China is building two new advanced Type 054Bs frigates, SCMP reports

According to The South China Morning Post, images on social media indicate that China is making progress on two new advanced frigates.
Christopher McFadden
The ship on the left is allegedly the new Type 054B frigate.


According to The South China Morning Post (SCMP), China is close to launching two new advanced frigates. Called Type 054Bs, these ships are likely destinated to join Chinese aircraft carrier groups. Supposedly multi-role frigates, SCMP reports, their hulls are close to completion according to photos circulating on Chinee social media.

Bigger and badder

According to military analysts, these new frigates are effectively "bigger and badder" versions of the existing Type 054A in service for the Chinese navy. If images are believed, the ships are currently under construction at the Huangpu-Wenchong Shipyard, a subsidiary of China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) in Guangzhou and one of the Chinese Navy’s key contractors.

“The shape of the bulkhead board and the island control tower suggest that the vessel is a mini version of the Type 055 destroyer,” said Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at Taiwan’s Naval Academy in Kaohsiung. SCMP reports that the missile destroyer referred to is the Renhai-class, which has a displacement of over 12,000 tonnes and is stealth-guided. “It’s an entirely new frigate – not just faster and bigger than the Type 054A, but it has also adopted some new advanced technologies from the Type 055 cruiser," he added.

The Type 055 destroyer has an integrated mast and powerful radar systems, making it the "bodyguard" of Chinese aircraft carriers. After the US Navy's Zumwalt class, it is considered the world's second-most powerful destroyer. If reports are accurate, China plans to launch two Type 054B frigates this year. One will be launched in Guangzhou, and the other at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding in Shanghai, a CSSC subsidiary.

Based on satellite images, some military experts estimate that the hull of Type 054B is approximately 482 feet (147 meters) long, 60 feet (18 meters) wide, and has a displacement of 6,000 tonnes, making it more than 10 meters longer than the Type 051A.

“With bigger displacement than the Type 054A, the Type 054B will be equipped with more powerful weapons,” Lu added. “I expect it would be equipped with an advanced onboard rotating phased-array radar system and high-power microwave, or even ship-borne drones, as well as other new technologies used by the Type 055 cruiser," he said.

Anti-submarine frigates

The Type 054B will, according to SCMP, be able to carry two Z-20 anti-submarine helicopters. It will partner with Type 055 and Type 052D destroyers for anti-submarine operations, according to Zhou Chenming, a researcher at the Yuan Wang military science and technology think tank in Beijing. “The original Type 054 and Type 054A are older and too slow to catch up with other accompanying warships in the new carrier strike group,” Zhou said.

“The two Type 054Bs are expected to be launched by the end of this year,” he said. “If the sea trials go smoothly, then the PLA Navy may order more,” he added. The PLA plans to construct at least four aircraft carrier strike groups by 2030, making it the world's second-largest modern blue-water navy after the US. The Type 054B frigate, Type 052D destroyer, and powerful Type 055 cruiser serve as the primary escort vessels for its aircraft carriers.

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