Xuchang (pennant number: 536), the 24th hull of the Type 054A missile frigate, was officially commissioned into service by the PLA Navy South Sea Fleet at Zhanjiang Naval Base on 23 June.
Also known as ‘Jiangkai-II’ class in its NATO reporting name, Type 054A is the most capable frigate design in service with the PLA Navy. Its most distinctive weapon includes two 16-cell vertical launch systems (VLS) firing the HHQ-16 (Chinese copy of the Russian SA-N-12 ‘Grizzly’)) semi-active radar-homing air-defence missile. The vessel is also equipped with two Type 1130 11-barrelled 30-mm close-in weapon systems (CIWS), eight YJ-83 anti-ship missiles (AShM), two 6-cell 240 mm anti-submarine rocket launchers, and two 3-cell 324 mm torpedo launchers.
Most of Type 054A’s sensors are of Russian origin, including an H/LJQ-366 (Chinese copy of the MR331 Mineral-ME ‘Band Stand’) AShM fire-control radar, four Chinese copies of the MR90 ‘Front Dome’ SAM targeting radar, an H/LJQ-382 (Chinese copy of the Fregat-M2EM ‘Top Plate’) 3D air search radar, and an H/SJD-307 (Chinese copy of the MGK-335EM-03) hull-mounted medium-frequency sonar. In addition, the vessel is also believed to be equipped with towed array sonar system and variable depth sonar (VDS) for anti-submarine warfare.
The first-of-class was introduced in 2008, with as many as 36 hulls planned to replace the large number of ageing Type 053H (‘Jianghu’ class) frigates introduced in the 1970s—90s.
Type 054A has been constructed at two shipyards, the Shanghai-based Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) Co, Ltd. and the Guangzhou Huangpu Shipbuilding Ltd.
Xuchang (536) was launched at the Guangzhou Huangpu Shipyard on 30 May 2016. At least another three hulls of the same class have been subsequently launched and are expected to enter service later this year or in early 2018. Production of the frigate is expected to continue until 2020. China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) is reportedly developing a successor designated Type 054B, possibly featuring a more advanced universal VLS similar to that onboard the Type 052D (‘Luyang-III’ class) missile destroyer.