The Guangzhou, a Type 056 corvette in review. (Internet photo)
While most Western military experts have focused their attention on the production of the Shenyang J-15, China's first carrier-based fighter, and the launch of larger surface combat vessels including two Type 054A frigates and one Type 052D destroyer, the official website of the People's Liberation Army Navy said that the Type 056 Jiangdao-class corvette is in fact the class of ship of which the nation produced the most in 2013.
The Beijing-based Sina Military Network said ten Type 056 Jiangdao-class corvettes had been launched this year to replace the older Type 037 submarine chasers. Mounted with two triple torpedo tubes, the Type 056 is designed to conduct anti-submarine operations within China's exclusive economic zone. Combined with SJG-206 low frequency towed array sonar, the Type 056 is capable of directing anti-submarine helicopters against enemy submarines.
Currently, the Type 056 incorporates a helipad at the stern for a light helicopter. The Sina Military Network stated that the Russian-built Kamov Ka-28 anti-submarine helicopter will be chosen to serve with the corvette in the near future. The Ka-28 helicopter is able to detect submarines at a depth of 500 meters and at running at speeds up to 75 kilometers per hour. However, only the Harbin Z-9E helicopter can be operated from the helipad of the Type 056 before the organic helicopter support facility is mounted aboard the vessel.
The Z-9E helicopter is unable to carry as much anti-submarine weaponry and equipment as the Ka-28, according to the website. The Ka-28 can be armed with one 533 millimeter homing torpedo, one torpedo rocket, ten PLAB 250-120 bombs and two OMAB-25-12D bombs. Unlike the Ka-28, which can detect enemy submarine with its own VGS-3 dipping sonar, the Z-9E cannot carry sonar and weapons simultaneously. For this reason, two helicopters, one for detecting and the other for striking must be dispatched for anti-submarine missions.
The Sina Military Network suggested that the V750 unmanned helicopter designed by Weifang Tianxiang Aerospace Industry Company may be a better choice to operate alongside the Z-9E aboard the Type 056 because the helipad cannot carry two manned helicopters. With a range of 500 km and a speed of 161 km/h, the V750 can increase the combat capability of the Type 56 by two in combination with the Z-9E. Since the V750 cannot carry 324 mm torpedoes due to its small size, and its primary mission is to locate enemy submarines.
Designed as a part of the PLA Navy's anti-submarine warfare system, Sina Military Network said Type 056 corvettes are not likely to be used in independent operations. Instead, they will be used with support from other vessels such as Type 054A frigates or other surface vessels. After the launch of the first Type 056 vessel in 2012, the Bangladesh Navy has already purchased two ships from China. The Royal Thai Navy and the Nigerian Navy are also potential buyers of the Type 056s.