Two Chinese warships are passing through the Black Sea towards the Russian port of Novorossiysk.
The guided missile frigates will arrive in Russia by May 9, likely in time to participate in Russian celebrations commemorating the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, Sputnik News reports.
The two Type 054A guided-missile frigates are part of the Chinese Navy’s North Fleet. After docking in Novorossiysk, the pair will return to the Mediterranean where they will participate in sea drills with the Russian fleet in mid-May. This will be the first time that the two nations will hold drills together in the Mediterranean.
Beijing could be using these military exercises as a chance to showcase its 054A frigate. According to the Taiwan-based Want China Times, Russian defence experts recently made waves by suggesting that Russia should purchase that model of frigate from Beijing to keep its fleet up to date as Moscow undertakes a long-term military modernization drive.
But according to USNI News, such a sale would actually be a source of embarrassment for Russia. Chinese frigate technology was largely based off of Soviet and Russian designs, so Moscow buying weapons from China would be a notable reversal.
“What this would say about the Russian shipbuilding industry would be a lot. Even smaller navies are able to build their own guided missile frigates,” naval analyst Eric Wertheim told USNI News. “If this is true, it would be such a black eye for the Russian shipbuilding industry.”
Still, the sale of 054A frigates to Russia would be mutually beneficial. Russia would be able to immediately replace its ageing frigates with a capable stand-in while it builds its own replacement. And China would further cement its reputation as one of the world’s major weapons manufacturers.
Over the past 15 years, China’s arms industry has expanded drastically. Beijing is now the third-largest arms exporter in the world, behind the US and Russia. Currently, China’s sales have been limited almost exclusively to developing and rogue states and the sale of weapons to Russia would be a drastic boost to the prestige of Chinese-made arms.
The 054A frigates are “well-armed general-purpose frigates,” according to IHS Jane’s 360. The frigates are armed with a 76 mm main gun, two 30 mm turrets, two anti-submarine mortars, anti-submarine torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, and launch tubes for surface-to-air missiles.
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