New Chinese Cutters–How Many?–Sorry, I’ve Lost Count

The China Defense Blog has three new posts with several photos of new Chinese Coast Guard Cutters.

The first is news of the award of a contract for four new 5,000 ton cutters. and while the text says they will be similar to an earlier 5,000 ton cutter (CMS01), the illustration that accompanies the story shows a very different ship, in many ways similar to the National Security Cutter. It appears there is a medium caliber gun on the bow. (This would be a significant but not unexpected change for the Chinese Coast Guard.) There is a frame over what appears to be a stern ramp not unlike that on the NSC. The hull shape also appears similar to the NSC.

The second post reports the commissioning of the second of two 4,000 cutters commissioned this month.

A third post asks, “What would a 12,000 ton Coast Guard Cutter Look Like?” reports as was reported here earlier, China’s intention to build the world’s largest Offshore Patrol Vessel. They don’t have any illustration of the new ship, but they do say it will have a 76mm gun, two 30mm, facilities to support two Z-8 helicopters, and a top speed of 25 knots.The size of the helicopters is notable. The Z-8 is a large, three engine, 13,000 kg helicopter based on the Aérospatiale SA 321 Super Frelon. The transport version of this helicopter can transport 38 equipped troops. The same airframe is also used for SAR, ASW, and vertical replenishment. The post also says it shows photos of new 3,000 ton cutters, but all the photos except those of hull number 3306 were referred to elsewhere as 4,000 ton cutters.

New hull numbers seen in this series of posts are 1401, 2401, 3401, 3306, and MSA-01). Unlike most earlier Chinese cutters, all of these ships have helicopter decks.

This is the fruition of their earlier stated ambition to build 36 cutters in three years for the Chinese Maritime Surveillance Agency (CMS, only one of four agencies that combined to form their Coast Guard).

Chinese to commission 36 cutters in three years

While the Coast Guard will perhaps soon be commissioning four 353 ton Webber Class Fast Response Cutters a year, and has been averaging one large cutter every two years, it looks like the Chinese Maritime Surveillance Administration (CMS) will have commissioned 36 new cutters from 2010 to 2012 including seven 1500 ton class, fifteen 1000 ton class and fourteen 600 ton class “to better protect China’s maritime interests.” This is a huge, rapid expansion of their assets. (Also the tonnage ratings the Chinese provide tend to be light displacement, so they understate their size.)

This is only one of several Chinese agencies that do Coast Guard type task. Other agencies are also building ships. These agencies use relatively few air assets, and these ships are less sophisticated. But as Stalin was reported to say, quantity has a quality all its own.

To put this in perspective, China’s recognized EEZ is 877,019 km2 . They claim approximately 3,000,000 km2 additional, disputed by other nations, or about 3,877,019 km2 in total. The US EEZ is 11,351,000 km2 so even considering all their claimed EEZ, it is only a slightly more than a third the size of our own.