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A Type 056 corvette, the Huizhou, in Hong Kong waters. Photo: Felix Wong

China to stop building Type 056 corvettes as navy shifts focus to larger vessels

  • The PLA Navy has started ordering bigger warships as it starts to prepare for missions further away from its shoreline
  • The last Type 056, the Aba, has been completed, according to local media reports in its namesake prefecture

China will reportedly stop building its Type 056 corvettes after the navy shifted its focus to ordering bigger warships for high sea missions.

The last of the 1,300-tonne guided-missile corvettes, the Aba, was completed in December, according to a recent report by the local media in the vessel’s namesake, Aba prefecture in Sichuan.

The vessel will join the navy’s south sea fleet, Aba Television’s official social media account reported last week, although did not say when it would join the fleet.

The first Type 056 was only launched in 2012; it immediately became one of the most widely produced warships with at least 60 being built over the past eight years.

China’s most advanced destroyer the Nanchang formally enters service

The lightweight model has been widely adopted thanks to its powerful armaments, which include a 176mm gun, two 30mm cannons, anti-ship and air-defence missile launchers and two torpedo tubes. It can also load a medium-lift helicopter on board and has great flexibility in near-shore operations.

Two Type 056 corvettes, the Huizhou and the Qinzhou, have been deployed in the PLA’s Hong Kong garrison since 2013.

There is also an anti-submarine variant, the Type 056A, and a coastguard variant armed with water cannon.

This corvette has also been sold to foreign navies, including Bangladesh and Nigeria.

Type 055 destroyers are entering service. Photo: Handout

Despite the relatively new design and wide use, production of the Type 056 will be stopped, partly because the navy has had enough coastal defence vessels and will move onto blue-water operations, according to a Global Times report.

“Shipyards could shift their focus to building larger warships,” it said.

On Sunday, the navy commissioned its first Type 055 guided-missile destroyer, the Nanchang, one of the most advanced ships of its type.

China steps up warship building programme

Other Type 055s are already undergoing sea trials and more are in the pipeline. The vessels will act as the main escorts in China’s aircraft carrier strike groups.

In the meantime, the Type 052D guided-missile destroyers, also described as the Chinese equivalent to Aegis destroyers, have become the main warships.

The Hudong shipyard in Shanghai, where most Type 056s were built, is working on the country’s first amphibious assault ships, the Type 075, the first of which was launched in September.

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This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Curtain falls on corvettes as focus shifts to high seas