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The Chinese Coast Guard has more than 20 warships, type 056 frigates. Are they vulnerable to collisions?

Clashes between the Philippine Navy and Chinese Coast Guard ships are frequent in the South China Sea. In one of the latest, the Chinese Coast Guard ship No. 4103 (former PLAN 056 frigate, known as "Weihai," 1300 tons that collided with a much smaller Philippine Coast Guard ship) sustained severe damage, particularly several holes in its hull. Are Chinese warships that collision resistant?

by Nicola e Gabriele Iuvinale

As we all know, a ship collision at sea is extremely dangerous and can cause ships to sink. Videos and photos circulating on the Internet refer to the collision that occurred during the collision between the Chinese and Philippine coast guards at the Horseshoe Reef on April 4. But in fact, well-informed Chinese sources pointed out that the collision of the damaged Chinese ship occurred much earlier than what happened at Horseshoe Crab Reef, namely on March 23, the same day the Chinese navy used high-pressure water cannons to drive off a Philippine supply ship.

The collision occurred under this circumstance

Only recently were photos of the damage discovered. Here is the damage suffered by the Chinese Coast Guard ship struck by the one from the Philippines.

Hole in the hull

The ships that collided were the Philippine Coast Guard ship "Singandan" and the Chinese Coast Guard ship No. 4103. The "Singandan" is a patrol ship of the Philippines. It was built by Japan Marine Union Co., Ltd. with an overall length of 44 meters and a displacement of more than 300 tons. It was launched in 2017 and is one of the few state-of-the-art Coast Guard ships in the Philippines. Coast Guard Ship 4103, formerly known as "Weihai," is a Type 056 frigate. It was commissioned in 2013 by PLAN, retired in 2022 and handed over to the Coast Guard. The total length of the Type 056 frigate is 88 meters, twice that of the "Xingandan," and its tonnage exceeds 1,300 tons, more than four times that of the "Xingandan."

China Coast Guard No. 4103

Guardia costiera filippina 4407 "Singandan"

From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, with the advent of armored ships, the tonnage of naval ships increased rapidly. The greater the tonnage of the ship, the worse the speed and flexibility, and the greater the power required. To increase the flexibility of warships, many countries began to adopt "key protection" designs, which provide only heavy armor in ammunition depots, engine rooms and other parts, while the rest is built with thin steel plates of about 30 mm.

Solo la parte viola è protetta dall'armatura

After World War II, with the rapid development of weapons such as missiles, it was no longer realistic to use armor to resist missiles, so with the exception of a few parts, most modern warship hulls use only thin steel plates about 15 mm thick without any armor. Even for aircraft carriers, hull thickness generally does not exceed 30 mm. In history there have been many accidents involving collisions between warships and between warships and civilian ships. These accidents have basically followed one principle: the smaller the ship, the more it suffers.

In past maritime collisions between Philippine and Chinese ships, the tonnage of both sides has generally been fair. For example, on March 5, the same ship "Xingandan" and the Chinese Coast Guard ship 21555 touched each other. Since the "Xingandan" and the Coast Guard ship 21555 are both small vessels of over 300 tons, they did not suffer major damage.

Tuttavia, in questo incidente la differenza di tonnellaggio tra la nave della Guardia costiera filippina e quella cinese era di quattro volte a vantaggio di quella cinese e l'inerzia della fregata 056 è maggiore di quella della "Xingandan".

Allora, come mai la nave da guerra cinese di oltre 1.000 tonnellate, colpita da una imbarcazione Filippina di poche centinaia di tonnellate, ha riportando gravi danni?

Le navi da guerra cinesi sono così resistenti alle collisioni?

Alcuni esperti hanno affermato che la 056 sarebbe stata progettata come nave da guerra e non è strutturalmente resistente alle collisioni, quindi sarebbe del tutto inadatta alle esigenze della guardia costiera cinese nel Mar Cinese Meridionale.

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