As part of its ascension in the East, China has sought to create a naval service that can rival the United States Navy (USN) - the world's leading naval power. While not quite having reached this lofty goal, the service has been keen on expansion, modernization, and self-sufficiency, resulting in a commitment to aircraft carriers, nuclear-ballistic submarines, and a slew of surface warfare combatants. The Type 22 ("Houbei-class") is part of this modernization effort, the group having been laid down beginning in 2004 and maintaining an active presence in the fleet since. All sixty of the planned hulls have been completed and the series makes up a core component of Chinese offensive and defensive capabilities in and around its coasts (the "littoral" zone).
The boats were constructed by Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding of Shanghai and have succeeded the aging and limited Type 037-II and C-14 classes in PLAN (People's Liberation Army Navy) service. They serve under PLA Eastern Theater Command.
At its core, the Type 22 is a missile attack boat with a focus on speed and firepower. The vessel is powered by 2 x Marine diesels outputting 6,865 horsepower while 4 x Waterjets provide a fine-tune function when needed. Maximum ocean-going speeds in ideal conditions can reach 36 knots and its catamaran-type aluminum hull allows it to relatively effortlessly cut through choppy waves. This allows the craft to operate in Blue Water, Brown Water, and Close-to-Shore (CtS) environments with some ease.
Displacement reaches 225 tons under full load. Dimensions include a running length of 139.8 feet, a beam of 40 feet, and a draught of 4.10 feet.
Aboard is a complement of just twelve personnel to man the various systems and weapons and the vessel comes equipped with surface-search radar, navigational aids, protected C4 data link, and Electro-optics (HEOS 300 series).
Core armament is 8 x YJ-83 anti-ship missiles providing a missile-based ranged solution against waterborne targets. A 30mm KBP AO-18 (AK-630) Gatling-style gun provides a medium-ranged ballistic solution. MANPAD ("MAN-Portable Air-Defense") Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) launchers are also carried to deter or neutralize and airborne threats approaching the boat.
Structurally, the boats have an all-modern, stealth-like appearance with sharp angles and clean lines throughout. The turreted deck gun in set over the forecastle in the usual way and the bridge structure is seamlessly positioned directly aft. The mast is enclosed and of low-profile design as is the smoke funnels over the stern. The various angles and sharp lines indicate some stealth measures applied to the ship, either through design or specialized coatings or both helping to reduce the radar cross-section of the boat.
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February 2022 - Houbei-class craft have been active in PLAN exercises in the East China Sea.
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