China has commissioned a corvette variant focused on anti submarine warfare (ASW), expanding the capability of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to find and hunt submarines in the South China Sea, according to Tuesday local press reports via Jane’s Defence Weekly.
Zhuzhou is the 18th Jiangdao-class corvette to enter the Chinese fleet and the first specifically planned for ASW.
In addition to the array of guided anti-ship and anti-air missiles, the Type-56 corvettes already include a hull-mounted sonar, according to U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World.
Some of the corvettes are also being equipped with towed sonar arrays, Combat Fleets author Eric Wertheim told USNI News on Wednesday.
In recent years, China has focused its surface fleet to better combat ships and aircraft by developing platforms centered around large anti-ship and anti-air missiles, he said.
However the expansion of China’s ability to detect and track submarines have been considered a weakness in the PLAN’s capabilities.
“ASW has long been considered one of the gaps for the Chinese and this is an attempt to fill one of those gaps,” Wertheim said.
The move may in part by prompt by China’s nearby neighbors expanding their submarine forces in the last several years.
Vietnam took delivery of the first of six Russian Kilo-class diesel electric attack boats (SSKs) late in 2013 while around the same time Japan recently commissioned the first Soryu-class SSK — thought to be one of the world’s most advanced diesel electric attack submarines.
“Vietnam’s acquisition of six Russian-built Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines may have imbued a sense of urgency in Beijing to move to ensure that the South Sea Fleet can stand up to the possibility of submarine incursions in what China considers as its maritime territory. Beijing and Hanoi are locked in territorial disputes, mainly over the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea,” according to an analysis from Jane’s.
The recent U.S. defense agreement with the Philippines could make the inclusion of U.S. nuclear attack boats (SSN) in a potential conflict more likely.
ASW capabilities on the Type-56As could also increase with an inclusion of hunt hunting helicopters from the Jiangdao’s flight deck, Wertheim said.
“Any successful ship design is going to be adapted and the Type-56 has appears to have been a useful design,” he said.