The People’s Liberation Army will soon receive two more vessels of its ace guided-missile-destroyer class, the Type 055, after the newest members of the class were launched on Tuesday at the Dalian Shipyard in the northeastern province of Liaoning, bringing the total number of such long-endurance assault and escort warships to four.
The PLA Daily said on Wednesday that the Chinese navy would need to commission no fewer than 10 Type 055 destroyers to keep pace with the speed of the construction and launch of new aircraft carriers.
Indeed, the PLA Navy has been on a spree constructing the versatile destroyers designed for air defense, sea-land attacks and anti-missile/ship/submarine warfare: The first and second ships were just launched at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai in June 2017 and this April.
The shipyards in Dalian and Shanghai are both under the umbrella of the state-owned military-industrial conglomerate China State Shipbuilding Corporation.
Within a short span of 12 months, the PLA has acquired four such destroyers, in perfect concert with the Liaoning aircraft carrier’s progress toward combat-ready deployment as well as its home-made sister ship’s sea trials and expected year-end delivery. A carrier convoy or combat group typically needs two to three such destroyers.
The Pentagon has categorized the Type 055 destroyers as cruisers.
Analysts say these colossal indigenous Chinese warships, measuring 180 meters in length with a 2o-meter beam and 13,000 tons in displacement, are longer and heavier than the US Navy’s Ticonderoga–class cruisers and the latest Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, but smaller in displacement than the Zumwalt–class ships, although the last one’s role is largely peripheral in naval gunfire support.
Photos circulating on online forums also show that there are two more Type 055 ships under construction in Dalian.
“After the launch, the next step is sea trial, which normally takes one year, so the first one launched in June last year would likely enter into deployable service with the PLA Navy no later than the end of the year,” former Rear Admiral Wang Yunfei told Global Times.
Meanwhile, Song Zhongping, a former member of the PLA’s 2nd Artillery Corps and now a military observer whose columns and commentaries appear frequently in Chinese papers, has caused a stir with his remarks that Type 055 destroyers could be armed with electromagnetic railguns.
According to Song, the Type 055 is the “best fit” for China’s future electromagnetic guns, as the all-electric warship could meet the huge power demand for generating electromagnetic force to launch projectiles at hyper-velocities.
So far there have only been scattered hints about the PLA’s trials of such a cutting-edge weapon, including recent photos showing what is believed to be an experimental electromagnetic railgun mounted on the Haiyang Shan, a Type 072 III landing ship, as it sailed along the Yangtze River in the central city of Wuhan this year.