Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Type 022 - Construction Continues

Feng passed along a tip tonight, something I presume he will get to as time allows. Check out these three pictures from Guangxi Guijiang Shipyards where it appears there is Type 022 construction ongoing.

Why is this important? Because it means Type 022 construction has shifted from the large shipyards to the small shipyards. We already knew these shipyards were involved in Coast Guard and maritime police vessels, but this is the first I have seen naval vessels being constructed at the smaller shipyards.

Remember, China has 65 shipyards - and it has always been a concern that China could tap into this capacity to rapidly expand the size of their naval force. The first step for that happening though would be proof that the smaller shipyards would be capable of building naval vessels. This appears to be the first sign of such proof.

It is unclear how many of these smaller shipyards are producing Type 022s, but it is unlikely that production is limited to just Guangxi Guijiang Shipyards. The good news is that production rates at the smaller shipyards is much lower, but the bad news is that there are so many small shipyards we are unlikely to learn about them building naval vessels through open source information - meaning only the DoD will know for sure. Even if the build rate is only 2 per year at these smaller shipyards, China could easily have over 100 Type 022s built and in service by 2015.

As an educated guess, I think the final number of Type 022s will likely be around 100 or less though. The reason I say that is because there is some evidence, albeit limited and unconfirmed with pictures as of yet, that the next generation catamaran fast attack craft (or Type 022 replacement) has already begun construction. It is said to be similarly armed but of different design (larger) and is expected to allow for greater endurance than the Type 022s. The new version is said to include shorter range missiles but also include space for loading and unloading equipment in the aft of the vessel.

I'll believe it when I see it, but it would be a noteworthy development if true. Would a corvette catamaran make sense as a minelayer or sonar picket, or would an aft hatch be utilized for small boat operations? Lots of questions, I'll wait and see.

Feng has some other information to pass along regarding Chinese mine warfare developments, but I think I will let him address those developments himself as time permits.

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