PLAN operates towed and variable depth sonars in South China Sea exercise

Jane's Defense Weekly
Yao Jianing

Crew members (left) prepare variable depth sonar for deployment and others (right) monitor the towed array acoustic modules being streamed from the quarterdeck of a Type 052D destroyer. Source: Via

Chinese news media recently reported that a destroyer squadron from the South Sea Fleet of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) conducted a week-long anti-submarine warfare (ASW) exercise that concluded in late November.

A 1 December article, published on, was illustrated with the clearest photographs yet seen in open sources of the PLAN's variable depth sonar, which is being fitted to an increasing number of Chinese warships.

The report stated that the units involved in the exercise included surface ships, submarines, aircraft, and shore-based units. The photographs show that two of the participating surface ships were the Jiangkai II-class (Type 054A) frigate Yueyang and the Luyang III-class (Type 052D) destroyer Yinchuan .

The PLAN's first four Type 052D destroyers have been allocated to the South Sea Fleet, with the newest one, Yinchuan , being commissioned in July 2016. These destroyers have the distinctive Type 346A Dragon Eye phased array radar, which is reportedly a highly capable sensor for detecting air and surface contacts and providing target data to the anti-air and anti-surface weapon systems.

Equipped with a vertical launch system (VLS) with 64-cells for HHQ-9B surface-to-air missiles and YJ-18 anti-ship missiles, Type 052D destroyers are likely to form a key component of the escort force for any carrier or amphibious task group until the larger Type 055 destroyers - two of which have been photographed under construction - enter service.

The photographs from the recent exercise also show that the Type 052D destroyers have a potentially very capable underwater sensor suite. The images show a variable depth sonar being deployed in parallel with a linear towed array sonar.

Variable depth sonar (VDS) body being lowered into the water astern of Type 052D destroyer with cable showing towed array already streamed (thinner darkly coloured cable). (Via

A number of Jiangkai II-class (Type 054A) frigates and Jiangdao-class (Type 056A) corvettes have a similar configuration of variable depth and linear towed array sonars, although there are likely to be differences to accommodate ship-fitting constraints.

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