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Type 815A Dongdiao-class Electronic Reconnaissance Ship (AGI)

A new missile tracking ship, similar to the training ship Zhenghe, was reported building at the Qiuxin SY in Shanghai as of 1999. The 6,096-tonne ship has an overall length of 130 meters, an overall beam of 16.4 meters, and a hull draft of 6.5 meters. The ship has a top speed of 20 knots and can carry a crew of 250 and one medium helicopter. The Dongdiao-class is armed with one 37 millimeter and two 14.5 millimeter guns. After entering service in the latter half of 1999, the ship went through major upgrade several years later, with parabolic antennas replaced by three large radomes. In addition to collecting electronic intelligence, this class is also tasked to perform ballistic missile tracking.

Using a long main deck of the ship, the main deck is extended to the helicopter deck, both to increase the freeboard height, but also increased the space within the ship. The fore of the ship has a little sheer, the front section also has a fender wall, these measures are to reduce the exposure of the deck to the waves, so that the ship is suitable for ocean sailing.

Type 815 was initially named as Dong-Diao (meaning East Investigate) 232, but subsequently, the name was changed to North Star after a new naming convention adopted by PLAN.

The reconnaissance ship "EAST-232" is China's newest dedicated intelligence-gathering ship, supposedly commissioned in the second half of 1999, with an obvious exterior feature - an eye-catching mainmast and three satellite communication antennas. From the ball antenna and a variety of electronic equipment to see the characteristics of the ship's main task may be to carry out electronic signal intelligence monitoring and analysis. It may also include missile trajectory measurement and tracking during tactical ballistic missile testing. "East 232" ship increased helicopter deck and hangar, making China's intelligence gathering ship for the first time with the ability of helicopter use.

"East 232" electronic reconnaissance ship full load displacement of 6,000 tons, 130 meters long, 16.4 meters wide, 6.5 meters draft, fitted with two diesel engines, biaxial propulsion, the maximum speed of about 20, the ship also fitted with a 37 mm Cannon and two 25mm guns.

After year 2000, an improved version appeared, designated as Type 815A, and the most obvious external visual difference between Type 815A and earlier Type 815 is that the former has a different mast somewhat similar to a pagoda shape, and the sheer line is curved at a greater angle.

In early 2000 the new Electronic Reconnaissance Ship Dongdiao [hull number 232] turned up near the Japanese Coast. On 02 March 2000 a fleet of Chinese naval vessels was activating its training exercises in a central area of the East China Sea within Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the Senkaku islets (or Diaoyu in Chinese) that belong to Ishigaki City in Japan's southernmost island prefecture of Okinawa.

In 1999, a Chinese naval fleet lined up with newly introduced large-size vessels showed up in Japan's EEZ waters for the first time, and carried out training twice. On 05 February 2000, a patrol plane of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Fleet Air Wing 5 (headquartered at Naha) confirmed the Dongdiao 232, a Chinese missile tracking support ship, in the waters northwest of Amami Oshima Island. It was the first time the Self-Defense Forces had confirmed that ship.

The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned three vessels, including a Dongdiao-class general intelligence ship, into its South Sea Fleet in late December 2015. The vessels were commissioned 26 December 2015 in a ceremony held at an unspecified naval port, said to be in the South China Sea. Two of the ships inducted that day include a supply ship and a survey vessel.

A Dongdiao-class vessel named Neptune was launched at the Hudong Zhonghua Shipbuilding Group yard in Shanghai in March 2014. The Neptune is the third known Dongdiao-class vessel in service with the PLAN. The first, Beijixing, is based in the service's East Sea Fleet, while the second ship, Tianwangxing, is based in the South Sea Fleet.

The commissioning of the Neptune will further bolster the PLAN's sea-going intelligence collection and missile range instrumentation capabilities. Recent developments suggest that Beijing is stepping up its naval intelligence gathering operations amid a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

The North Sea Fleet of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned another intelligence-gathering ship on 10 January 2017 at a ceremony in Qingdao. The 6,000-ton vessel, named Kaiyangxing, is the fourth of the Dongdiao class to be commissioned in the past two years, and was built at Shanghais Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard. The CNS Kaiyangxing, or Mizar, with hull code 856, was delivered to a combat support flotilla of the North Sea Fleet on Tuesday morning in Qingdao, Shandong province.

The Kaiyangxing is capable of conducting all-weather, round-the-clock reconnaissance on multiple and different targets, the report said, adding that the ship is so sophisticated that only a few countries, such as the United States and Russia, are capable of developing it.

The Kaiyangxing is a Type 815A electronic reconnaissance ship, which has a full displacement of 6,000 metric tons and a maximum speed of 20 knots, or 37 kilometers per hour, according to the Modern Navy report, which added that it is equipped with three small-caliber naval guns.

An expert from China's shipbuilding industry who wished not to be named told China Daily that the US Navy deploys at least 15 intelligence collection ships, while China still lags behind in this regard. "The fact that we are facing an increasing number of difficulties when we safeguard our maritime interests means that we require more reconnaissance ships to support the PLA Navy's operations on the open sea," he said. "In addition, our future carrier battle groups also need such vessels that can provide various kinds of theater intelligence."

Six Dongdiao ships were then in service with PLAN, the first commissioned in 1999. They are classified as Type 815A, though each subsequent vessel had adjustments made for mass and structure. The ships are evenly distributed among the North, East and South Sea PLAN fleets. The ships' spherical domes, which shield dish antennas that collect and intercept radio signals, give the vessels a distinct profile. The Kaiyangxing differs in that it has a cylindrical radome with a flat top above the bridge.

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