02 August 2015

China SignPost™ (洞察中国) #93: “The Type 054/054A Frigate Series: China’s Most Produced and Deployed Large Modern Surface Combatant”

Morgan Clemens, Gabe Collins, and Kristen Gunness, “The Type 054/054A Frigate Series: China’s Most Produced and Deployed Large Modern Surface Combatant,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国) 93 (2 August 2015).

Executive Summary and Key Points

This report discusses the evolution of the Type 054/054A frigates (FFGs) by examining their roles and missions, research, development, and acquisition, and design process to include foreign assistance that Chinese shipbuilders received on various systems, components, and weapons. We also discuss procurement practices and provide a cost model for the ship, as well as examine implications for future development.

 —China has commissioned 19 Type 054A Jiangkai-II class frigates to-date, and is working on at least four additional vessels. China’s total production of Type 054, 054A, and 054B/other follow on frigates could ultimately exceed 30 vessels.

–The lack of reporting to date in Chinese or foreign sources regarding engine failures or other major mechanical problems suggests that the Type 054A has recorded decent operational reliability in the six and a half years (and counting) that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has maintained its Gulf of Aden anti-piracy mission.

–While the Type 054A represents an exponential improvement in the quality and capability of the PLAN’s frigate force, it nonetheless remains a distinctly limited design, certainly in terms of its size and armament but most especially in terms of its electronics outfit. The Chinese appear to recognize this fact and view the 054A as an intermediary design intended to play a specific, limited role in fleet defense.

–Notwithstanding its physical shortcomings, the Type 054A has performed well handling lower intensity long-range mission In this regard, it has arguably surpassed the capabilities of the French Lafayette-class frigate that influenced its original design. …