Sunday, January 20, 2013

China's recent expansion of Civilian Maritime Force

One of the things that I've been really focusing on in the past few months is the recent dramatic expansion of China's civilian maritime force. Much of this is caused by the border disputes with Japan, Vietnam and Phillipines. I think another part of this is the Chinese government supporting its domestic shipbuilding industry during the recent downturn in the global shipbuilding market. Before we start, here is a refresher course on what each of the agencies are about.

First, let us focusing on the expansion of CMS (Chinese Maritime Surveillance), which is beneficiary of the majority of the new cutters. From 2008 to 2011, CMS received 11 new large cutters with one of 3000+ ton class (Haijian-50), two of 1500+ ton class (84, 15) and 4 of 1000+ ton class (75、23、66、26). After that, we received the news 36 new cutters of 600 to 1500 ton for provincial CMS. Table below shows which provinces are getting them and where the cutters are built at and for how much.

Looking at this list, you can see that HP and WC are building the large cutters of 1000+ and 1500+ class, whereas the smaller cutters of 600 ton class are being built by less known shipyards like Guijiang, Huanghai, Tianjin, Xijiang, Chongqing, Nanhuang and Fuman. It's interesting that so many of the not well known smaller shipyards are involved in the process. Out of these, only Guijiang and possible Xijiang+Tianjin have really built cutters or auxiliary ships for PLAN. The cost of the cutters range from 53 million RMB ($8.5 million) for a 600 ton cutter at a smaller shipyard to 126 million RMB ($20 million) for a 1500 ton cutter at HP shipyard. Cost also varied based on the number of cutters that province has on order with the particular shipyard. Looks like each provincial CMS held some kind of RFP by itself.

On top of these new ships to be built in the period up to 2015, we have seen 11 PLAN ships converted and transferring to CMS in the past year. They include decommissioned 051 ships (131, 162), 814 Minelayer, North Sea Tug 710, Ice breaker 723, 852 ELINT ship and several auxiliary ships. So there is a variety of ships that are entering CMS for different roles.

On top of this, the bidding for a fresh wave of CMS ships have been decided or still ongoing. They include 2 12000 ton cutters to be built by JN shipyard, 4 5500 ton + 5 4000 ton cutters by WC shipyard and 4 5000 ton + 5 4000 ton cutters by HP shipyard. WC agreed to those 9 cutters for a total of 2.5 billion RMB ($400 million USD). There are 6 3500 ton cutters that have yet to be decided. The table below shows an estimate of 1000+ ton for different agencies by ocean districts. About 2/3 of those ships will be serving in CMS.

Looking at this list, the next largest bloc belongs to FLEC. Similar to CMS, it has also been getting many converted ships from PLAN. The largest of which is YuZheng-88, which was converted from the 888 replenishment ship. Currently, only one major cutter and a bunch of smaller 300-ton cutters are on order for FLEC. However, plans have been drawn up for 11 3500-ton class and 3 1500-ton class ships. Outside of CMS, we've also seen FLEC most often in disputed areas around Diaoyu/Senkaku islands.

Next on the list is Haiguan (General administration of customs), which has historically been the weakest of the 5 branches. It is also getting major upgrades. From the most recent news, it is getting 3 new 1500 ton class and 9 new 600 ton class cutters for a total of 1.8 billion RMB ($300 million). Interestingly enough, the speed and design requirements for these cutters are higher than the other cutters. The 600-ton cutter is suppose to reach over 30 knots with aluminum superstructure. The 1500-ton cutter is suppose to reach over 25 knots with two pumpjet driven propulsion. Most of the CMS ships only have speed requirements of 18 to 20 knots.

The last one on the list is Haijing (Maritime Police). Traditionally, these cutters have been the most armored ones. The charts below actually show the production of the most common type of Haijing ship the Type 618 and 618B cutters (in 600 ton class). They are mostly built by Guijiang shipyard. Going forward, it seems like they have a small number of larger cutters in 2000 and 3000-ton class planned, but are definitely not as ambitious as the other ones.

The one I did not talk about here is MSA, which in the past have had the most personnel, but really don't seem to be receiving many ships recently. Overall, the expansion of CMS and FLEC has really been impressive. Huangpu shipyard has been so busy with cutters that 056 production has been slowed down. WuChang shipyard is also extremely busy with them. With a lot of competition, the prices for the ships have been knocked down to under $10 million for the smaller ships and $20 million for 1500-ton class ships and $40-$50 for the 4000 to 5500 ton ships. The maritime surveillance ministries have certainly benefited from China's strong shipbuilding sectors. The only question is whether they can actually find enough qualified people to operate these ships and get enough aircraft to help patrol the disputed areas.

That's my major update for the 5 maritime agencies. I do apologize for having only Chinese characters in all the charts. I will be in China for two and half weeks, so will be out of commission for a while. Hoping to not miss out on any big news while I'm gone.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

China's maritime disputes

In light of the recent entry by Galrahn on the issue of China's expanded map, I want to just put my thoughts on this.  I was originally thinking of writing a separate entry on the dramatic expansion of China's maritime surveillance agencies of CMS and FLEC, but I want to spend a little time just looking at the non-military part of this.

The main point I want to make here is that China's border dispute with entirely different than its border dispute with India and the countries around South China Sea.  We often read about China's recent actions have made neighbouring countries feel uneasy and have pushed them toward America.  While I do agree the other countries reactions have been similar, it's important to note that these are different issues for Chinese people.

And this has everything to do with the historical relationship of the two countries.  It starts from 1895 when China was badly defeated by Japan, who it had always looked upon as a vassal nation.  The unfair treaty which resulted in war reparation in addition to annexation of Taiwan was followed up by the brutal Russo-Japanese war of 1905 which was fought over Chinese soil and resulted in the Japanese control of Lushun (Port Arthur).  Of course, all of this was small compared to the occupation of Manchuria in 1931 and second Sino-Japanese War between 1937 and 1945.  The Chinese side has claimed that around 20 million civilians were killed during this conflict.  If that's true, it would in effect be the equivalent of 3 holocausts.  I do not know how accurate these numbers are, but I did hear a story (growing up) where my friend's ancestor was tortured to death by Japanese soldiers.  And my opinion is that most people born in my generation or prior in China probably have heard of such stories from their family or friends.  When I visited Nanjing in 2006, I was told by locals that the only place not pillaged during the Nanking massacre was the Sun Yat-Sen memorial.  Even by then, Japanese business was not allowed on the city's premise.  There has been a lot of anger within China toward Japan in the past 10 years due to the visits by Koizumi/Abe of the Yasukuni Shrine and the denials of wartime atrocities by some Japanese Nationalists.  While I do not think that the Japanese government is denying th war atrocities, I do think a lot of people in China would feel better toward Japanese if the Japanese government adopt the same attitude toward this subject as Germany has adopted toward the Holocaust.  When something like the recent Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute came up, it came across as another reminder of Japanese aggression for Chinese people.  Back when the two countries normalized relations in 1978, Deng Xiaoping made a strategic decision to not overly press Japan over this issue in exchange of money and technology to help with the Chinese economy.  And I think while China was still economically weak and needing Japan, this was something it was willing to do (not overly voicing past grievances).  However with China's growing power in the past 10 years, this is no longer the case, so the current generation of Chinese population and officials do not see the need to hold pacifying attitude toward Japan.  With the Koizumi/Abe visits, all of these anger/grievances from the past 60 years flared up and it is tough for me to see how relations between China/Japan will get better.

The difference between the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute and the South China Sea dispute is that the entire Chinese population is invested in this issue.  It's not just the PLA or a group of nationalist cranks on the internet forums that are passionate about this, it's the ordinary people.  You've seen that with the wide spread boycotting of Japanese business in the past few months due to the outrage in China over the entire Diaoyu/Senkaku issues.  This is not just a couple of islands.  This is 70 years of grievances.  It's also seen in the expansion of civilian maritime patrol fleet.  In the past few months, 11 ships from PLAN have been sent to the shipyards to be retrofitted and removed of weaponry so that they can join the CMS fleet and patrol the disputed regions with Japan.  And I think that until the Japanese government adopts an attitude toward its World War II crimes toward China (and South Korea) as Germany has toward Israel, there will always be that underlying tension that makes all border disputes even worse.  I think that the relationship between the two countries have gotten so bad that it may be more likely a conflict will break out between China and Japan rather than China and Taiwan in the next 10 years.  That's really unfortunate, because the two countries have so much to gain in this economically unstable period if they can somehow move past this issue and resolve past grievances.

As a last point, it really bugs me that Japan is often put in the same category as Vietnam/Philippines with regards to needing American help to defend itself against the big bad Chinese.  Even with the rise of PLAN, JMSDF is still clearly the stronger force at this time.  The Japanese civilian patrol fleet is also a very powerful fleet, so it is not going to be scared away by the presence of a few 1500 ton CMS cutters.  In fact, CMS has this huge build up just so that it can get somewhat close to the size of its Japanese counterpart.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Recent Chinese exports in helicopter and ships

In my review of 2012, I mentioned recent Chinese exports as one of the overlooked areas in recent Chinese news. More than anything, China has been having a lot of success exporting smaller ships and helicopters. I have captured a series of photos from various Chinese shipyards this year for export orders. They do not include all of the ships that they've launched or handed over this year, but we will go through that in the second part.

First, we have the missile boat that was built for the Pakistani Navy. One was built in Tianjin shipyard as shown below and the other was built in Pakistan.

Next, we currently have a littoral patrol craft built for Bangladesh Navy. Two Such LPCs are built for BN and they were launched about a month apart from the WuChang shipyard.

Most recently, we have seen Patrol Boat for Malta. They have received quit a lot of order for patrol boats and FACs from African countries in the recent years.

And this is a patrol ship that WuChang shipyard built for Namibia. This has already finished sea trials and been delivered already.

Next, we have 3 ships that were part of PLAN that is undergoing work to be transferred to Myanmar Navy. They are 2 Jianghu class frigates (554 & 557) and Type 037 class ship 772. I believe 771 is also getting transferred to PLAN. At this point, it's most likely that these ships are transferred rather than sold, but still good to have Myanmar Navy using Chinese equipments that will rely on Chinese supplies/part for weapon system.

Other than these ships, I have also recorded these additional exports of helicopters and naval ships from the past year or so.

  • Late 2011, 4 patrol boats (FACs) for Ghana
  • Late 2011, 6 H425 for Bolivia
  • Jan 2012, 12 AC-312 (Z-9) for Cambodia
  • March 2012, 2 (535, 536) retrofitted Jianghu for Bangladesh
  • March 2012, Z-11 production in Argentina
  • April 2012, 2 OPVs for Nigeria
  • May 2012, 3 F-22A for Algeria
  • Nov 2012, 4 more F-22Ps for Pakistan
  • Nov 2012, Z-9 for Zambia

So There have been quite a few success stories. This is something that I will follow up and update on next year. Chinese shipyards are doing really well in this low end naval/security ship market. Chinese helicopter companies are also doing a good job of selling Z-9s and Z-11s to third world countries. I think they are probably taking market share away from Russians and some Europeans. This is a trend that I expect to continue in the coming years.