Taking Stock of China’s Growing Navy: The Death and Life of Surface Fleets

The Chinese navy’s surface forces are on the march. Destroyers, frigates, corvettes, and fast-attack craft comprise the surface fleet, along with—most strikingly—China’s first aircraft carrier, a refurbished Soviet-built flattop dubbed Liaoning. Since 2004 the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy or PLAN) has gone from importing frontline warships to fielding six new classes of indigenously built destroyers, frigates, and corvettes. Notably, the Type 052D Luyang III destroyer, the Type 054A Jiangkai II frigate, and the Type 056 Jiangdao corvette have all entered serial production, adding mass and balance to the fleet. Just over a decade has elapsed since China began to commission these modern fighting ships. Coming so far so quickly constitutes an impressive feat by any standard