Friday, May 18, 2018

China is launching an impressive build up of naval resources

A recent Chinese fleet review shows that during the last four years, China has launched naval vessels with a total tonnage equal to many of the world's major established naval powers.

An earlier review of PLAN
Even in the period from 2000 to 2005 the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) had made great strides. An article in February of 2005 states: "In the last five years the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has commissioned more frigates and destroyers than in any comparable period in its history. However, it also now has fewer destroyer and frigate hulls in service than at any point in the last decade." The defect noted has been remedied more recently.
Review of the Plan this April
The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) was reviewed in April of 2018. The review drove home the dramatic progress that has been made in recent years. It also shows the operational potential that the fleet now has.
During the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of this, Chinese naval shipyards produced a large range of vessel type with many improvements on earlier ships However, recent construction has settled on just a few designs which are produced in large numbers. The new Type-052D destroyers have already seen 13 launched since 2012 as many as the previous five destroyer designs. The same thing is happening with other types of vessels.
The size of the new fleet
Since 2014 China has launched more submarines, warships, principal amphibious vessels and auxiliaries than the total number of ships currently in service in the navies of Germany, India, Spain, Taiwan, and the UK in terms of individual hulls. However, Japan and the UK have slightly higher tonnage during the period 2014-2018.
Of individual ships built since 2014, the most prevalent type has been a corvette, Type-056 (Jinangdao I/II) with 28 launched since 2014 out of 46 built to date. These have been built at four different shipyard. They have approximately 1,300 tonnes full displacement. These have been produced at a faster rate than any comparable vessel since the Cold War ended. As well as output for the PLAN, China Coast Guard is also benefiting from its own shipbuilding program.
Recent PLAN vessels much larger than older ships
The larger size of the newer ships is necessary to accommodate modern weapon systems and sensors and larger quantities of them. The size also means the ships have better endurance for undertaking longer and more distant operations. For example the Type-054 series of frigates built from the 1970's right up until the early 2000s had a displacement of about 2,000 tonnes. In contrast, the new Type-054/A has double that displacement.
Output accelerated in recent years
Comparing recent output in the US and China shows some striking comparisons. In the period 212-2014 the United States remained just ahead in total tonnage but that included the launch of the huge 100,000 tonne aircraft carrier, USS Gerald Ford. In 2015-2017 China was significantly ahead and launched its own aircraft carrier.
China's navy still lags behind in some respects
Even though the PLAN results in navies far larger than that of the UK or France the Chinese do not have the same extensive operational experience or even some of the technical abilities of the French or British navies. As an example it is not yet evident that the Chinese navy has precision-strike cruise missiles.
However, it may not be that long before the Chinese naval capability will have developed further and China will have amassed an impressive armada in the South China Sea and even further challenging the attempt of other nations such as the US to dominate the area.
Previously published in Digital Journal

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