A Chinese PLA Navy Type 056 stealth corvette with her embarked Harbin Z-9 helicopter on the flight deck
PHOTO CREDIT; SINODEFENCE
In the absence of real photos, we can only project towards the shape of things to come as it pertains to what our Nigerian Navy’s incoming P18N stealth Offshore Patrol Vessels shall look like.
The 1,440 ton missile armed Pattani-class OPVs of the Royal Thai Navy can rightly be described as the naval ship which inspired the idea of constructing the ultramodern Type 056 family of stealth platforms.
Inspired by the plucky and versatile OPVs which they built for the Thai Navy, the Chinese, desirous of inducting a new class of OPV-light frigate able to operate in relatively shallow waters and in the deep offshore zone alike, came up with the Type 056 design which drew extensively on the design of the Pattani-class.
The most significant difference between the Pattani-class missile OPVs and the Type 056 corvette whose design it inspired, can be said to be the possession of flight decks and hangars on the Pattani-class OPV whereas the Type 056 corvette only features a flight deck.
The PLA Navy of China commenced the induction into service of these beautiful ships in 2012. Since then, orders for derivatives of the standard Type 056 modular design have been received from Nigeria and Bangladesh.
The Bangladeshis seek to own two units of the Type 056 corvette but have requested amendments to the basic design of the Type 056 corvette as pictured above. The Bangladeshis want their corvettes modified to incorporate hangars which is no9-existent on the standard Type 056 design. This plan to incorporate would thus see the Bangladesh Navy’s variant of Type 056 corvette lengthened by ten (10) metres to create space for the envisaged hangars.
Like the Chinese, the Bangladesh Navy which has just kickstarted the operations of her new Navy Air Arm with the acquisition of Agusta A109e Power helicopters and Dornier Do 228NG MPA surveillance planes, have also placed an order for two units of Harbin Z-9C naval helicopters which shall almost certainly be embarked on the incoming Type 056 corvettes.
The Nigerian Navy also have two units of Type 056 platforms on order but this time, stealth Offshore Patrol Vessel variants. Bearing the unique Nigerian designation of “P18N OPVs”, the Nigerian ships shall also be lengthened to allow for the construction of aircraft hangars and are expected to weigh in at a heavier 1,800 tons – as compared to the 1,440 ton displacement which are typical for the Thai Navy’s Pattani-class OPVs and the Chinese PLA Navy’s Type 056 corvettes.
Pictured above is the most vivid shot yet seen by this writer of a ship and helicopter pairing involving a Type 056 corvette or OPV derivative. It should be of interest to Nigerians.
Informed Nigerian sources suggest that the long-stored Lynx Mk.89 naval helicopters of the Nigerian Navy Air Arm which can be armed with torpedoes, are about now undergoing upgrades and are due for delivery sometime in March 2014.
The timing of that delivery, coming so close as it were to the expected delivery date of the first P18N OPV to the Nigerian Navy and in the absence of any known orders for complementary Harbin Z-9 helicopters, could imply that upgraded Lynx ASW helicopters might be embarked on the incoming Nigerian OPVs.
Interesting times and pairings appear to be in the loop for Nigerians versed in observing the ways of their resurgent navy.