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Frigates Past And Future From China
by James Dunnigan
March 8, 2013

China has been successful in exporting its 2,500 ton Type 53 frigates over the last two decades and now is finding many foreign customers for its replacement, the 4,000 ton Type 54A. This is a 134.2 meter (440 foot) long ship with a top speed of 49 kilometers an hour and a range of 14,400 kilometers. The crew of 165 operates a 76mm cannon, two 30mm multi-barrel anti-missile autocannon, eight C-803 anti-ship missiles, six anti-submarine torpedoes, 12 240mm anti-submarine rockets, 72 tubes carrying decoy rockets, 32 VLS cells containing anti-aircraft or anti-submarine missiles, and a helicopter. The radars, sonar, and electronics are all Chinese made. Sixteen Type 54s have been built and at least three more are being built. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Algeria, and Thailand are all interested. 

China developed several new designs to replace the 40 year old Type 53, but the most successful has been the Type 54, which first appeared in 2005. This ship is based on Western, not Russian, designs. The first two built were less capable than the later Type 54A model. After the second Type 54 appeared in 2006, the weapons and electronics of the design were greatly upgraded and became the Type 54A.

Despite the demand for the Western style Type 54A, there are still many foreign customers who prefer the smaller, Russian style, Type 53. This includes Chinese users. China recently completed upgrades on the last six Type 053 frigates built, apparently in order keep them in service for another decade or more. Originally built in the 1990s, the six Type 053H1G ships were the last of the 53 built over about twenty years. Based on the older Russian Riga class frigate, the Chinese expanded the original 1,400 ton Riga design (armed with depth charges, three 100mm guns, and torpedoes) to a missile laden 2,500 ton vessel equipped with modern electronics.

The latest version of the 053, called the F-22, is still built but only for export. The primary customer is Pakistan. The remaining Chinese Type 53s are mainly used for coastal patrol. They are 103.2 meters (320 feet) long and have a top speed of 46 kilometers an hour. These 2,400 ton ships can operate on internal fuel and supplies for 15 days at a time. The ships are armed with eight C-803 anti-ship missiles, two automatic 100mm guns, and four 37mm anti-aircraft guns. There are also regular and rocket launched depth charges.

Pakistan has received three F-22P frigates from China and is built another in Pakistan. The Pakistanis were very pleased with their inexpensive Chinese warships and ordered four more, to be built in Pakistan. The F-22P is an improved version of the Chinese Jiangwei II (053H3). Pakistan already had four of these, as the F-22.

The 123 meter (406 foot) long F-22P displaces 2,500 tons and carries an eight cell short range (8.6 kilometers) FM-90N surface-to-air missile system. There are two four cell anti-ship missile systems (180 kilometers range C-802s), two three cell launchers for rocket launched ET-52C anti-submarine torpedoes, and two six cell RDC-32 anti-submarine rocket launchers. There is also a 76.2mm gun, two 30mm anti-missiles auto-cannon, and a helicopter. Each ship has a crew of 202 and a top speed of 52 kilometers an hour. The F-22Ps are inexpensive, costing about $200 million each. The new American LCS weighs about the same but has only half as many sailors in the crew, a lot more automation, and costs over $600 million.

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