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Type 053 Jianghu-class frigates

The most numerous class of warships serving with the PLAN, the F18 Jianghu-class represents a modification of the Type 053H Jiangdong-class with SSM in place of SAM. The frigates carry high-powered ant-aircraft guns, air and surface search radar and depth charges for anti-submarine warfare.

The early variants of this small, obsolete frigate are now primarily useful for coastal patrol, given the absence of gunfire control radars and obsolete missiles. The fact that modern surface combatant ships have combat direction systems may not seem remarkable, but the Jianghu-class frigate does not seem to have such a system -- the ships lack a facility comparable to the combat information center in American ships.

The No. 701 Institute began to research the concept of a guided missile frigate specialized with both anti-air and some anti-ship capabilities. From 1966 to 1969, the conceptual design of the frigate involved a diesel/oil engine. The development of the ship was carried about by the Hutong shipyard, No. 701 Institute, and navy.

Development and construction of the frigate was almost completed in the mid-70s, until the primary mission of the frigate, which was anti-air, was changed to anti-ship due to the needs of the PLAN. Resultantly, the weapon systems of the frigate were modified. Instead of a fitting the frigate with anti-air missiles, the frigate was now re-equipped with anti-ship missiles and systems. Instead of twin 100mm cannons, the frigate was now equipped with a single-barreled 100mm cannon. By 1976, the newly re-oriented anti-ship frigate was finished and designated as the Type I anti-ship guided missile frigate.

Improvements to the Type I frigate were made in 1983. The two Shangyou No.1 missiles were replaced by eight Yingji No.9 guided missiles. The frigate was also equipped with a simple combat-intelligence-command system, a new electronic warfare system. The newly improved frigate was designated the Type II guided missile frigate.

The first four units of the 'Jianghu' class were laid down in 1973 and as of 2005 Chinese navy operated 30 of them. Two were exported to Egypt, two to Bangladesh and four to Thailand. There are three main versions: the 'Jianghu IIs' have a hangar and carry a helicopter 'Jianghu IIIs' have twin 100-mm gun turrets instead of single weapons. There are reports of severe equipment problems aboard these vessels. The stabilizers do not work, and the air-conditioning must be used sparingly to save the generators. The 100-mm guns are hand-loaded and on the 'Jianghu Is' they have no fire-control radar. Their SSMs are the Chinese copy of the elderly Soviet 'Styx'.

As many as five variants have been produced, with considerable variation in armament and electronics among units.

  • Type 53 Jianghu I Xiamen - 1 dual 100 mm gun mounts and 4 37 mm guns
  • Type 53H Jianghu II Xiamen - 2 dual 100 mm gun mounts and 2 37 mm guns
  • Type 53HT Jianghu III Huangshi - 8 C-801/YJ-1 SSM replace 2 C-201/HY-2 SSM
  • Type 53HT-H Jianghu IV Siping - intended primarily for ASW, a helicopter facility replaces half the armament.
  • Type 53HT Jianghu V Zigong - the least expensive and least powerful variant feature a reduction in missiles and no helicopter facilities.

While sources agree that a total of 23 Jianghu I units were built, sources disagree on reported pennant numbers and names for later Jianghu I units, with a total of 25 names and/or pennant numbers being reported. Many pennant numbers were changed in 1979. Curiously, sources also disagree on the nomenclature for different variants, and the assignment of specific units to each variant.

In early 1999 China deployed a pair of Jianghu-class frigates to the Mischief Reef area in the South China Sea. The two frigates were spotted moving around the Chinese-occupied Mischief, Fiery Cross and Johnson atolls. Although publicly expressing concern, the Phillipine government did not formally protest this deployment, since the presence of such warships is allowed by international law in high seas, even if they are within another country's exclusive economic zone. In November 1998 the Philippines protested China's intrusion into the Mischief Reef, a part of the Spratlys group of islands which is claimed in whole or in part by Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, the Philippines and China.

Thailand has purchased four Chinese Jianghu-class FFGs and two improved Type IV frigates. The frigates, two being of the Chinese-made F25T class, were designed and built by the China State Shipbuilding Corp in Shanghai. The type IV frigates are HTMS Taksin (delivered in November 1995) and HTMS Naresuan. The four Jianghu-class FFGs are the HTMS Bang Pakong, HTMS Chao Phraya (delivered in 1991), HTMS Saiburi, and HTMS Kraburi . The ships were purchased at "friendship prices" of 2,000 million baht each, compared to the 8,000 million baht price tag for Western-built frigates.

Apparently, these frigates proved less than impressive to the Thai Navy. The quality of workmanship of the frigate was said to be inferior, and considerable rework was needed to bring the vessels up to acceptable standards. The ability of the ships to resist battle damage was extremely limited, and damage control facilities were virtually non-existent. Fire-suppression systems were rudimentary, and it appeared that were the hull breached rapid flooding would quickly lead to the loss of the ship.

As of 2000 it appeared that the four Chinese Type 053 Jianghu-class planned may have been canceled or delayed due to the money spent on the Agosta 90B submarines. It has also been reported that a Jianwei-II class frigate has been ordered by Pakistan. At least one if not as many as four of the Jianwei-II ships were built for Pakistan's Navy to replace four US warships, but budgetary constraints have delayed the delivery.

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