As mentionned in the last post, there are a lot of big things expected in 2008. With the 3rd shipyard (the military one) in JN's new Changxin location going online, we are looking at a new wave of building this year for destroyers and diesel subs. So, what am I expecting to see this year exactly?
The one that is probably most anticipated is the aircraft carrier. Most people suspect that we will see this in JiangNan shipyard. I don't have a problem with that, but will we actually see any meaningful pictures of this indigenous carrier this coming year? I do believe that many of the suppliers have already delivered the necessary components. I also believe that the ship will start construction in 2008, but we might not see anything useful for another 2 years. What about Varyag? We've been waiting for progress ever since the second half of 2005 when the ship was first painted in PLAN colour. Since then, we've seen some progress, but this year hasn't brought about that much changes. The conventional wisdom is that China bought Varyag for study and for training/preparing a future naval air wing. As time goes by, I have more and more doubts toward latter. I almost feel like Varyag is being displayed as a decoy of some sort. It is there to grab people's attention on this old ship, and away from works on China's first indigenous carrier. Obviously, I'm not expecting much progress in Varyag in 2008.
What about Destroyers? All signs are pointing to laying down of the successor to 052C in the beginning of next year. There is a lot of speculations on what would be size and armament on this ship. Many people have also speculated it to be the first class of massed produced Destroyers after Luda. While I can make guesses on how many missiles I will see on this 052D class, it probably isn't all that important. I guess we will definitely seem more VLS cells, more stealthy hull and possibly more advanced ASW parts. I think what we can safely guess is that 2 052Ds will be under work next year at JN. If we use 052C guideline, we might see 1 of the 052D be launched by the end of the year (if work starts at the beginning of the year). Questions that I have right now includes:
1. What kind of propulsion will be used? Still CODOG and COGAG? Still using licensed production of DA-80 or QC-185 or QC-260?
2. Will it have VLS for LACM/AShM? I'm thinking no, but it will be kind of interesting to see what kind of LACM and AShM it will carry and how many it can carry.
3. Will it carry shorter ranged AShM? Outside of Type 730 CIWS, will we see additional short range defense like HH-7?
4. How many VLS cells to expect and will they use common VLS? I'm guessing 64 or 72 and they probably will still be the same VLS as on 052C.
5. Upgraded sensors? What kind of changes will we see in the electronics? It will be interesting to see whether we just get the same sensors (upgraded inside) or completely new sensors. Whether or not some of the newly tested sensors on 891 will go on there.
What about frigates? This year, we have seen that all 4 initial 054A have been launched and commissioned. Sadly, we did not see a second batch of 054A. Although it's not as talked about, Huangpu shipyard also had a huge expansion this past year. While the dock was being used for 022s and the ocean tugging ship, 054A was put on the back burners. I guess that showed the important of these auxiliary ships, but also that PLAN wanted to test these new ships out before building the second batch. With the Huangpu expansion, we might see more 054 series coming out in the future in HP than HD. I would imagine that 054A will begin construction again at both HD and HP next year. We might see another 4 built next year. Although, it will be interesting to see what kind of modifications they make. Here are some of my questions:
1. What kind of propulsion? Still using CODAD and change to CODOG? We know that they've already approached the Russians on UGT-15000 and got a new generation of MTU diesel engines. Will this CODOG combination be on the next batch of 054A or a later batch? Certainly, they can continue to use the previous configuration. In fact, the kind of propulsion used could very well tell us the purpose of the ship. CODAD would indicate the AAW focused 054A. CODOG would indicate a more general focus later variant with more ASW capability built in.
2. Change in sensors? Are we going to continue to see the existing set of sensors or the new set that is currently undergoing tests on 891. Certainly, the new MFR on 891 would add cost + capability to 054A.
3. Upgrades in ASW? Are we going to see TAS finally on 054 series? It's surprising that they haven't put it on 054A yet.
4. Changes to VLS? the current configuration works pretty well and seems to be quite compact, but are we going to see possibly 48 in the future or maybe common VLS?
What about 022s? We've seen an astonishing number of 022s come out this year. I originally estimated that the 022s will stop production by 2011. However, it seems like 022 production will finish as early as next year if this production rate continues. The production almost confuses me, because PLAN has not shown this kind of urgency with any of its other recent platforms. It brings us to the next point. It looks like 022 is replacing 021/024/037 in the FAC/patrol kind of role. How many does PLAN really need. I mentionned 100 as the number a year ago and was laughed at by certain people. It now appears China might get even more than that if the production like this continues until 2010. Will 022 also be used in the sub-chaser kind of role like 037 is? We've already seen target ships based on 022. Will we see some kind of sub-chaser using catamaran hull? Or will we see ASW corvette like in Project 20380 by the Russians or Project 28 by the Indians? It seems like something like that is needed between 022 and 054A class. But will it come out now as we expect? That could certainly be used to replace Jiangwei/Jianghu class.
What about amphibious platform? Production of 072 and 073 class seem to have stopped now. According to Richard Fisher, there are going to be 150 of the 074A Yubai class. That will certainly be important in replacing the 079s. The most visible new class is obviously the 071 LPD. We've seen the first one joining service in SSF as 998. We've yet to see work on a second unit. We know that Dalian and HD shipyard both competed for the first 071 contract with HD winning. It kind of made sense, because HD generally builds ships faster. I believe we will see another unit of 071 being built next year and that will be done at Dalian. At the same time, HD will probably start construction of China's first LHD. We've talked about the challenges surrounding a Chinese LHD in the past, but there does seem to be enough political and military will at this point for a unit of this class. And I do hope that we will finally see the LCACs for 071 coming out next year.
What about submarines? We will most likely continue to see more 093s and 094s coming out. But we probably won't see the actual numbers until GE updates. Conventional subs is also likely to see more units this year, because JN shipyard will be available for it again. We were seeing 3 to 4 039s launched per year when it was finally in mass production. We have seen either the 2nd or the 3rd unit of 039A Yuan class under construction recently. It looks like PLAN has finally sorted out enough issues in Yuan to mass produce it. I'm guessing we will see 3-6 039As coming out a year for the next couple of years. And after that, we will see the successor to the 039 class. Probably something in the league of U-214/Scorpene. 039A to me is still something that is sort of an experimental class for technology to be used in that next generation Diesel sub.
As for the remaining part of the fleet, I'm looking for the following:
1. more MCM units in the 804 and 805 class
2. Yuanwang 2, 5 and 6 joining service -> 2, 3, 5 and 6 as the Yuanwang ships
3. More ELINT ship in the mode of 991
4. 1 more regiment of JH-7A to give 5 naval regiments of JH-7A
5. H-6K coming into service
6. Y-7 ASW variant (I guess it will do the same job as P-3C)
7. more units of different Y-8 variants
8. New supersonic ramjet missile in the class of Onyx/HF-3, except faster/better range (supposedly ready, we just haven't seen yet). Also other missiles getting finally unveiled like the LACM that was tested on 052C recently and more advanced submarine launched missiles.