The ninth Dongdiao-class (Type 815/815A) intelligence collection ship (AGI) on order for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) was launched on 3 February at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai.
The number of China's AGIs is increasing significantly. The first Dongdiao-class vessel (a Type 815) entered service around 1999, with the second one (an improved variant called the Type 815A) being commissioned in 2010. The remaining 7 ships (also Type 815As) have all been launched within the last four years. Two entered the water in February and September 2017, respectively, with the first one expected to enter service shortly.
Although Hudong-Zhonghua constructs commercial and naval ships, the shipyard appears to have been particularly busy building ships for the PLAN. The recently launched Type 815A will be berthed alongside to complete equipment installation work. Also berthed alongside in the post-launch fitting out phase are another Type 815A, two Type 071 amphibious ships, two Type 054A frigates, and two Type 056A corvettes.
The 6,100-tonne ships are highly distinctive as they feature large spherical radomes, 6-8 m in diameter, that are fitted over dish antennas used to intercept communications, radar, or other emissions. Although there are variations in the detailed equipment fit, most ships of the class have one spherical radome midships and another one aft.
A large radome, which varies in shape, is also fitted on the bridge roof. On the preceding two ships a large cylindrical ‘top hat’ has been fitted, suggesting that the antenna beneath it is a different shape from those installed in earlier ships.
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