Photo by Artyom Ivanov\TASS via Getty Images
  • China's naval force is growing at an incredible rate, not just in size but also in combat capability. It's reportedly growing faster than any other great-power navy.
  • The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is fielding a variety of new warships and submarines, as well as new weapons, to tip the scales in its favor in the region.
  • Here are some of the vessels the PLAN is adding to its expanding arsenal.
  • For more stories go to Business Insider South Africa.

The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is one of the largest naval forces in the world, and it continues to grow. More importantly, though, China is rapidly building and fielding increasingly capable naval vessels, weapons that could tip the scales in the US-dominated Pacific.

The Chinese PLAN has probably benefited the most from the country's major military-modernization plan, the goal of which is to transform the Chinese armed services into a world-class fighting force capable of defeating another great power.

In the mid-1990s, China's naval forces were weak, consisting of an almost entirely defenseless collection of just under 60 destroyers and frigates and 80 attack submarines, most of which were old diesel-electric Soviet models. The Chinese navy also had a few nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines, but they were extremely noisy, Rand Corp. said in a report on the development of the PLAN over the past few decades.

But the nature of China's navy is changing, both in terms of size and capability as the PLAN equips its ever-expanding fleet with more advanced weapons and sensors.

China has been churning ships out at an incredible rate. In 2016 and 2017, China commissioned 18 and 14 ships, respectively. (Some other observers have put that number even higher.) The US Navy commissioned only five and eight ships during those years. As of last year, China had more than 300 ships, far more than the US Navy. The Center for Strategic and International Studies predicts that China could have as many as 430 surface ships and 100 submarines within the next 15 years, if not sooner.

Here is what China has been and is adding to its naval arsenal, according to the Pentagon and Reuters, citing analysts.

Conventional and nuclear submarines.

Photo by Artyom Ivanov\TASS via Getty Images

The Pentagon expects China's submarine force to grow to 78 by 2020, according to the Department of Defense's (DOD) 2018 China-military-power report. Modernizing the submarine force remains a priority for the PLAN.

Type 022 Houbei missile boats.


The Chinese PLAN has at least 60 of these stealthy guided-missile fast-attack ships, according to the Pentagon.

Type 056 Jiangdao corvettes.

"The PLAN is augmenting its littoral warfare capabilities, especially in the South China Sea and East China Sea, with high-rate production of the Jiangdao-class corvettes," DOD said. Reuters reported that the PLAN has already taken delivery of more than 40 of these ships, with as many as 60 expected to join the fleet.

Type 054 Jiangkai frigates.

China has commissioned more than two dozen of the advanced Type 054A frigates, Reuters reported, and the country is believed to be working on an even more capable variant.

Type 052 Luyang destroyers.

Photo by Artyom Ivanov\TASS via Getty Images

The Chinese navy is believed to have anywhere between seven and 10 of these vessels in service with more on the way. Western analysts suspect that China could have as many as 20 of these ships in service by 2020, Reuters reported.

Type 055 Renhai destroyers.

Photo by Artyom Ivanov\TASS via Getty Images

China showed off the first of the new Renhai-class destroyers - large, heavily-armed vessels considered cruisers by Western standards - at its recent naval parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PLAN. Reuters reported that at least 12 of these ships could be in service within the next decade.

Type 901 support ship.


The PLAN's relatively new supply ship is the largest in Asia and designed to strengthen China's carrier capabilities. A retired admiral previously told Chinese media that this ship could double the combat radius of a carrier group.

China launched its second Type 901 vessel in 2017, according to Reuters. Other support ships include the Type 903 replenishment ship and the Type 904 general-stores ship.

Type 075 helicopter-landing ship.


China is building new helicopter carriers loosely based on the US Navy's amphibious assault ships, which launch helicopters and vertical takeoff and landing jets. China is expected to eventually add at least three of these ships to its naval forces.

Type 071 Yuzhao amphibious transport ship.

China has five of these ships in service with more believed to be in the works. The fifth one was commissioned last year. The Pentagon believes production of this ship will complement efforts to produce the Type 075.

Type 001 aircraft carrier.

China has one operational aircraft carrier, the Type 001 Liaoning. Another carrier, the Type 001A, has completed sea trials and is expected to be commissioned this year. A third carrier believed to be a significant advancement over its predecessors is in the works.

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