HMS Somerset has met and escorted the Chinese warship Xiangtan as she passes through the English channel on her way to the North Sea.
The Type 054A frigate Xiangtan is a multi-role frigate. As of 2016, 22 of the class are in service. The vessel is a development of the Type 054 frigate, using the same hull but with improved sensors and weapons.
The Type 054A was first revealed while under construction at the Guangzhou-based Huangpu Shipyard in 2005. The class somewhat resemble the French La Fayette-class frigates in shape and displacement. In addition, the Chinese reportedly used French, or French-derived, electronics and weapons.
HMS Somerset is a Type 23 frigate, the type form the core of the Royal Navy’s destroyer and frigate fleet and serve alongside the Type 45 destroyers. Originally designed for anti-submarine warfare in the North Atlantic, the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates have proven their versatility in warfighting, peace-keeping and maritime security operations around the globe. Thirteen Type 23 frigates remain in service with the Royal Navy, with three vessels having been sold to Chile and handed over to the Chilean Navy.
According to BFBS, “HMS Somerset established constructive communications with the Xiangtan after she entered the Channel from the Atlantic on Wednesday, and on request the Plymouth-based frigate provided the ship with a weather forecast.”
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
“The UK enjoys positive relations with China and the Royal Navy has once again provided a secure escort around our shores. The UK strongly supports the right of all States to exercise freedom of navigation in accordance with international law.”
HMS Somerset’s Commanding Officer, Commander Michael Wood said:
“This was the second Chinese naval group to enter the Channel within the last eight months and duties of this type are routinely conducted on passing warships from non-NATO navies.
It signals the Royal Navy’s readiness to provide security at sea while being minded to promote friendly partnerships with others.”
The encounter comes after a delegation from China visited Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in April.