China strengthens naval presence in Middle East amid rising tensions

The 44th Naval Escort Task Force of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China has recently been deployed to the Middle East. This move comes amid escalating tensions in the region, particularly around Israel. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Zibo Type 052D-class destroyer from Chinese Navy (Picture source: Baidu)

Six Chinese ships have been deployed to the Middle East due to the rising tensions in the region. These ships have spent several days in Oman on routine missions. The new convoy, which is from the PLA's Northern Theater Command, includes a Type 052 destroyer Urumqi, the frigate Linyi, and a replenishment ship Dongpinghu. This deployment is not the only one in the area as the United States is also reinforcing its presence with a new aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea. We will now review the different ships involved.

The Zibo is a Type 052D-class destroyer equipped with a 64-cell vertical launching system that can fire various missiles, including YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles and HQ-9 anti-aircraft missiles. The ship also has anti-aircraft guns, a torpedo launcher, and anti-submarine helicopters. Its multifunctional AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar can track multiple targets simultaneously, making it a valuable asset for air and missile defense operations.

The Jingzhou is a Type 054A-class frigate equipped with a hull-mounted sonar and a towed array sonar for submarine detection. Its vertical launching system can hold up to 32 HQ-16 anti-aircraft missiles. For close-quarter combat, it also has anti-aircraft guns and machine guns. It can also launch torpedoes and anti-submarine missiles from its torpedo tubes.

The Qiandaohu is a Type 903A-class logistic support ship with a displacement capacity of 23,000 tons. It can carry a large amount of fuel, ammunition, and provisions, allowing combat ships to extend their mission duration. It is also equipped with medical and repair facilities to support a naval battle group.

Like the Zibo, the Urumqi is a Type 052D-class destroyer with similar features. It is also equipped with a 64-cell vertical launching system, an AESA radar, and a variety of weapon systems for multi-role missions. These destroyers are often considered the spearhead of China's naval battle groups.

The Linyi, another Type 054A-class frigate, has anti-submarine, anti-air, and anti-surface capabilities thanks to its versatile armament. Like the Jingzhou, it is equipped with torpedo tubes and a vertical launching system for HQ-16 anti-aircraft missiles.

Similar to the Qiandaohu, the Dongpinghu is another Type 903A-class replenishment ship. With a similar displacement capacity and cargo-carrying ability, it plays a key role in logistics and support for the naval group, enabling long-distance naval operations.

These six warships form a versatile naval force capable of handling a variety of threats and missions. They have been deployed to the Middle East when regional tensions are high, and the U.S. military is also strengthening its presence. The remaining question is how this military escalation by major powers will influence the already complex situation in the region.