The three-hull design is more heavily armed than the American ship that inspired it.
China can’t seem to make anything of their own!
A new frigate design being built for China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy bears a striking resemblance to the U.S. Navy’s littoral combat ship. The design, as reported by Jane’s Defense Weekly, uses a three-hull trimaran design and is more heavily armed than the Independence-class LCS ships.
A model of the ship design was being exhibited by the China Shipbuilding Trading Company at the IDEX 2017 arms show in Abu Dhabi. According to JDW, the ship displaces 2,450 tons and has a length of 465 feet. The ship is powered by diesel engines powering an electric propulsion system, giving it a cruising speed of 25 knots and the ability to sprint between 30 and 35 knots. It has a crew of more than 100.
The ship is impressively armed for its small size, packing a 76-millimeter gun in the bow, with a field of 16 or 32 vertical launch missile silos behind it. It also has two box launchers of four anti-ship missiles each, two 30-millimeter close-in weapon systems, and a pair of decoy rocket launchers for deflecting incoming missiles. The ship is built to support up to two helicopters with two hangars and a large helicopter landing pad.
The ship is very, very similar to the U.S. Navy’s Independence-class Littoral Combat Ships. The Independence class is roughly the same weight but 50 feet shorter and with typically thirty percent fewer crew. It is also capable of much greater speeds, “sprinting” for short distances at up to 45 knots. The baseline version of the U.S. Navy’s trimarans have only a single, smaller 57-millimeter gun and two 30-millimeter guns. A new, upgunned version of the ship adding Hellfire anti-surface missiles and a new over-the-horizon anti-ship missile may begin construction next year.
It’s unclear why the Chinese Navy would want these ships. China already has a monohull frigate class, the Type 054A Jiangkai II. While the Type 054As are fifty percent larger in tonnage than the new trimaran design, the assembly line is already up and running having already produced 23 of the frigates. Trimaran hulls offer increased stability in high seas and wider hulls to accommodate side-by-side aircraft hangars. This suggests that aviation—both manned and unmanned—is going to be a bigger part of the Chinese Navy’s surface fleet of the future.
This is not the first Chinese trimaran. The two relatively new Type 917 salvage and rescue ships serving with the North and East Sea Fleets also sport a three hull configuration.