hulls 525 and 526). The Type 054 is considerably stealthier than all previous PLAN frigate designs. 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. The air defense missile armament is no better than the Jiangwei II class although this may be upgraded later.

The Type 054 has now been superseded by the Jiangkai II Type 054A frigate, which is in series production. The 054A features a number of important improvements over the original 054. The main air defense armament has been upgraded to a 32-cell VLS HQ-16 medium-range SAM system, giving area air defence capability for the first time to PLAN frigates. In addition, the four AK630 CIWS have been replaced by two autonomous Type 730 CIWS. The Type 054A is altogether a well balanced and stealthy frigate design, with considerable firepower and multi-role versatility.

Corvettes

Coastal warfare vessels

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.

Guided missile boats[16]

total - 95

Patrol boats[17]

Submarine chasers (Anti-submarine patrol boats)

Gunboats

total - 231

Development

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 maneuverable 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

Missile boats compose of a new tri-maran class, Houjian, Houxin, Huangfeng, and Hoku classes. The Hoku class is similar to the Soviet Komar class, but with a steel (rather than wooden) hull. It's armament is composed 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 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 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 ordinances. Eight 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 as of 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.

Gunboats and submarine chasers

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 manual 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 multi-barrelled rockets and depth charges. There is provision for the fitment of four YJ8 series 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.

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.

Mine warfare classes[18]

total 52 + 40 in reserve

Development

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 comprised mine-laying and mine-sweeping types.

The PLAN operates a single Wolei class mine-layer. This ship was commissioned in 1988 and displaces 2400 tons full load. It can carry and lay up to 300 mines. There is little need of a dedicated mine-laying 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.

Amphibious warfare vessels

Chinese amphibious warfare vessels are intended to occupy a key role in any future military confrontation with Taiwan. China currently maintains an inventory of smaller vessels with limited sea lift capacity. The recent construction of large dock landing ships indicates the shift toward blue water operations. The Yuzhou class LPD represents a major step forward in the Chinese plan for a blue water navy.

Amphibious warfare ships[19]

Amphibious Transport Dock (LPD)

  • Yuzhao class (Type 071) - 2 in service (more under construction)

Landing Ship Tank (LST)

  • Yukan class (Type 072) - 7 in service
  • Yuting I class (Type 072II) - 11 in service
  • Yuting II class (Type 072III) - 12 in service (more under construction)

total - 30

Landing Ship Medium (LSM)

total - 58

Troop Transports & Hospital Ships

  • Qiongsha class - 6 in service

Amphibious warfare craft[20]

Landing Craft (LC)

total - 140 + 230 in reserve

Development

Despite shifting naval warfare doctrines from coastal defense to blue-water 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. 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 type of amphibious ship in the PLAN is the Type 071 17,600+ ton landing platform dock which operates helicopters and large LCVPs. The Type 071 enables PLA/Marine forces to operate far from home waters and enhances the PLAN's ability to rapidly mobilize troops in any amphibious assault. Large air cushion LCVPs would be able to carry tanks at high speeds at over-the-horizon range.

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 constitute 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 class. The Yubei may end up replacing some of the older or smaller LCMs/LCUs and even LSMs in littoral transport roles.

Hovercraft

The Type 724 design is the mainstay of the PLAN hovercraft fleet. 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.

A second type was 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. It was retired from service in 2001.

There are 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.

Auxiliaries

Qiandaohu class fleet replenishment ship Weishanhu (887)

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 do the Chinese lack the necessary tonnage ratio needed, most of its naval auxiliary force currently consists of aging ships that are near the end of their life.

Classes of ships

Fuqing class tanker Hongzehu (AOR881) on a visit to Auckland

Fleet Replenishment

Coastal/Fuel/Garrison Replenishment/Tankers

  • 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)

Fleet support

  • 2 Dayun class (supply ship)
  • 2 Yantai class

Freight support

  • 13 Danlin class
  • 3 Dandao class
  • 5 Hongqi class
  • 9 Leizhou class

Hospital ship

  • 1 Daishandao class (#866, 岱山岛)

Icebreakers

  • 1 Yanbing class
  • 3 Yanha class

Submarine support

  • 3 Type 925 Dajiang class
  • 5 Dalang-II class
  • 5 Dalang-III class
  • 2 Dazhou class
  •  ? Type 648
  • 1 Dadong class
  • 1 Yudong class
  • 1 Dazhi class
  • 2 Dazhou class
  • 4 Daliang class

Submersibles

  • 4 Type 7103 DSRVs
  • 2 Osprey class submersibles
  • 1 (+ 1) Sea Pole class bathyscaphe
  • 1 (+ ?) Dragon class bathyscaphe
  • 1 (+ ?) Harmony class bathyscaphe
  •  ? Mobile diving bell
  •  ? QSZ-II submersible
  • Unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs)
    • Remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROUVs)
      • 2 8A4 ROUVs
      • ? RECON-IV ROUVs
      • ? 7B8 ROUVs
      • ? Goldfish class ROUVs
      • 1 HR-01 ROUV
      • 1 HR-02 ROUV
      • ? JH-01 ROUVs
      • ? SJT-5 ROUVs
      • ? SJT-10 ROUVs
      • ? SJT-40 ROUVs
      • 1 Sea Dragon-I ROUV
      • 1+ Sea Dragon-II ROUV
    • Autonomous underwater vehicle (AUVs)
      • 1 Arctic class ARV
      • 1 Explorer AUV
      • 1 WZODA AUV
      • 1 CR-01 AUV
      • 1 CR-01A AUV
      • 1+ CR-02 AUV
      • 2+ Intelligent Water class AUV

Electronic tracking ships

Training/Test ships

PLAN training ship Zhenghe
  • 1 Shichang class
  • 1 Zhenghe class
  • 2 Dahua class (used for testing weapons, sensors, electronics)

Space Event Ships

  • 1 Yuanwang-6 Class
  • 1 Yuanwang-5 Class
  • 1 Yuanwang-3 Class
  • 1 Yuanwang-2 Class
  • 1 Yuanwang-1 Class
  • 1 Dadie class
  • 2 Type 625C
  • 3 Type 645
  • 3 Type 643
  • 3 Type 813
  • 1 Dongdiao 232
  • 1 Shiyan

Survey Craft

  • 1 Ganzhu class
  • 5 Yenlai class
  • 6 Yannan class

Tugs

  • 4 Tuzhong class
  • 1 Daozha class
  • 17 Gromovoy class
  • 9 Hujiu class
  • 19 Roslavl class

Development

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.

References

  1. ^ Staff Writers (2006-05-31). "Former Soviet aircraft carrier sold in China for $16mln". RIA Novosti:Russian International News Agency (Moscow). http://en.rian.ru/world/20060531/48857033.html. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  2. ^ Storey, I; Ji, Y (2004). "China's Aircraft Carrier Ambitions: Seeking Truth from Rumors". Naval War College Review 57 (1). 
  3. ^ Staff Writers (2011-07-30). "China needs at least three aircraft carriers: general". Beijing: Space Media Network Promotions. http://www.spacewar.com/reports/China_needs_at_least_three_aircraft_carriers_general_999.html. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  4. ^ Gertz, Bill (2011-08-01). all "China begins to build its own aircraft carrier: Pentagon sees Beijing flexing muscle for world". Washington Times (Washington, D.C.). http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/aug/1/china-begins-to-build-its-own-aircraft-carrier/?page= all. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  5. ^ Minemura, Kenji (2008-12-31). "China to start construction of 1st aircraft carriers next year". Asahi Shimbun (Tokyo). Archived from the original on 2009-05-26. http://replay.web.archive.org/20090526192305/http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200812310046.html. 
  6. ^ Staff Writers (2009-03-26). "China to Buy Su-33 Carrier-Based Fighters from Russia?". Defense Industry Daily (Defenseindustrydaily.com). http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/china-to-buy-su33-carrierbased-fighters-from-russia-02806/. Retrieved 2011-04-30. 
  7. ^ Fulghum, David A. (2011-04-27). "New Chinese Ship-Based Fighter Progresses". Aviation Week & Space Technology (McGraw-Hill). http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story.jsp?channel=defense&id=news/asd/2011/04/27/02.xml&headline=New%20Chinese%20Ship-Based%20Fighter%20Progresses&next=0. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  8. ^ Hille, Kathrin (2011-08-10). "China’s first aircraft carrier takes to the sea". The Financial Times (London). http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6b20cdce-c300-11e0-8cc7-00144feabdc0.html. 
  9. ^ Staff Writers (2011-08-10). "China's first aircraft carrier begins sea trials". CBC News (Ottawa). http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/08/10/china-aircraft-carrier.html. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  10. ^ Chris Buckley (2011-08-10). "China launches first aircraft carrier on maiden sea trial". Reuters. http://news.yahoo.com/chinas-first-aircraft-carrier-makes-maiden-sea-trial-000047792.html. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  11. ^ Marianne Barriaux (2011-08-10). "China's first aircraft carrier makes maiden trip". Agence France-Presse. http://news.yahoo.com/chinas-first-aircraft-carrier-starts-sea-trial-033213762.html. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  12. ^ Hsiao, Russell (2009). "PLAN Officers to Train on Brazilian Aircraft Carrier". China Brief 9 (12). http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=35116&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=13&cHash=f072084889. 
  13. ^ Harding, Thomas (2011-02-07). "Concrete Evidence Of China's Naval Ambitions". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8307646/Concrete-evidence-of-Chinas-naval-ambitions.html. 
  14. ^ http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/navy.htm
  15. ^ http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/navy.htm
  16. ^ http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/navy.htm
  17. ^ http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/navy.htm
  18. ^ http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/navy.htm
  19. ^ http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/navy.htm
  20. ^ http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/navy.htm

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