The People’s Liberation Army has dispatched two advanced warships to Hong Kong this week for a joint naval drill with the force’s Hong Kong garrison. The PLA seamen aboard the Haikou, a 7,000-ton guided-missile destroyer, and the Huangshan, a smaller frigate, will also welcome locals and expats for tours on their decks during open days throughout the week while the vessels are moored at Stonecutters naval base in Kowloon, which faces Victoria Harbor.

The two warships are making the port call while en route back to their home port in Guangdong’s Zhanjiang, which is under the PLA’s South Sea Fleet, having wrapped up their participation in a massive sea parade off Qingdao to mark the Chinese Navy’s 70th anniversary.

The Haikou, one of the Type 052C destroyer series, features a radar with 360-degree coverage, vertically launched HQ-9 long-range air defense missiles as well as a spacious hangar for anti-submarine warfare choppers. The Type 052C, dubbed “China’s Aegis,” is the first Chinese destroyer family with genuine long-range air defense capabilities.

Vertical missile launching pads aboard the Haikou.
The Huangshan, a frigate that is one of the newest warships in service with the Chinese Navy. Photos: WeChat

The Huangshan, a Type 054A multi-role frigate, sports a sloped hull design and a clean profile for stealth. It is also equipped with a vertical launching system for anti-aircraft and anti-submarine missiles, plus close-range weapon systems. The Type 054A frigate has reportedly been exported to Thailand and Pakistan.

Both the Haikou and the Huangshan have been deployed further afield with other Chinese warships multiple times to the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia to escort civilian ships and guard sea lines, as well as in the search for Chinese passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines plane (Flight 370) in the Indian Ocean in 2014 and 2015.

The Chinese Defense Ministry is yet to release further details about the two ships’ scheduled drill with the PLA’s Hong Kong garrison, which maintains a flotilla of Type 056 corvettes and other smaller corvettes and amphibious vessels.

Hong Kong remains a vital entrepôt and an R&R destination for Western navies even after its handover from Britain to China. Recent ships that have visited the port include the Ronald Reagan, a US nuclear super-carrier that sailed into the city in November, and the 7th Fleet Flagship Blue Ridge, which stopped by last month.

A file photo shows the now decommissioned Kitty Hawk during a port visit to Hong Kong in 2007. Photo: US Navy

Chinese warships, by comparison, seldom detour via Hong Kong during their missions, but the Liaoning, China’s sole aircraft carrier in service, visited in July 2017, when it led an armada of vessels into the city as part of military fanfare to celebrate 20 years of Hong Kong back under Chinese rule.

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