Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top stories of 2010 for PLAN

After a couple of relatively quiet years for PLAN, 2010 was the return of naval shipbuilding boom that was prevalent in the middle part of this decade. There were many stories from this past year, but I decided to pick 10 stories to look over.

1) Finally seeing real and tangible progress in the carrier program - We have seen some movements toward the completion of Varyag in the recent year and news about the start of naval aviation school. This year, we saw official acknowledgment of China's carrier program in a book by the State Oceanic Administration, which marks the first such acknowledgment by the Chinese government. We also saw real changes in Varyag throughout the year. We saw a lot of work on the island, including the installation of some important sensors. We saw close-in defense systems like HQ-10, Type 730 gun and Multi-rocket launchers installed. It's hard to think China will put this much sensor and weaponry on Varyag unless they have more plans for it beyond just a training ship. And finally, we saw smoke coming out of the furnace and the auxiliary propulsion unit very recently. I would really not be surprised if this thing gets starts conducting sea trials sometimes next year. On top of that, we are also seeing the first 2 Ka-31s delivered to PLAN from Russia. These are 2 of the 9 early warning helicopters on order to be used on Varyag and possibly other aircraft carriers. We've also seen the Z-8 AEW project under way with the first prototype going through sea tests. I believe a fixed wing AEW project based on the Y-7 airframe is also in development. This does raise the question of what roles do each of these early warning platforms play in the future of PLAN. Will they be used on the Type 071 platform at some point? Will they be used on a future helo carrier platform? Or will they only be used on aircraft carriers.

2) Seeing the introduction of many systems that could be used in the ASBM program - Since we first reported on this program in 2009, ASBM has been mentioned prominently by every article talking about the rise of Chinese threat to US navy in East Asian waters. In many ways, we are seeing many new systems coming out that would be very useful to the ASBM program. In the Zhuhai air show, Chinese weapon manufacturers were openly showing a video of a new type of indigenously developed UAV spotting US carrier group with the satellites' assistance and then feeding the information to shore based anti-ship missiles to attack those targets. I'm not sure how much of this capability has been realized, but it was an unusually open and suggestive display of intention. We saw 5 launches of Beidou Navigation satellites this year, 1 launch of a new data relay satellites and many launches of EO satellites in the Yaogan series, which could all be used to help find targets, relay targeting info and help increase accuracy of missiles. On top of that, the many new recon UAVs and UCAVs shown this year in the Zhuhai air show can all help in identifying targets originally picked up by OTH radars.

3) The restart of 052C production - When 052C class first came out in 2003, it was revolutionary by PLAN standard. These were the first ships to have long ranged vertical launched air defense system. They were the first ships to have modern AESA multi-functional radar and other modern ESM/ECM sensors. And most imortantly, they were the first to have modern combat system. In fact, many China threat analysts dubbed this the Chinese Aegis system. After these ships were launched, they had so many issues to sort out that it took another 7 years before the next ship in this series came out. I'm not sure if this is an indication that China's first attempt at a modern area defense combat system set the bar too high (it normally only takes 3 years or less for other new PLAN ships to work out issues with new capabilities) or that China's previous combat system level was too low. Either way, we have yet to notice any real changes to the new 052C units other than reportedly using domestic production of GT-25000 gas turbines. Many people have expected to see larger improvements like from 052B to 052C. In many ways, I think this is a good sign indicating that they took a lot of time sorting out problems with the new air defense system and really learning lessons from them. It is reported that this 4 052Cs will be produced in this batch. This would mark the start of the mass production of modern DDGs for PLAN to replace the very old and outdated Luda DDGs.

4) Seeing the start of Type 071 mass production after achieving full operational capability - This has been really big year for the 071 class. While 998, the lead ship, has been in service for 3 years now, it spent the first 2 years without the LCAC-like air cushioned hovercraft that are designed for it. This April, the first Chinese LCAC finished all of its sea trials and joined service with 998. In the coming month, we would see 998 and its "LCAC" being deployed to Gulf of Aden. In that deployment, we would see pictures of LCAC and fast patrol boat coming in and out of the well deck. We saw pictures of three helicopters (2 Z8s + 1 Z-9C) on its helipad at the same time about to takeoff and land. These may be quite routine for USMC, but are all first time achievements for PLAN. We also confirmed that the dimensions of Type 071 are about the same as the San Antonio class. As 998 was doing patrols in Aden, the second unit of Type 071 was quietly being assembled in HuDong shipyard. By the end of the year, the second unit was also launched. I found it really amazing the speed at which they assembled the blocks and launched this ship. They seemed to have made some minor changes from the lead ship for the mass production phase of this class. It appears that PLAN is quite satisfied with Type 071 and is starting a large production run. As we move forward, it will be interesting to see how PLA intends to use this class of ships in the future.

5) Continued presence of PLAN around the world and increased cooperation in Gulf of Aden - I don't spend a lot of time talking about PLAN training and deployments, but I do think this year also represented a surge in PLAN cooperation with other navies. For the past year, China has continued sending its latest warships to the Gulf of Aden. We see most of the 054 and 054A class ships being tested out there. They are also having more cooperation with Western navies to help with patrols in that area. According to a Jamestown article, PLAN is also setting up several supply depots along the way to help maintain its patrols. Previously, they had only been protecting Chinese commercial ships. And after deployments to Aden, these ships normally make port calls to different countries on their way back to China. The only ship of the Type 920 hospital ship class, 866, also made a trip to different countries in Africa and Asia as part of PLAN's show of soft power. On top of anti-piracy related activities, we've also seen more naval exercises in the past year with countries like Australia and Thailand.

6) The appearance of the new conventional submarine in Wuhan shipyard - Earlier this year, we saw the launching of a mysterious new class of conventional submarine in Wuchang shipyard. As we've discussed in this blog, this submarine is significantly changed from the Yuan class submarine. It appears to be heavily influenced by the Lada class, and is far more stealthy than the other PLAN submarines like Yuan, Song and Kilo class. From side-by-side shots with a Yuan submarine, we can determine this submarine to be one of the largest submarine classes in the world (comparable to Soryu class). If we go by past PLAN submarine classes, this boat (deemed Type 039B class by some) will probably take 3 years to sort out all of the problems and then start mass production. With the launching of this class, I think it is quite clear that PLAN no longer intends to import submarines from Russia. With the continued mass production of Yuan submarines in Wuchang and JiangNan shipyard, we should see see the complete phasing out of Romeo class and early Ming class submarine in the next 5 years.

7) Massive expansion of the fleet of the maritime agencies - I've written a couple blog entries this year about the maritime agencies this year, because they are really becoming influential in China's maritime dispute with neighboring countries. In the past year, we've seen China having continued disputes with Japan and ASEAN countries. As a result of these disputes, China Maritime Surveillance (CMS), Fishery law enforcement (FLEC) and Maritime safety agency (MSA) have really been getting funding to add new cutters to their fleet. I've recently reported that the largest ever MSA cutter is about to start construction in Wuchang shipyard. FLEC has also been getting some new cutters in the past year. None of these agencies have been expanding as fast as CMS. Just over this year and the start of next year alone, CMS is about to receive 4 new cutters of 1300 ton class from HP shipyard, 2 new cutters of 1700 ton class and 1 new cutter of 3500-4000 ton class from WuChang shipyard. The regional offices of CMS are also getting many 600 ton ships operate. All of this still pales in comparison to the ambitious expansion plan for CMS. It is planning to built over 30 cutters in the next 5 years and also get some new aerial assets. To be fair, I must point out that these are still civilian ships. Their designed speed tops out at around 20 knots and are not equipped with high calibre guns as on naval ships. It will be interesting to see how these agencies influence Chinese maritime policies in the coming years, because they are clearly becoming extremely influential.

8) Continued production of 054A class past original estimation - At one point, I was convinced that the 054A production run would end at 10 ships due to the number of diesel engine kits supplied by Pielstick. It appears that China has either gotten a much larger local assembly contract or have completely indigenized its production, because we've seen recently that an 11th 054A is in advanced stage of construction at HuangPu shipyard. I think that the 054A class has really proven itself to be perfect for the patrols to Gulf of Aden. They have had to send the same 054A frigates multiple times to Aden, because PLAN do not have enough of them in service. 054A would also be very important in any future PLAN carrier group or expedition group (although they are a little slow). At the current time, HP and HD shipyard can produce 054A at fast rate for very reasonable cost (probably < $200 million each), so PLAN has increased its production run. Over the next 5 years, we will be seeing Jianghu class been replaced by 054A class. This replacement truly indicates the change in PLAN. They are going from an archaic class that is barely capable of patrolling within the first chain of island to a new class that is fairly proficient in ASuW, ASW and AAW operations over blue waters. The mass production of 054A have made destroyer classes like 051B, 052, 052B and Sov obsolete, because it has more modern sensors/combat system and can conduct ASW and AAW at comparable or better level than them.

9) The appearance of the 056 class - I maybe getting ahead of myself, because we have not seen any conclusive photo of 056 yet. I have seen a model of 056 class last month and multiple reports that we will see mass production of this class soon. In many ways, I have been waiting for this class for a long time (that is a class between 022 and 054A). I do think that the increasing number of cutters are taking away some of the responsibilities of this 056 class like patrolling East China Sea and South China Sea. However, it appears that this class of ship will come into service to replace the roles of the old Type 037s and some Jianghu class.

10) New toys for the aviation arm of PLAN - In this past year, we have seen KJ-200 and other Y-8 special missions aircraft join service with PLAN aviation. They are important in any kind of operations near the shore, because they would be able to provide targeting information for ships like Type 022 FACs and aircraft like JH-7A. This is part of PLA's move for greater C4ISR capability. We have also seen the first regiment of J-10A and J-11BS for PLAN establishing this year along with another regiment of JH-7A. The addition of these new aircraft will help provide air cover for ships and striking power in conflicts within the first chain of islands (especially around Taiwan and East China Sea.

As I look back in 2010, it was a very fruitful year for PLAN. Many of its new toys like 052C, Type 071, 054A, Yuan class, Type 056 and the new minehunters have entered mass production or are about to enter mass production. They will replace the outdated class like Luda, Jianghu, Romeo, Type 037s and Type 6610. We've also seen one-off ships like the new submarine tender and the new ELINT ship joining service. These new ships are filled with new weapons, new sensors, new combat systems and are designed to operate much further away from the home base. We have already seen Type 071, 054/A and 052B/C class showing their ability to operate far away from home in their missions to the Gulf of Aden. We have also seen auxiliary ships like the Fuchi class replenishment ship and the Type 920 hospital ship operate far from home and been used to spread good wills to different third world nations. I think this is all part of PLAN's effort to expand its presence around the world. However, when I compare PLAN to Western navies, it is still very new to blue water operations and has a lot to do to catch up. At the same time, some other big name programs like the carrier project, the ASBM project and the conventional submarine program are continuing to make solid progress. These along with the mass produced classes are critical for possible conflicts with US over Taiwan, for maritimes disputes with its neighbours and blue water operations. The emergence of the civilian maritime agencies are also complicating China's maritime disputes. These are all areas that we can look forward to in

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Smoke coming out of the furnace of Varyag?

It looks like there are smoke coming out of the furnace of Varyag. I think we are finally seeing the steam turbines getting turned on. I will let you guys be the judge.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

China's newest cutter

There has been a lot of new constructions in the Chinese shipyards recently of new maritime patrol/law enforcement vessel. Here is a quick look at China's newest and biggest cutter design.

According to earlier articles, this cutter will be built and delivered in May of 2012 by the WuChang shipyard. This vessel will cost 350 million RMB (about $50 million). It will be 128.6 m long, 5418 ton in displacement with a maximum speed of 20.4 knots. It can sustain 16 knots from 10,000 nm. It will also have a hangar for a medium size helicopter and be able to land a large size helicopter. Please note that while this is a big step up compared to China's existing fleet, it is still inferior to the size/performance of PLH31 (the largest patrol vessel of Japanese Coast Guard)

This cutter will serve in Maritime Safety Administration (MSA). Most of the recent constructions we've seen are for the Chinese maritime surveillance(CMS). Please refer to my earlier post on Chinese maritime law enforcement to see the difference.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Latest on Z-10 and J-10

A couple of things before I get into this post. Things at work have really picked up recently and will stay that way in the foreseeable future. As the result of that, I will not be able to post as much during this time. You guys probably have noticed that by my absence this month. Also, I have concentrated far more on the navy the past couple of years and that is part of my move to spend less time speculating and more time just providing photographic evidences. Clearly, the naval shipbuilding program is a lot more visible at the moment than the military aircraft industry. Having said, we have seen some good news recently with regard to two of PLA's most important aerospace project: Z-10 and J-10.

Here is a couple of photos of thew new Z-10 (Z-10A???). The first three are up close shots of Z-10 carrying different weapon systems (including the really nice shot of PL-90) and the last photo shows Z-10's whole view with rocket launchers, 30 mm gun and ATGM/AAM launchers. We can also see a completely new designed nose turret compared to what it had before.

We know that they came out with Z-10 a while ago, but had to go back to the drawing board for some changes after the original engine PT6C-67C was no longer allowed to be used for it. I believe these new Z-10s are using the domestic WZ-9 engine, which has much less power than PT6C-67C. The new Z-10s appear to be much slender and slightly stealthier than the original design. I think the reduced profile has a lot to do with the less powerful engine.

The most interesting part are the photos below. They show that the new Z-10 has entered service in the 5th Army Aviation Regiment (LH-951xx) of Nanjing Military Region. From the numbering below, it appears that at least 8 units of this new Z-10 has joined service. On top of the original Z-10s that were delivered to army aviation in 2007, they probably have > 10 Z-10s in service by now. I'm not clear on how many helicopters are in each attack helo regiment of PLA, but there are 30-40 helicopters per regiment for smaller training utility helicopters like HC-120.

We have also seen some new and encouraging photos of J-10s. I got a photo in January of this year showing the first 4 J-10s delivered to the 26th regiment of PLAAF. This is the first picture we have of a J-10 with numbering from that regiment. I would say that this regiment should be fully equipped by now.

We also saw the first J-10 regiment in PLANAF. We can see the twin seater 83148 and the single seater 83143 in the next 2 photos. The number 8 indicates that this is part of PLANAF. The number 4 indicates that this is part of the 4th division of PLANAF and the number 3 indicates that this is the 3rd regiment of the 4th division. The other two numbers indicate that they are the number 13 and 18 of the regiment. This would indicate that the new regiment is located in Luqiao, which is under the East Sea Fleet and within striking distance of Taiwan. I do not believe that this batch of J-10s have any differences than the PLAAF J-10s. It is good to see that PLANAF is finally getting some 4th generation fighters jets outside of that Su-30MK2 regiments. A while ago, we also saw a bunch of J-11BS fighter jets in PLANAF colours outside of SAC. The other thing that we do not know is the size of the regiment. We know that PLAAF J-10 regiments generally have 28 aircraft (24 single and 4 twin seaters), but PLANAF regiments seem to be smaller in size than PLAAF ones.

The question is often how many J-10s are going into service and whether we will see new J-10 regiments formed for PLAAF. It appears from the photos below (from May) that there were at least 37 single seaters and a few twin seaters produced in the 5th batch of J-10s. The numbers on the J-10s are based on CAC designation. I believe the first digit indicates the batch # of the J-10 and the next 2 indicates the number of this aircraft in that batch. The lone twin-seated J-10 photo seems to indicate that twin-seaters have a different numbering mechanism. These J-10s were produced in the first half of this year imo and were delivered to the 26th PLAAF regiment and 12th PLANAF regiment.

The photos below show the 6th batch of J-10s going through the testing phase outside of CAC. I'm not sure how large this batch of J-10s will be, but it could be limited by the number of AL-31FNs that China has. There appears to be enough J-10s in this 6th batch to at least start forming a new regiment. I think they will need to place a new order for AL-31FNs soon, if WS-10A is still not ready for J-10 next year.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Updates around Chinese shipyards

There has been a lot of news from the Zhuhai airshow regarding Chinese UAVs, anti-ship missiles and PGMs with regard to attacking US carrier group. I'm hoping to get to that once the show is over, but there has been a lot of movement from Chinese shipyard recently. I'm just going to give a short look at those movements.

First of all, the minehunter that was shown in a previous entry has now been launched from JiangNan shipyard.

Secondly, the second ship in the Type 071 class has also been launched in the past 2 days. I find the progress for this ship to be quite remarkable, because it was still in large blocks as recent as 3 months ago. Overall, the sensors and weapons fit do not appear to have changed, but there are a couple of minor changes to the hull (if you compare the bridge, you can see the difference). The question now is whether or not they are planning to launch more ships of this class. I would say that this class has started mass production, so we are likely to see more Type 071s come out in the next couple of years from HuDong shipyard.

And finally, we have some really nice updated photos out of Dalian shipyard. We see more work on the island and on the deck. I finally see smoke coming out. I don't know if that's exhaust from the stack or just some testing of auxiliary diesel generators. Either way, there are some serious work going on inside the island.

The other thing we can see is wide installations of Type 730 CIWS and HQ-10 (Chinese version of SeaRAM) on Varyag. They are installed in the 4 locations that Kashtan and AK-630 used to be installed on Admiral K class. In each of those locations, the 2 Kashtan + 1 AK-630 (maybe 2 AK-630 in a couple of spots) are now replaced by 1 Type 730, 1 HQ-10 and 1 mysterious installation (appears to be some kind multi-purpose rocket launcher for decoy purpose). I'm waiting to see if any VLS installations will appear in these locations, because Admiral K also had 6 VLS of SA-N-9 SAM beside each pair of Kashtan CIWS.

This is a shot of the Sea Eagle radar on top of Varyag. It seems to be a different variant compared to what we see on 054A.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

2010 is the start of PLAN's second building boom

Over the past few months, we have really started seeing new warships appearing in different naval shipyards in China. We saw the appearance of the 5th 054A in HP shipyard and then the 5th 054A in HD shipyard. We also saw 2 submarines (including a mysterious new type) appearing in WC shipyard. Over the past week, we have seen a flurry of new photos coming out of different shipyards that really showed the extent of the current buildup. On top of these photos, we also have plenty of rumours surrounding which ships might show up in the coming few months.

First, to show the ships that we have photographic confirmation for.
This is the 5th 054A from HP shipyard. It still does not have the number painted, but looks to be ready for sea trials soon. At the same time, the 4th 054A from HD shipyard will be commissioned soon and the 5th one has yet to be launched.

In the same shipyard, we are seeing continuous progress in the second of the class of Type 071 LPD. From just looking at the previous pictures of the front of the new unit and this photo of the back, it seems to not have changed much from the first of the class.

Of course, we also have our favourite floating casino still undergoing construction in Dalian shipyard. I personally believe that it would've been much further along if the refitting work was done in Shanghai or GuangZhou, but Dalian was chosen right from the start. We have seen the Sea Eagle (similar to top plate) volume search radar installed on top of the island and a mysterious launcher (circled in the second photo) installed where one of the eight kashtan used to be installed. We think that this new launcher is going to look a lot like SeaRAM. A couple of years ago, we saw something like SeaRAM called FL-3000N in the Zhuhai airshow. It looks like this will be installed on Varyag for close in defense and could also be installed on 998, 999 and other ships. The rumoured designation of this CIWS is HQ-10.

Finally, JiangNan shipyard is also back in business now that the new location in ChangXing has become fully operational First of all, we see that a new DDG is under construction in this shipyard that looks to be not too far from getting launched. From what I can see, the outer structural appearance looks very much like that of 052C. It will just be a little while longer before we can see what the entire ship looks like. The rumour is that it will be launched later this month.

We also received the photo of a second DDG under construction in JN shipyard. From the look of this picture and pictures of other modules of this ship, it does not look that far behind the progress of the first DDG.

In the same shipyard, we have also seen a new MCM ship (said to be a minehunter like 804) getting close to been launched. I can only see the back of the ship, so I can't really verify that is the case yet.

At the same time, I have read a lot of about ongoing activities in different shipyards that have not appeared in photographs yet:

In JN shipyard, a total of 4 DDGs are said to be under construction. That is not too surprising if you consider that the 4 052B/Cs were built in a relatively short time span by JN. On top of the MCM ship that has already appeared, at least one more is under construction. And finally, two conventional submarines (most likely Yuan class) are all been worked on in JN.

In GuangZhou shipyard, work has started on 3 or 4 new large replenishment ships. PLAN has really seen the need for new replenishment ships since the start of the missions to Gulf of Aden. The ships 886 and 887 have been really overworked in the past 2 years.

In HuDong shipyard, there are supposedly a couple of new LPDs that are also on the order books. We could also see more 054As to appear out of no where, but this wave seemed to have stopped after the 5th pair.

In Huangpu shipyard, they are concentrated on completing the 5th 054As and the 4 cutters for China Marine Surveillance. A new class of ship (speculated to be type 056) will also be appearing before the end of the year. This ship is supposed to fill the gap between 022 and 054A and play the role of offshore patrol vessel. Similar to 022, PLAN has awarded contract for this ship to numerous shipyards across the country (including smaller ones).

So as you can see, this shipbuilding boom is quite extensive. Many of the prototypes from recent years have gone into mass production. There were a couple of years of lull in 2008 and 2009, but 2010 brings back the memories of 2004 to 2006.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Interesting little tidbit on PLAN

The 7th 054A was commissioned today with PLAN ESF as No. 548. According to this article, it was named after the city Yiyang from Province Hunan. There is also a news report here.

We found out some interesting stats on 054A like that its standard displacement is 3600 tons (we previous found out that full displacement is 4053 tons), length is 134 m, width is 16 m and maximum speed is 27 knots.

However, the more interesting is the procurement cycle for PLAN. It reported that this unit was first ordered to be built by HuangPu shipyard in 2006. It was chosen to be named after Yiyang in April of 2009. It was launched in Nov of 2009, started sea trials in May of 2010 and got commissioned in Oct of 2010. So, it takes less than a year to go from launching to commissioning. At the same time, it takes 3 years to go from getting the order to being launched. I'm not sure if the earlier ships of this batch 571 was placed at the same time, so the construction time to launching + preparation work could be much shorter than 3 years.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


There is a new minesweeper class coming into service with China recently. I thought it would be a good time to go through the history of PLAN mine warfare development.

MCM operation has long been a huge weakness in PLAN. If ASW is widely viewed as the Achilles Heel of PLAN, then MCM is not that far behind. As numerous navies started to develop a new generation of MCM ships in the 70s and 80s built with glass-reinforced plastic material, equipped with remotely operated vehicle mine neutralization system and advanced minehunting and classification sonar, China was stuck with Soviet 50s era T-43/Type 6610 minesweepers.

China bought the licensed production to Project 254K and 254M minesweepers in the 50s. The first 4 vessels that were built with Soviet supplied kits were Type 6605. After that, China started to build Type 6610 based on Soviet documentations to Type 254M minesweepers. As time went on, China eventually indigenized everything after the Soviet-China split and made more modifications to turn Type 6610 into more of a patrol boat.

A total of 33 Type 6610 vessels were built all the way up to 1987 and several of which were even involved in real combat against Vietnamese Navy. Even now, PLAN still operates about 15 of these Type 6610 minesweepers including the frequently photographed No. 830 to 834 of East Sea Fleet.

By the late 1970s, China started development of a new type of coastal minesweeper. This class, known as the Type 082 Wosao class, first joined service in 1988. They are 44.8 m long, 6.2 m wide and have a draft of 3.7 m. They were the first sign of a post T-43 + modernized minesweeping design by China. They were equipped with Type 316 mini contact sweep, type 317 magnetic sweep, type 318 acoustic sweep and type 319 infrasonic sweep. These vessels can also be used to control the Type 312 remote minesweeping drones. This ship class basically consists of the original Type I variant ships (No. 801 to 803) and the improved Type II variant (No. 806、807、816、817, 820 to 827). You can recognize the difference just by looking at the bridge. Here are some of the ships from this class.

As we arrived at the current wave of PLAN modernization, MCM was clearly a huge weakness in PLAN. The Type 082 class is modern compared to T-43, but they are only suitable for coastal operations and are not modern by international standard. PLAN needed MCM vessels that would push it to the modern level of MCM ships that came into service with different NATO navies in the 80/90s like the Avenger class, Tripartite class, Sandown class and Type 343 Hameln class. PLAN has kind of moved into this new era of MCM operation with 2 new classes in the past few years. The first one is the Type 081 minesweeper. They are built more for seagoing mine warfare operations than Type 082. They are larger, probably close to the size of T-43s, equipped with more modern sweeping systems, mine detection sonar and modern command system (like GPS, radar, display console, combat system). At the current time, we know of at least 4 units of this class (805, 810, 839 and 840). Each of these ships cost around $37 million in 2008. The second MCM class is the Type 082II (or another designation) minehunter. So far, there is only one unit of this ship built. As you can see with the photos below, it is very similar in size to Type 081. I would say they are both around 550 to 600 ton in displacement.

I think it has taken a while for the next ship of this class to come out, because it represented too much of an advancement in PLAN. Similar to other ship series, this first unit is testing out a lot of new equipments and concepts before further units are built. This is probably the first MCM ship in PLAN system that does not use any kind of mechanical sweep and probably the first one to be built with Glass reinforced plastic. As shown below, it is also the first MCM ship to be equipped with mine disposing ROV (+crane to lower ROV) and advanced sonar management system. The sonar system is reported to be able to track and identify everything with several hundreds meters. In fact, one of the pictures showed a scale of up to 200 m, but I'm not sure if they have a longer tracking mode.

As it happened, we saw a new class of remote controlled minesweeping drones recently. This development is kind of interesting, because China has been studying different navies around the world for ideas in improvement. In most cases, PLAN follows the path of USN (like 052C + combat system, 071/LCAC, Type 920 hospital ship). In this case, it seems like PLAN found German navy's Ensdorf class to be the one that would be the best for its given requirements. The dimensions of 804 is very similar to Ensdorf class and the dimensions of this new Type 8041 drone is very similar to Seehund drones. It looks like 804 will be operating with 3 or 4 of these drones + ROVs in disposing mines.