China Makes Those Riga Clones Last

China has completed upgrades on the last six Type 053 frigates built, apparently in order keep them in service for another decade or more. Originally built in the 1990s, the six Type 053H1G ships were the last of 53 built over about twenty years. Based on the older Russian Riga class frigate, the Chinese expanded the original 1,400 ton Riga design (armed with depth charges, three 100mm guns and torpedoes) to a missile laden 2,500 ton vessel equipped with modern electronics.

The latest version of the 053, called the F-22, is still built but only for export. The primary customer is Pakistan. The remaining Chinese Type 53s are mainly used for coastal patrol. They are 103.2 meters (227 feet) long and have a top speed of 46 kilometers an hour. These 2,400 ton ships can operate on internal fuel and supplies for 15 days at a time. The ships are armed with eight C-803 anti-ship missiles, two automatic 100mm guns, and four 37mm anti-aircraft guns. There are also regular and rocket launched depth charges.

Pakistan has received three F-22P frigates from China and is building the fourth one in Pakistan. The Pakistanis were very pleased with their inexpensive Chinese warships and ordered four more, to be built in Pakistan. The F-22P is an improved version of the Chinese Jiangwei II (053H3). Pakistan already had four of these, as the F-22.

The 123 meter (406 foot) long F-22P displaces 2,500 tons and carries an eight cell short range (8.6 kilometers) FM-90N surface-to-air missile system. There are two four cell anti-ship missile systems (180 kilometers range C-802s), two three cell launchers for rocket launched ET-52C anti-submarine torpedoes, two six cell RDC-32 anti-submarine rocket launchers. There is also a 76.2mm gun, two 30mm anti-missiles auto-cannon, and a helicopter. Each ship has a crew of 202 and a top speed of 52 kilometers an hour. The F-22Ps are inexpensive, costing about $200 million each. The new American LCS weighs about the same but has only half as many sailors in the crew, lots more automation, and costs over $600 million.

China has developed new designs to replace the Type 53, mainly the 4,000 ton Type 54. This ship is based on Western, not Russian, designs. Twelve of these have been built so far, ten to the more advanced Type 054A standard. It was believed that one reason to refurbish six of the 053s was because the 054s were having problems. But this does not appear to be the case. Rather, the late model 053s had performed well and refurbishing them seemed a cheap way to get some additional ships for increasing coastal security.

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