China’s Type 055 destroyer

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Chinas Type 055 destroyer

The Nanchang at the 2019 review

They are Asia’s largest and most advanced destroyers,
designed to guard China’s first home-grown aircraft carrier and meet the navy’s
demand for modern warships.

Moving at top speed to build up a global blue-water navy to safeguard its maritime interests, China has launched four Type 055 guided-missile destroyers in the past 13 months — two simultaneously in July — and is building four more.

The home-built warships — which analysts have called the
second most powerful globally — are to serve as the primary escorts for People’s
Liberation Army aircraft carrier strike groups.

The Type 001A aircraft carrier would provide the primary offensive firepower for a battle unit concluded its maiden sea trials in May 2018.

Type 055 is well equipped to be the primary escort in China’s
aircraft carrier strike groups.

At more than 180 metres long and 20 metres wide with a full
displacement of more than 12,000 tonnes, it is a fearsome piece of marine and
military engineering, equipped with air-defence, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine

Despite being officially classified by the PLA navy as a
“destroyer”, the vessel’s size and capabilities exceed the traditional
standards for the type of small, fast warship that typically plays a defensive
role against submarines and aircraft.

In fact, in the US defence department’s annual China
military power report, Type 055 is called a “cruiser”, which, by the US
definition, is the largest and most powerful surface combatant after an
aircraft carrier.

The type 055 has a larger vertical missile-launching system
than most of the world’s destroyers. Its Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells are
also bigger than those found on US naval ships.

The warship has a 112-cell VLS to fire HHQ-9 surface-to-air
missiles, YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles, CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles
and missile-launched anti-submarine torpedoes.

It also has a 130mm dual-purpose naval gun and close-in
weapon system and carries two anti-submarine helicopters.

The destroyer’s features include advanced X band radar in
four active electronically scanned arrays and an integrated electronic system
similar to the Aegis combat system on US naval ships.

Given its size, Type 055 could also serve as a platform for
developing next-generation weapons such as high-energy laser equipment or rail
guns, according to military analysts.

In theory, Type 055 is the world’s second most powerful
destroyer after the US Navy’s DDG-1000, or Zumwalt class, the analysts said.

While China’s Type 055 destroyer raises comparisons with the
US Navy’s Zumwalt class destroyer, the Chinese vessel still lags its US
counterpart in important ways.

The Zumwalt is the world’s most technologically advanced
destroyer, with 15,000 dominant tonnes of displacement.

Possessing a unique tumblehome hull design — where the sides
slope inward — and an angular shape, the Zumwalt has a reduced radar return
that can make it as stealthy as a fishing boat and quieter than a small

The Zumwalt also is equipped with a next-generation
electronic system.

Designed primarily as a land attack vessel, the Zumwalt is
fitted with powerful naval guns that include a 155mm advanced gun system and an
80-cell VLS distributed peripherally around its outer shell.

By contrast, Type 055 is designed to focus on air defence
and anti-submarine missions and thus has more missile cells and a longer range
than the Zumwalt class.

Type 055 destroyers will probably play a role similar to
that of US Ticonderoga class cruisers and Arleigh Burke class destroyers, even
though the Chinese ship is larger than both of the US vessels, which have
displacements of fewer than 10,000 tonnes.

Type 055’s radar, electronic and missile system also uses
newer technology than the two US warships, which were developed in the 1980s
and 1990s.

Type 055 also has been compared to other warships deployed
in the region, notably South Korea’s Sejong the Great class (DDG-991) and
Japan’s Atago class and its newly launched Maya subclass. Both the Sejong and
Atago-class destroyers have full displacements of around 10,000 tonnes and
Aegis combat systems, with the Sejong the Great class boasting a 128-cell VLS.

But analysts said they believe Type 055 surpasses the Korean
and Japanese vessels in size, radar system performance, missile capacity and

Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“
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