Type 908 replenishment ship

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Class overview
Builders: Kherson Shipyard, refitted at Dalian Shipyard
Operators:  People's Liberation Army Navy
In commission: 1996
Completed: 1
Active: Qinghaihu, ex Nancang (Nanyun 953), ex Vladimir Peregudov (before purchase from Ukraine)
General characteristics
Displacement: 37,000 tonnes
Length: 188.9m
Beam: 25.33m
Draught: 10.41m
Propulsion: 1 Burmeister & Wain diesel 10,600 hp, 1 shaft
Speed: 16 knots
Complement: 125
Armament: 2 30mm close-in weapons systems[1]
Aircraft carried: 1 Z-8 helicopter
Aviation facilities: hangar and flight deck

The Type 908 (NATO reporting name Fusu-class, also known as Nancang-class) auxiliary oiler replenishment (AOR) ship is used by the People's Liberation Army Navy to resupply ships at sea with food, munitions, fuel and spare parts.[2] The only ship in this class in Chinese service, is Qinghaihu (Pennant number 885), ex Nancang (Nanyun 953). A similar ship with a Chinese hull classified by China as in the same class is in service with the Royal Thai Navy, as HTMS Similan (Pennant number 871). She was originally laid down for the Soviet Navy as a Komandarn Fedko class merchant tanker, but building work was halted due to insufficient funds, and was then purchased by the PLAN from the Russian Navy unfinished in 1993. The ship has a near sister ship (INS Jyoti (A58)) operating with the Indian Navy.

The Fusu-class AOR is the 2nd generation Chinese replenishment ship that is outfitted with a total of six cranes, four oil refuelling stations, and two stores stations. This allows the ship to replenish three warships simultaneously. The ship, through her helicopter facilities, is able to replenish warships operating nearby via vertical replenishment (VERTREP).

Background[edit]

The Fusu (Nancang) class is the result of the 2nd stage of the development of the Chinese fleet replenishment ship. Although considered somewhat successful, the Fuqing (Taikang) class replenishment oilers could not completely satisfy the requirement of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). One of the primary drawbacks of this class is that they are mainly for replenish liquid supplies, i.e. fuel and water. These ships of the 1st stage of the development of Chinese replenishment ships could only replenish extremely limited dry supplies, and are virtually incapable of resupply ammos, because the Chinese industry at the time lacked the capability to provide sounding safety measures for resupplying and storing ammos with fuels. This is one of the two primary constrains that despite the fact that on August 28, 1977, the Central Military Commission (People's Republic of China) ordered the resumption of the development of fleet replenishment ship that is capable of one-stop replenishment, (i.e. being capable of resupply ammos, fuels, water, and solid supplies together by a single ship, a concept first pioneered by United States Navy), the project was eventually put on hold.

The other primary constrain was a financial one, as Chinese economy was near the verge of total collapse resulting from the Cultural Revolution. Eventually, as the Economic reform in the People's Republic of China that first begun in 1979 rapidly improved Chinese economy, the 2nd stage of the development of the Chinese fleet replenishment ship was resumed in 1988, after around a decade of dormancy. PLAN had a lot of expectations for the new class of ship: in addition to being capable of one-stop replenishment, the new ship was also required to be a hospital ship. However, to meet such high expectation of PLAN, the cost was driven up multiple times. As the design was completed, the price tag of the proposed new ship exceeded what PLAN could afford and the project was in danger of being canceled again.

Origin[edit]

Just as the 2nd stage of the development of the Chinese fleet replenishment ship was about to be yet again put on hold, there was an unexpected turn of fortune that saved the project from being scrapped. After the breakup of Soviet Union at the end of 1991, Ukraine was eager to sell a half completed replenishment ship built for the Soviet navy. Originally laid down as Soviet Ship Vladimir Peregudov, a Komandam Fedko class merchant tanker, the ship was modified as a replenishment ship for the Soviet navy, but building work was halted due to insufficient funding. Chinese were interested in the ship and the original chief designer of the proposed 2nd generation Chinese replenishment ship, Chinese Academy of Sciences academician Mr. Zhang Wende (张文德) was named as the head of the Chinese delegation and chief negotiator, and his team was sent to Ukraine to evaluate the ship intended for the former Soviet navy.

The Chinese delegation discovered that the main engine and the generator had been already installed, but not pipes, cables and wires, and Chinese considered the quality of the ship was in excellent condition. Upon returning China, Zhang Wende and his colleagues strongly suggested to Chinese authorities to buy the ship, and they were sent to Ukraine for the second time to finalize the deal. Because many of the subsystems of the ship were built in Saint Petersburg, some of Zhang Wende’s team members were also sent to Russia to secure the purchase of these subsystems, which they completed successfully. On November 6, 1992, the deal was formally signed by China and Ukraine, and the original funding for developing the 2nd generation domestic Chinese replenishment ship was diverted to purchase the uncompleted ship for the former-Soviet navy.

Development[edit]

On May 1, 1993, the uncompleted former Soviet naval ship was towed to Dalian shipyard from Ukrainian Kherson shipyard. In addition to the hull and subsystems, China also purchased the design, which was immediately modified to meet the Chinese needs. Chinese Academy of Sciences academician Mr. Zhang Wende (张文德), the original chief designer of the 2nd generation domestic Chinese replenishment ship was named as the chief designer and the program manager of this conversion project. On May 8, 1996, it entered Chinese service in South Sea Fleet, where it has remained until today. The pennant number was originally Nanyun (南运)-953, but later changed to 885, with name Qinghaihu (青海湖), and this upgraded ship became the 2nd generation Chinese replenishment ship, replacing the originally planned indigenous one.

The conversion project was deemed successful and worthy but Chinese, who had gained important insights on Soviet design principle, core technologies, important subsystems, layout, and other expertise that were difficult for Chinese to obtain, and these valuable knowledge would later help China in designing its next generation replenishment ships. The most important gain, however, was financial. The original funding that was insufficient to develop a proposed indigenous 2nd generation Chinese replenishment ship was not only enough to buy the uncompleted former Soviet ship, but also had enough left to cover the following conversion work. One of the primary areas of improvement of the original former-Soviet design was in damage control, which was woefully inadequate (Rumored due to its original civilian merchant tanker design). Some of the interior wiring was exposed, and the ship's battle damage control system was very limited, with a near absence of internal damage limitation, insufficient fire-suppression system and water-tight locks. Incorporate the experienced gained from the rework of Type 053 frigates exported to Royal Thai Navy, the damage control of the ship was upgraded to western (mostly German and American) standards.

HTMS Similan[edit]

In January, 1993, China received the notification from Thai government, informing the former’s intention to purchase a replenishment ship for its light aircraft carrier fleet. China decided to join the bid, among other western shipbuilders including DCNS, Fincantieri, BAZAN, Hyundai and Dutch Schelde shipyards, and the Chinese design would be very similar to the converted former-Soviet ship, with work on both ships would be performed simultaneously. The original chief designer of the cancelled 2nd generation domestic Chinese replenishment ship, academician Zhang Wende (张文德), who was named as the chief designer and the program manager of the conversion project for the Chinese navy, was also assigned an additional task, as the chief designer of second ship China would be building for export to Thai navy. China managed to beat its western competitors and won the Thai contract.

Work on the ship built for Thai navy went well and the ship was completed on August 12, 1996. Zhang Wende, the chief designer personally stayed on board the ship for twelve days during the voyage to Thailand, gathering information at the very last moment, so that it would help in the future design of the next generation Chinese replenishment ship. Whenever possible, Zhang personally operated the ship, including radars, handling boats the ship carried, and other tasks. The ship was formally accepted to the Thai naval service on September 12, 1996, and was named HTMS Similan (pennant number 187).

HTMS Similan is very similar to its sister ship in Chinese service, except it uses a Chinese hull. The most important difference, however, is in upgrading its replenishment capability. Despite being able to replenish solid supplies, the capability to resupply ammo is still rather limited for the Chinese ship. The Thai ship has further overcome this problem by increasing the ammo resupply capability. Despite the difference between two ships, most of the technologies and components, especially those core technologies for both ships remain the same, and for this reason, China has placed HTMS Similan and the Chinese ship Qinghaihu (青海湖) in the same class. This class would eventually evolve into Fuchi (Qiandaohu) class.

General characteristics[edit]

  • Length: 188.9m
  • Beam: 25.33 m
  • Displacement: 37,000 tonnes full load
  • Aircraft: 1 Z-8 helicopter
  • Complement: 125
  • Cargo Capacity:
    • 23,000 tons fuel and general cargo

References[edit]