The Jiangdao-class Type 056 and Type 056A guided-missile corvettes epitomize the rapid growth and expansion of China’s maritime fleet during the past decade. These modern yet practical corvettes are inherently well-suited for offshore operations inside the first island chain.
The 1,500-ton warships began entering People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) service in 2013. The ships were built at four different shipyards: Hudong in Shanghai, Huangpu in Guangzhou, Wuchang in Wuhan, and Liaonan in Dalian, and they are operated by all three PLAN fleets (North Sea, East Sea, and South Sea). Widespread production allowed an average of eight corvettes to be delivered per year during the nine-year production run. By the time the last Type 056A was completed in 2021, a total of 72 Jiangdao units had entered service, along with six export variants for the international market.
The PLAN corvettes were built in two primary configurations. Twenty-two of the baseline Type 056 corvettes were reportedly built before production transitioned to the Type 056A, which numbered 50 units and placed greater emphasis on antisubmarine warfare. The Type 056A incorporates a passive towed-array sonar system and an active variable-depth sonar. All PLAN corvettes are thought to be fitted with hull-mounted sonar, air-and-surface-search radars, as well as electronic jammers and decoy launchers to protect against missile attack.
Primary armament consists of four YJ-83 antiship missiles carried amidships, which have a 419-pound warhead and a maximum range of 97 nm. The class carries two triple 324-mm torpedo tubes to counter submarines, and a single naval helicopter can operate from the landing deck aft, although there is no hangar. An eight-cell FL-3000N point defense surface-to-air missile launcher is fitted forward of the helicopter landing deck.
The ships each carry a single 76-mm gun near the bow and a remotely operated 30-mm gun mounted on the port and starboard sides. Recent reports indicate that the 22 baseline Type 056 corvettes are now being altered to remove their missiles and transferred from the navy to the China Coast Guard, a process said to have begun in late 2021.
The Jiangdao-class measures 292-feet long with a 38-foot beam and 14-foot draft. Crew size is roughly 60–70 personnel, although some sources place the number as high as 78. The class has two diesel engines with two shafts and a top speed of 25–30 knots. Cruising range is roughly 2,000 nm at 18 knots.
In addition to Chinese deliveries, the Type 056 has found significant success on the export market. Four of the corvettes built to a modified C-13B design are operated by Bangladesh. Two slightly larger P-18N variants serve as offshore patrol ships with the Nigerian Navy. Algeria ordered a variant of the class as well, which was launched in 2021 and is expected for delivery by 2023.