The National Interest reports that the Chinese have openly acknowledged that their newest Coast Guard cutter is being built with provision for upgrading to frigate status should a need arise.
Moreover they were apparently influenced by the example of the USCG during WWII.
In the same issue of this magazine, published by the major Chinese shipbuilding conglomerate China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), builder of the Type 818, there is not coincidentally a very detailed article about U.S. Coast Guard cutters in combat during the Second World War. That article explains that both USCGC Campbell and also USCGC Spencer were able to sink German U-boats (U-606 and U-175 respectively) during the pivotal Battle of the Atlantic. Most of the article examines the operations of 10 American USCG cutters that were 76.2 meters in length and built between 1928 and 1932. These ships were transferred to the hard pressed Royal Navy (RN) during 1941-42 and achieved an enviable war record in RN service, sinking both U-522 and U-954 – the latter with Germany Navy Commander Karl Donitz’s son aboard. The analysis notes that, according to UK naval records, the American cutters were viewed so favorably as to be rated as “surpassing each kind of comparable British designed frigate.” These ships are labeled as an “ideal anti-submarine escort ship” [理想的反潜护航舰] and the implications for the CCG going forward are obvious.
They actually sold the cutters a bit short. The 327s actually sank at least three and probably four U-boats and the ten 76.2 meter cutters, the 250 foot Lake Class, sank three submarines (two U-boats and an Italian). Six subs sunk by 17 ships may not sound particularly impressive, but in fact by comparison, it was spectacular.
The new Type 818 cutters are based on the Type 054 frigates. Its not too much of a stretch to expect them to be upgunned with the same weapons found on the “parent craft,” but if the time ever comes, there may be better systems available for upgrading the cutters or they might be given different capabilities to support emerging missions. That can be an advantage of having ships with unused upgadability.
The Type 054 are only slightly smaller than the Bertholf class, displacement 4,053 tons full load, length 134.1 m (440 ft), beam 16 m (52 ft), 30,400 HP, 27 knots, compared to the Bertholf’s 4,500 tons, 127.4 m (418 ft), 16.46 m (54 ft), 49,875 HP, and 28 knots. They actually appear to be the same size as the Offshore Patrol Cutters, but their design leans more toward higher speed. Their range is not as great as the OPC at about 8,000 miles compared to the OPCs’ 10,200, but it is a greater range than USN frigates enjoyed.
The Chinese have learned a lesson from USCG experience in World War II. I wonder if it is a lesson we may have forgotten.
Thanks to Luke for bringing this to my attention.