China’s 46th Naval Escort Task Force Replaces 45th Task Force in Gulf of Aden

On March 4th, China’s 46th Naval Escort Task Force (NETF) replaced the 45th NETF to escort cargo and other commercial vessels in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. The task forces held a ceremony that formalized the handover and separation of the two task forces.

The 46th NETF is made up of the Type-052D/Luyang III-class destroyer CNS Jiaozuo, the Type-054A Jiangkai II-class frigate CNS Xucheng, and the Type 903A/Fuchi-class auxiliary replenishment oiler CNS Honghu. The Jiaozuo and the Xucheng will also have two Z-9C medium multi-utility helicopters to use in either search and rescue or maritime surveillance roles.

The new task force replaced the 45th flotilla, consisting of Type-052D CNS Urumqi, Type-054A CNS Linyi, and Type 903A Dongpinghu, that had been based in the area since late October 2023.

The task force deployment is China’s independent contribution to combating piracy in the region. However, several countries criticized the task forces as either only escorting Chinese or Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessels or not answering distress calls when vessels require assistance. Furthermore, the task forces also routinely shadow Combine Task Force 151 or U.S. naval vessels as they operate in the region, indicating a secondary intelligence gathering mission.