Chinese embassy officials said the formal handover would take place early next year. The ‘Jangwei I’ class frigate was deployed in the People’s Liberation Army’s Navy (PLAN) until 2015. Tongling the last in a class of four vessels is classified as a ‘missile frigate’ by the PLAN. The other three vessels of the ‘Jangwei I’ class have been decommissioned, refit and re-purposed as patrol vessels for the China Coast Guard, the maritime arm of the People’s Armed Police (PAP).
The vessel is given a new pennant number ‘P-625′ indicating her new role as an offshore patrol vessel (OPV). The modernised vessel is equipped with a main turret holding dual Type 79 100 mm cannons and two Type 76A dual-37 mm Anti-Aircraft Guns at the aft. The frigate has a helipad and hangar to store and operate a medium size helicopter.
The Sri Lanka Navy’s recent additions include Indian built advanced off shore patrol vessels (AOPVs) SLNS Sayurala (P623) and SLNS Sindurala (P624). The AOPVs joined the fleet in 2017 and 2018 respectively. The Sri Lanka Coast Guard also commissioned an OPV in 2018, the SLCG Suraksha (CG-60).
The Chinese vessel comes in the wake of Indian, Japanese and American grants and donations of vessels to the SLN. Since 2015 there has been an increase in naval diplomacy to Colombo by foreign powers, an indication of the importance given to the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) by major powers. Recently, the United States renamed its 7th Fleet (Pacific) Command calling it the ‘Indo-Pacific’ Command.