Houbei Class (Type 022) Fast Attack Craft, Missile
In April 2004, China's Quixin Shipyard in Shanghai produced the lead Houbei Type 022 wave-piercing catamaran, hull number 2208. The Type 022 is 43 meters (140 feet) long and displaces 225 tons. It is equipped with two missile launchers and has a top speed of 38 knots. The Type 022 was the PLA Navy's new-generation stealth missile fast attack craft (FAC). The boat features a unique high-speed, wave-piercing catamaran hull design with evident radar cross-section reduction design features. A number of Chinese shipyards across the country were involved in the construction of the boat.
The Chinese trimaran fast attack craft (FAC) design will probably grow into a larger more versatile platform, similar to the U.S. Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program. Catamaran vessels have existed for many centuries, mainly for sailing sport. At the end of the 20th century there was an increased trend of employing the catamaran design on high-speed ferries. Although a number of logistic and combat support vessels in the catamaran form were tested in the past, no catamaran had ever been built for direct combat role in the modern naval history. The Type 022 missile FAC is indeed the world's first combat catamaran that had been commissioned. Coincidently, the US Navy was also testing a high-speed, wave-piercing catamaran known as FSF1 "Sea Fighter" for the littoral warfare role.
The wave-piercing catamaran offers great high-speed, long-distance cursing performance. The twin hulls of the catamaran enable the vessel to be more stable when travelling at high speeds than the conventional single-hull craft. Catamarans are especially favourable in coastal shallow waters, where large single-hull warships have limitations due to their deeper draft. The Type 022 missile FAC was likely to be used for costal defence roles in conjunction with larger surface ships and land-based aircraft.
However, the catamaran hull design also has problems. One of them is from the submerged bodies of the hull. Scientists have known that the MUNK moment can cause the motion instability of submerged bodies. So the designer of catamaran will add the stabilized or controlling fins on the submerged bodies. But how to optimize the hydrodynamic of the catamaran is still being research by world.
The Australian company AMD exports various sizes of catamarans for commercial customers from all parts of the world. From 1993 until 2000, China procured seven AMD catamarans from 16 meters long to 30 meters (100 feet) long for river, seaport or local ferry duties. AMD had a joint venture company, Sea Bus International, located in Guangzhou that refined this catamaran design. After a review of competing designs, the PLAN selected a military patrol boat design based on the AMD 350, which was markedly like the Type 022 in specifications.
One notable area in which commercial hull construction is leading military development is the use of aluminum in fast ferries. The extra cost and complexity of designing and building ships with this aluminum are made commercially viable by the speed benefits afforded through lighter weight. The lower structural strength and melting point of aluminum, however, have limited its use in mainstream warship construction. Despite these strength and damage resiliency disadvantages, several navies have turned to aluminum as they look for high speed in specialized littoral warfare and transport vessels. In doing so, they have turned to leading commercial fast-ferry builders (such as Austal of Australia) for not only aluminum welding and fabrication techniques but complete aluminum hull designs. The trimaran variant of the U.S. Navy’s new Littoral Combatant Ship (LCS) was designed and built by Austal USA; in China, the aluminum catamaran hull of the new Type 022 Houbei-class fast attack craft is widely believed to be derived from Western fast-ferry designs. Consequently, whereas traditional types of PLAN frigates and destroyers are likely to draw only general benefits in hull construction quality from commercial shipbuilding development, smaller fast-attack craft and other specialized types may benefit heavily from commercial advances in aluminum hull construction.
The use of advanced trimaran hull showed that the Chinese are able to incorporate advanced European and Australian fast ferry technology a bit faster than the U.S., as American programs to use these ships and this hull technology are only in the design and experiment stage. While the U.S. did use some Australian designed fast ferries in the 2003 Iraq invasion, the U.S. did not have ships coming off the lines, like the Chinese do. On one level, this new FAC is a Chinese program to replace old conventional hull designs, and to exceed the capabilities of Taiwan’s new stealthy FAC design. The trimaran hull configuration confers greater high speed capability in heavy weather, while providing a large deck space for multiple uses.
The new Chinese FAC design also demonstrates that the real naval threat from China is not aircraft carriers and large destroyers bought from Russia. The real threat is quiet diesel submarines and small ships like this new FAC. The real potential of this new design would be its use in co-ordination with their diesel subs and, possibly, theater ballistic missiles with precision guidance. A combination like that could enable the Chinese to deny the U.S. Navy the ability to safely move in some vital areas, such as the waters surrounding Taiwan
After several years of extensive prototype testing, Quixin then produced hulls 2209, 2210 and 2211. Many observers thought this could be only a four-ship design, such as the People's Liberation Army Navy's (PLAN's) previous five new guided-missile destroyer (DDG) designs of only one or two hulls since 1991. The startup of production for additional Type 022 hulls in Dalian, Quixin and Jiangnan shipyards in Shanghai, as well as in the Huangpu shipyard in Guangzhou, changed this precept. The large number of wave-piercing catamaran Type 022 hulls being launched several at a time at five different shipyards was a major event in PLAN shipbuilding. By early 2008 China was believed to have built as many as 40 Type 022 missile boats to replace the ageing Huangfeng class missile boats.
The Type 022 Houbei PCFG appears to be building at a rate of about 10 units per year. The August 2009 US Office of Naval Intelligence report "The People’s Liberation Army Navy: A Modern Navy With Chinese Characteristics" stated " ... the PLA(N) has built up its long-range capability, it has also reinforced its coastal defense and near-littoral strengths with the introduction of the highly-capable Houbei class guided-missile patrol craft (PTG) in 2004. The Houbei utilizes a wave-piercing catamaran hullform, probably based on a commercial fastferry design, and water jet propulsion to attain considerably better seakeeping, speed, and mission flexibility than the older Gsa and Houku missile boats that they replaced. The relatively low construction, operating, and crew costs of the Houbeis have allowed China to build well over 50 to date, with more under construction."
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PLANAVY Type 022 Missile Fast Attack Craft