Warships International Fleet Review: To Counter Chinese Attack Boats, Navy Must Think Small

22.06.10

Categorie: Asia, China, David Axe, Naval, Warships International Fleet Review |

Type 022

Type 022. Via Photobucket.

by DAVID AXE

The new Chinese Fast Attack Craft took the world by surprise. In 2004, Western naval observers spotted an unusual, catamaran warship in Qiuxin Shipyard in Shanghai. Over the next six years, as many as 40 identical vessels emerged from Chinese yards. The FACs, dubbed the Type 022 or Houbei class, began participating in People’s Liberation Army Navy training events.

Today, the U.S. Navy is mulling how to defeat the new vessel.

One hundred and forty feet long and displacing around 225 tons, the Type 022s are capable of at least 36 knots. Armament includes eight, 135-mile-range C803 Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles plus a Gatling gun for point defense. The crew is small: just a dozen sailors. The Type 022 is based on a ferry design produced by AMD Marine Consulting in Australia.

The Type 022 appears to be faster, more heavily armed and stealthier than previous Chinese FACs. “The quantum leap Houbei-class improvements surprised many,” John Patch, an associate professor at the U.S. Army War College, noted in an article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings.

Patch believes the Type 022 is meant to operate in large groups called “swarms,” volleying its missiles to overwhelm and destroy U.S. Navy carrier groups. “Just a single C803 is a serious potential to a U.S. carrier or expeditionary strike group, but Chinese naval tactics almost certainly do not envision single-missile strikes against adversary capital ships.”

“This craft is a pure-bred ship-killer,” Patch wrote. It would play a largely defensive role, denying China’s near-shore waters to American and allied warships. But that doesn’t mean the Type 022 would be strictly passive and reactive during a shooting war. “The Houbei class provides a distinctly offensive capability within an ‘active defense’ strategy,” Patch asserted. In other words, the Type 022 would be aggressive within its defensive zone, attacking approaching enemy ships in order to prevent an effective blockade.

Another analyst has drawn a comparison between the Type 022 and a theoretical American ship design. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, U.S. Navy Admiral Art Cebrowski advocated building a large number of small, heavily-armed warships for littoral operations. The so-called “Streetfighter,” no more than 500 tons displacement apiece, would hunt in packs near enemy shores.

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13 Responses to “Warships International Fleet Review: To Counter Chinese Attack Boats, Navy Must Think Small”

  1. Robert says:

    The closest U.S. equivalent is the Pegasus class hydrofoil (1977-83).

    It’s too bad that PHM (48 knots when foilborne) was killed because it mismatched a “Navy with primarily offensive missions.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pegasus_class_hydrofoil

  2. Moose says:

    Not a subscriber, but the best counter to small combatants is Aviation.

    The problem with countering 022 with our own 022/Streetfighter is that, barring a massive program on our end and extensive forward basing, we’ll always be at a numerical disadvantage in a potential conflict in China’s backyard. To overcome that disparity we’ll have to saddle our own vessel with more extensive stealthing and more robust defenses, driving up displacement and costs.

    Helicopters, F-18/JSF, and armed UAVs on the other hand can interdict small combatants over the horizon from our own ships and beyond the enemy’s engagement envelope. The Type 022 and similar craft lack serious anti-air, because carrying anything larger than MANPADS and the gun would cut into their ASCM payload. A hit from even the comparatively “small” Hellfire would be a serious issue for the 022, devestating if it hit those C803s, and a Penguin or air-launched Harpoon would wipe one out.

  3. John Patch says:

    The two key problems for the US are locating the Type 022 (big ocean, little ship, EMCON) and then dealing with the numbers–you can kill 10 and still have 20 to deal with. Blue air will also have some trouble getting into kill range with Chinese air defenses (shore-based S-300 and Luzhou DDG with 100+km SA-N-6 SAMs, etc.).

  4. Turk says:

    Dream targets for navy helo pilots

  5. Turk says:

    …though not as good as those semi-submersible torpedo boats the Iranians have, they can’t even shoot back and will show up great on FLIR

  6. [...] China is militarily weaker than many people think, especially compared to America. This, despite lots of showy jet prototypes and plenty of other factory-fresh equipment. [...]

  7. [...] China is militarily weaker than many people think, especially compared to America. This, despite lots of showy jet prototypes and plenty of other factory-fresh equipment. [...]

  8. [...] China is militarily weaker than many people think, especially compared to the United States. This, despitelots of showy jet prototypes and plenty of other factory-fresh equipment. [...]

  9. Jo says:

    The whole idea of “carrier” battle groups is outdated. The Soviets already knew that in the 60′s…(diesel) Submarines & small attack boats with a lot of guided missiles is the way to go…
    fire 100 missiles costing 1 million $ at an U.S. carrier group costing 10′s of billions of $s = bye bye carrier group. It’s is a very effective way to win a war against the U.S.
    Aircraft Carriers only bring ” prestige” and are good for fighting a war against a third rate country like Iraq.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturation_attack anyone ?

  10. [...] China is militarily weaker than many people think, especially compared to the United States. This, despite lots of showy jet prototypes and plenty of other factory-fresh equipment. [...]

  11. JKM says:

    does every Type 022 come with a small tugboat attached? It might be more intimidating to see it move under its own power.

  12. leesea says:

    The keys to the Type 022 success will be NONE of the above.
    The keys are: very large numbers will be built and forward deployed (later), they will be able to hide amongst the islands and ground clutter making theit targeting harder, and the Chinese see these ships as expendable.

    Can large task groups even CSG operate in those littoral waters? Not without being threatened by these FACs.

  13. [...] compared to the United States. This, despite lots of showy jet prototypes and plenty of other factory-fresh equipment. But Beijing has a brutally simple — if risky — plan to compensate for this relative [...]

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