Home' Defence Review Asia : DRA Sept-Oct 2014 Contents CURRENT STATE OF KNOWLEDGE
INDICATES THE FOLLOWING BY
Datong (580) launched August 2012,
commissioned into North Sea Fleet (NSF) May
2013. for 77th Flotilla (Flot)
Yingkou (581) launched November 2012,
commissioned into NSF August 2013 for 77th
Bengbu (582) launched May 2012, sea trials
in November, commissioned into East Sea Fleet
(ESF) February 2013.
Shangrao (583) launched in August 2012
commissioned into ESF in June 2013.
Meizhou (584) launched July 2012,
commissioned into South Sea Fleet (SSF) July
Baise (585) launched October 2012,
commissioned into SSF October 2013. Based at
Yulin with the Xisha/Paracels Flotilla (a new unit
created in 2012/13)
Ji'an (586) launched February 2013,
commissioned into ESF 8 January 2014.
Jieyang (587) launched 28 January 2013,
commissioned into SSF 26 January 2014.
Quanzhou (588) launched 26 June 2013,
commissioning date unknown but for ESF.
Qingyuan (589) launched 31 May 2013,
commissioning date unknown but for SSF, Yulin
for the Xisha/Paracels Flotilla
Weihai (590) launched 1August 2013,
commissioned 15 March 2014, NSF for 77th Flot
Fu Shun (591) commissioned 12 July 2014, NSF
for 77th Flot
Luzhou (592) launched 16 July 2013,
commissioned 7 June 2014, SSF Yulin for the
Suqian (593) launched 20 November 2013
commissioning date unknown, for ESF
Name unknown (594) launched 30 November
2013 commissioning date unknown, for SSF
Name unknown (595) launched 14 November
2013 commissioning date unknown, for SSF
Huizhou (596) launched June 2012,
commissioned into Hong Kong Garrison July
Qinzhou (597) launched August 2012,
commissioned into Hong Kong Garrison in July
TYPE 056 ROLE AND FUNCTION
While designated a corvette the Type 056 fulfils the
classic functions of a light frigate, as a flotilla vessel.
It has low-end capability in anti-surface warfare and is
able to contribute to a medium-range missile action
but has only four SSMs to do so. The air-defence
capability is limited to self-protection and the anti-
submarine capability limited to coastal waters using
active sonar -- except on the VDS-fitted ships, of
which at least four are believed to exist. While their
pennant numbers are unknown these could be the
ships of the new Xisha/Paracels Flotilla formed in
2012-13. If so they may be a PLA(N) counter to
Vietnam's Kilo class submarine purchase. PLAN
active sonars are known to be a relatively weak
point for the service - and high frequency short
range narrow beam sonars are known to be still
in service aboard most of their smaller warships.
These are adequate in coastal waters against
regional submarine forces excluding Japan and
South Korea. There is no evidence that any Type 056
is fitted with a towed array. Its ability to support a
dipping sonar helicopter is its major anti-submarine
capability although it has no hangar to operate one
as an organic part of the ship's combat capability.
The Chinese pattern is to assign such helicopters
according to the vessel's mission, and most missions
for this class will not demand that their anti-submarine
capability be maximised.
In short, the Type 056 is a classic inexpensive
warship (what used to be called a flotilla craft) for
the screen of a convoy, amphibious group, underway
replenishment group or surface action group. It is
also well capable of long range overseas deployment
for UN missions and maritime constabulary work
such as anti-piracy patrols, needing only a support
tanker to accompany it. Indeed, it would be much
more economical in that role than a larger frigate or
destroyer. These points offer some support for the
concept of a second flight of this class. An OPV
version is not likely as the People's Republic of China
has other agencies with their own design criteria and
their own substantial building programs.
The Type 056 also proves that the twenty-five
year effort to normalise the use of helicopters in
routine PLAN operations has matured. While lacking
a hangar, these ships are fully capable of hosting
a helicopter. Therefore, helicopter operations must
now be regarded as a normal PLAN capability.
This is a notable achievement bearing in mind that
the first PLAN ships to take a helicopter aboard
ship permanently were a pair of Type 051 Luda II
destroyers converted only in 1987 -- and that these
were the first aircraft ever taken permanently to sea
by a PLAN warship. By comparison, even the RAN
first operated aircraft at sea in 1917 and did so
permanently from 1926.
The Type 056 corvette is not an advanced,
unusual or enormously interesting vessel. It has
no extraordinary features. It is a low-end and
workmanlike ship in all respects. Initial indications are
that it will fulfil all the multitude of routine and maritime
constabulary roles expected of larger warships and
provide the PLAN with a decent screening unit for
higher end warfighting functions. Such ships form
the backbone of most navies throughout history and
perform most of the routine, unspectacular work.
They also provide an excellent first major command
for up-and-coming PLAN officers and an excellent
training ground for them.
Bangladesh is believed to be acquiring two Type
056s, according to a report on 21 November 2012
on Bangladesh Television's Anirban Programme.
There is speculation that the Bangladeshi Type 056
will be lengthened by 10 metres to accommodate a
helicopter hangar. The report discussed six ships, two
new Chinese built Dhaka class large patrol craft, two
Type 056 corvettes and a pair of Type 053 Jianghu
class frigates, the latter being sold for a nominal sum
with Bangladesh are paying for the upgrade of these
two ships. The first of the new Dhaka class patrol
craft was launched in mid-September 2012. The
class has a bulbous bow and a hull optimised for
seakeeping in rough conditions.
The Dhaka look to be a standard export oriented
craft and is not assessed to be a type which will
appear in PLAN service.
Many limited role navies will be watching the
Bangladesh Navy's Type 056 with interest. If they
are simple and economical to operate, reliable and
low cost then African nations, some South American
states and countries like Myanmar will see the class
as a viable option to meet their maritime constabulary
roles: essentially providing the prestige of a warship
for an OPV price, and able to fulfil both functions
DefenceReviewAsia | SEPT/OCT 2014 25
Type 056 with helicopter. Note the lack of hangar.
Credit: 樱井千一 - Own work. Licensed under Creative
Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia
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