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People's Liberation Navy - Hull Numbering System

Prior to December 2012, the PLAN used the hull numbering system described here. The new hull numbering system is not yet well understood.

Submarine Hull Numbers

The PLAN assigns 3-digit hull numbers to its submarines as follows:

  • Nuclear submarines have 4xx hull numbers
  • Conventional submarines have 2xx or3xx hull numbers

Vessel Hull Numbers

The PLAN assigns 3-digit hull numbers to its destroyers and frigates as follows:

  • Destroyers have 1xx hull numbers
  • Frigates have 5xx hull numbers

In addition, vessels above battalion leadergrade have 3-digit hull numbers. These include submarine chasers, minesweeper ships, serviceships, landing ships, and some escort boats. Small combatants have a 4-digit pennant number,the first digit of which signifies area subordination. Furthermore, company leader-gradeboats have 4-digit hull numbers. These include minesweeper boats, service ships, landing craft, missile speedboats, missile boats, and some escort boats. The system for hull numbers on auxiliaries consists of a 3-digit number preceded by two or more Chinese characters describing the ship's fleet and function. For example, "nanshui" is an SSF water tanker: The first character shows the fleet as follows:

  • "Bei" for North Sea Fleet
  • "Dong" for East Sea Fleet
  • "Nan" for South Sea Fleet

The second character shows the functionas follows:

  • "Jiao" for transport
  • "Jiu" for salvage
  • "Jun" for dredge
  • "Kang" for hospital
  • "Shui" for water tanker
  • "Tuo" for tug
  • "Xiu" for repair
  • "You" for oiler



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