Russia & China Building Littoral Warships
As the USA proceeds with its Littoral Combat Ship program, other nations are building less versatile and less expensive craft for littoral warfare and patrol roles. In addition to Sweden’s famed Visby Class corvettes (recently upgraded to a “Visby Plus” configuration – see PDF) and Norway’s smaller Skjold (Shield) Class air cushion catamarans, DID reader Lee Wahler notes that the Russians are introducing a new corvette class that could compete with the LCS for export dollars. Meanwhile, the Chinese are introducing advanced wave-piercing catamaran designs into their own littoral fleet.
While the Chinese ships are not peer competitors to the USA’s Littoral Combat Ships, they could be key opponents in a future Taiwan Straits scenario. The Russian Project 2038.0 Corvettes, on the other hand, could provide serious export competition for nations with lower budgets, or impaired access to advanced US technologies.
GlobalSecurity.org adds valuable background by noting that on July 24, 2004, RIA Novosti quoted Russian Navy Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Kuroyedov as saying that “The firstborn of our surface shipbuilding is the corvette – a new multifunctional littoral combat ship, which combines qualities of anti-submarine ships and missile carriers.”
To that end, National Defense magazine’s July 2006 article notes that Russia is introducing its Project 2038.0 Steregushchiy Class Corvettes, buying 3-5 vessels and offering the class to international buyers. In addition to being smaller (100m and 2,100t vs. 132m and 2,800t) than the US LCS, the ships will feature a monohull design rather than the Geeral Dynamics/Austal team’s trimaran, diesel engines instead of gas turbines, 30 knots top speed instead of 50, standard fit-out instead of mission modules (a major divergence that significantly changes lifetime performance), and other key differences.
The estimated price for the Russian class is $60 million per vessel for its initial deliveries to the fleet, though AMI International VP Richard E. Dorn estimates that export versions are likely to go for $120-180 million. In comparison, the USA’s modular LCS ships are expected to cost about $250-300 million each.
GlobalSecurity.org reports that the name “Steregushchy” commemorates the heroic exploit of two sailors from the torpedo boat Steregushchy during the Russian-Japanese War of 1905. Surrounded by the enemy navy, the sailors preffered death to captivity: they went down to the hold and scuttled the ship. National Defense Magazine’s article notes that the first-of-class Steregushchiy (“Guarding”) will commission in 2007, the Soobrazitelnyi will follow in 2008, and the Boikyy will follow in 2009.
Meanwhile, SinoDefence.com details the Chinese Type 022 FAC (Fast Attack Craft) littoral warfare ship, featuring an advanced wave-piercing catamaran design, missile armament, and measures to reduce its radar profile.
The first-of-class boat (pennant number 2208) was reportedly launched at Shanghai-based Qiuxin Shipyard in April 2004. A number of Chinese shipyards across the country have been involved in their construction, and SinoDefence reports that at least 4 units have already been delivered to the PLA Navy, with more expected.
Details regarding its exact weaponry and capabilities remain unclear at this time in unclassified circles.
- UDN News (Oct 7/09) – (Title and article in Chinese). Upshot is that in response to the Type 022s, Taiwan is designing and will build a 900-ton coastal-defense missile catamaran with stealthed features, and 8 Hsiung Feng III anti-ship missiles.
- Information Dissemination (Aug 23/09) – An interesting article of a PLAN exercise. Which illustrated the techniques used by a Type 022 Chinese flotilla against a force of larger, sophisticated opponents.