A Type 054A frigate in the Gulf of Aden. (Internet Photo)
The newest frigate has entered the South Sea Fleet of the PLA Navy, reports our sister newspaper Want Daily.
Liuzhou is currently considered one of China's most advanced surface combat Type 054A vessels, with a stealth hull design with sloped surfaces and radar absorbent materials. Equipped with a medium-range air defense missile system, the vessel is capable of destroying air targets at a distance of up to . Although it is not as lethal as the Russian-built Sovremenny class and domestic destroyers, the new frigate still serves as a multi-role warship in the Chinese fleet.
Among 16 frigates in the same class and currently in commission, Liuzhou is the newest addition. As it has been assigned to the South Sea Fleet, based in Zhanjiang in Guangdong province, analysts believe its primary mission is to protect Chinese interests in the disputed South China Sea. The mainland and five other countries — Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei — have competing claims to the region's islands and atolls.
To prevent a full scale war in the region, Haixun 21, the first sea patrol vessel of China, was sent to the South China Sea and handed over to the Hainan Maritime Safety Administration.
To counter the encroaching threat of Haixun 21 and the surface combat vessels behind it, the Philippines sent marines to nine of the Spratly islands it controls in October. The country also purchased three additional helicopters from Italy.
Even though the 5,000-ton Haixun 21 can hardly be considered a naval vessel, it still imposes a huge threat to the 3,250-ton BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the largest vessel in the Philippine navy.