Stealthy Trimarans For Littoral Warfare & EEZ Policing

By Prasun K. Sengupta


New Delhi, 26 October 2005

China’s state-owned China State Shipbuilding & Trading Corp (CSTC), which has todate already supplied offshore patrol vessels, inshore patrol boats and guided-missile frigates to ASEAN member-nations such as Cambodia, Thailand and The Philippines, is now poised to enter the Malaysian and Indonesian markets by offering boats like the 15,000-tonne multi-purpose support vessel (better known as a landing platform deck), 2,000-tonne offshore patrol vessel (like the two boats now being fitted out for the Royal Thai Navy), and most notably, unique stealthy Trimarans for undertaking both littoral warfare operations as well as exclusive economic zone (EEZ) policing.

Thus far, CSTC’s Shanghai-based Qiuxin Shipyard has built four trimarans of the Houbei-class (with pennant nos 2208, 2209, 2210 and 2211), with another two now being fitted out. All six trimarans, based on a unique wave-piercing catamaran hull with stealth features, will serve with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Navy (PLAN). The first vessel (pennant number 2208) was launched in April 2004 and was commissioned into service late last year. The use of an advanced trimaran hull shows that CSTC has been able to incorporate and apply advanced European and Australian fast-ferry technologies faster than the US. The trimaran hull configuration also confers greater high-speed capability in bad weather, while providing a large deck space for multiple uses. Incidentally, CSTC is the world’s first shipbuilder to have designed and series-built such stealthy trimarans for operational use.

For waging littoral warfare and sea denial operations, the trimaran comes equipped with eight CPMIEC-built 200km-range C-803K anti-ship cruise missiles mounted on twin, inclined quad launchers mounted aft of the vessel; a single six-barrelled 30mm gatling gun mounted fore of the bridge, and twin chaff/flare countermeasures launchers. The bridge houses a digital, integrated platform management system, while the single inclined mast above the bridge houses a combined surface surveillance/air search radar with a 360-degree rotating antenna, along with an ESM sensor and EW jammer, marine navigation radar, FLIR turret, and communications antennae. For close air defence, a single FL-2000 system comprising a quad-launcher containing four FLS-1 VSHORADS IR/laser-guided missiles can be carried on board. The anti-submarine warfare variant of the trimaran can be employed for combined ASW operations with diesel-electric submarines, and can be equipped with ASW mortars or multi-barrel rocket launchers instead of the C-803K missiles, along with a dipping sonar. The trimaran’s powerplant comprises twin diesel engine-driven waterjets delivering a maximum speed exceeding 32 Knots, and the total crew complement is around 20.

The trimaran’s EEZ patrol variant can be equipped with a lighter armament package, but the sensor suite is retained. As part of network-enabled operations, the vessel, when equipped with secure data links, can also act as a two-way data relay (signals repeater) station for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), thus in essence doubling the UAV’s surveillance envelope over the EEZ.

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