• CNS Ningde, a Type 056-class corvette.

CNS Ningde, a Type 056-class corvette. (Photo : PLAN)

The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has commissioned the CNS Ezhou (513), its 31st Type 056- class corvette into the world's largest fleet of modern corvettes.

The CNS Ezhou was delivered to the East Sea Fleet on Jan. 18. PLAN said the warship will perform anti-submarine; anti-ship; coastal patrol and fishery escort operations.

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The Ezhou is the second ship commissioned by PLAN this year. The CNS Kaiyangxing, a Type-815A class electronic reconnaissance ship or spy ship now with the North Sea Fleet, was the first warship commissioned in 2017.

Ezhou is 89 meters long and 11 meters wide and displaces 1,254 metric tons. It has a maximum speed of 52 km/h and is highly maneuverable.

A key advantage is the warship's high level of automation and stealth capability. PLAN claims Type 056 corvettes are capable of attacking aircraft, ships and submarines.

China began to build the Type 056-class in 2012 to modernize its coastal defense flotillas then consisting of the antiquated Type-037 class corvettes, which were submarine chasers.

The first Type-056 class ship, CNS Bengbu, was delivered to the East Sea Fleet in February 2013. Before the Ezhou, a total of 30 Type 056-class corvettes were commissioned into the Navy.

Type-056 class corvettes are armed with four YJ-83 anti-ship missile launchers; a 76 mm gun; two 30 mm close in weapon system autocannons; two triple-barrel lightweight torpedo launchers and an eight-cell HHQ-10 short-range anti-aircraft missile launcher.

Cao Weidong, a researcher at the PLAN Military Studies Research Institute, said despite the Type-056 class being smaller than frigates, it will be as powerful as frigates in battles in coastal waters thanks to its stealth design and firepower.

Type-056 class ships can also help with long-range operations, said Du Wenlong, an equipment expert at the PLA Academy of Military Science.

Chinese shipyards at Liaonan, Wuchang, Hudong and Huangpu are turning out corvettes at the rate of one every six weeks, an impressive record. The new warships will be distributed among PLAN's South Sea, East Sea and North Sea Fleets. A number of Type 056s are also being built for the China Coast Guard.