Will China strengthen its coastal anti-submarine warfare capabilities?

Of all the components of the US military arsenal, the US Navy submarine fleet is arguably the most feared by Beijing and the People's Liberation Army naval forces. This is the reason why, over the past ten years and the arrival of Xi Jinping at the head of the country, a particularly important effort has been made to strengthen the means to counter this threat. This was first the case of Type 054A frigates tasked with escorting large naval units and in particular eliminating submarine threats against these ships. From 2013, also appeared the first Type 056A corvettes. Evolution of the Type 056, 20 of which were delivered to the Chinese Navy between 2013 and 2016, the Type 056A also had the anti-ship and anti-aircraft self-protection systems and the hull sonar of its predecessor, towed sonar and variable depth sonar, making this small vessel of only 90 meters and 1500 tons, a precious tool for anti-submarine securing of the Chinese continental shelf, particularly inside the "first circle" Of islands circling the China Sea.

La 50th and last Type 056A corvette was delivered to the Chinese Navy in 2021, marking the announced end of this program. Yet a recent announcement from Chinese social networks suggests that production of this highly specialized corvette in anti-submarine warfare may soon resume. Indeed, according to this information, 20 of the 22 Type 056 corvettes, the same ones that initially only had limited ASM capabilities, would soon be transferred to the Chinese Coast Guard, which already operates several units previously in service with the Chinese Navy. , like the 3 Type 53H2G frigates weighing 2.250 tonnes. But these were most often relatively old and obsolete ships for military missions, and not corvettes having sailed only 6 to 12 years, and supposed to have an operational lifespan of 25 to 30 years.

The Type 056 / A corvettes have a helipad capable of receiving a Z-9 medium helicopter, but no hangar to permanently accommodate the aircraft. It is true that these ships are intended to operate near the coasts, and therefore near Chinese air and naval bases.

This transfer will very likely allow the Chinese Navy to relaunch the production of new corvettes equipped with advanced anti-submarine capabilities, in order to give the Chinese Navy a homogeneous coastal defense capacity over the entire naval perimeter to be secured. It may be thatlike the Type 054A frigates, for which the construction of a new unit was started a year ago after the initial target of 30 ships has been reached, may Beijing be satisfied with a new series of 22 new Type 056A. But it is also possible that the Chinese Navy takes the opportunity to develop a new variant, more efficient of its corvette, which would notably have a hangar to accommodate a medium Z-9 anti-submarine warfare helicopter, or more. probably one or more drones dedicated to this mission. The Chinese naval industry could also take the opportunity to integrate electric propulsion into the ship, which could give it greater discretion during ASM missions, especially since work in this area has already been carried out as part of the development of the Type 054B frigate which should soon take over in the production of Type 054A.

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