The latest Type 818 cutter (ocean going armed patrol ship) built for the Chinese Coast Guard has been confirmed to be a modified version of the Type 54 frigate used by the Chinese Navy and that the Type 818 was designed to be quickly converted to a warship in war time. As a Type 818 cutter the Type 54 is armed with a 76mm cannon, two 30mm autocannon and four high-pressure water cannon (for “non-lethal” enforcement) plus a Z-9 helicopter. The cutter has the same fire control system as the Type 54A frigate and there is empty space on the cutter where the Type 54A VLS (Vertical Launch System) tubes can be quickly installed and be used to hold anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles. There is also provision for quickly adding all the additional combat electronics of the Type 54A.
The Type 54 frigate, which first appeared in 2005, was notable because the design was based on Western, not Russian, practices. The first two built were less capable than the later Type 54A model. After the second Type 54 appeared in 2006, the weapons and electronics of the design were greatly upgraded and became the Type 54A. Thus the final shape of the Type 54A was a 4,000 ton a 134.2 meter (440 foot) long ship with a top speed of 49 kilometers an hour and a range of 14,400 kilometers. The crew of 165 operates a 76mm cannon, two 30mm multi-barrel anti-missile autocannon, eight C-803 anti-ship missiles, six anti-submarine torpedoes, 12 240mm anti-submarine rockets, 72 tubes carrying decoy rockets, 32 VLS cells containing anti-aircraft or anti-submarine missiles. There is also space for a helicopter. The radars, sonar, and electronics are all Chinese made. So far 30 Type 54s have been built or are under construction. These have been exported to Russia, Malaysia and Thailand.
Coast guard cutters have long been expected to perform as warships in wartime. That often addition of some electronics and weapons and additional crew. But with the Type 818 cutter being based on a contemporary warship hull China expects to get more out of its cutters in wartime and also justify the construction of more of these cutters in peacetime.