China launched three warships in one day on Christmas Eve 2021 as it expanded its naval construction strength. Designed for Thailand, Pakistan, and their own fleets, these ships are some of the country’s most advanced vessels.
Thailand will take a 071E landing platform dock (LPD) that it ordered in September 2019, while Pakistan and China have each received a Type 054 frigate. The warships were launched at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding yard near Shanghai on December 24.
The 071E LPD will be able to deploy helicopters and is expected to be used for patrol missions, logistics tasks, and disaster relief operations. It is reported that Thailand would use the warship to conduct naval transport missions. It could also be used for civilian purposes, such as disaster relief and humanitarian rescue missions.
The exported frigate is one of four such warships ordered by Pakistan in 2017 and 2018. The Pakistan Navy variant is fitted with an SR2410C radar, a 3D multifunction electronically scanned array radar, and the country commissioned the first of the vessels in early November. The Type 054A frigate is recognized as the backbone of the Chinese surface combatant fleet, with around 30 or so in active service.
China has more than 20 shipyards for commercial and naval construction, mostly built as part of China’s modernization drive that started back in 2015, with millions of dollars poured into the research and development equipment.
According to the Pentagon’s “2020 China Military Power Report”, China has the biggest navy in the world with an overall battle force of about 350 surface ships and submarines, including over 130 major surface combatants. The U.S. Navy’s battle force is just over 290 ships. However, the U.S. fleet comprises far more powerful and technologically advanced vessels, including a dozen or so nuclear-powered supercarriers.
China has commissioned at least eight destroyers and six corvettes this year, according to Chinese media. But bigger does not necessarily mean more powerful when it comes to battle fleets. The U.S. currently leads the world with 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, Britain operates two, including its brand new HMS Queen Elizabeth, while Russia owns a single carrier.
Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator, said China needed more expertise and highly skilled personnel to safeguard the country’s expanding interests at home and abroad.
“A big challenge for the Chinese navy in fulfilling these responsibilities is a lack of naval talent,” Song said. “The Chinese navy has to train more personnel who are capable of long-distance deepwater missions. It takes highly skilled service personnel to make the most of the warships and advanced weapons.”