A file photo of the launch of the first ship of the Type 055 destroyer class at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai in June 2017.  Photo: PLA Daily
A file photo of the launch of the Nanchang, the first of the Type 055 destroyer class, at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai. Photo: PLA Daily

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.

The Type 055 destroyers are arguably the largest of their kind in navies in Asia with a whopping displacement of 13,000 tons. Photo: PLA Daily
A bird’s eye view of the Type 055 destroyer. Photo: China Central Television screen grab

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 Ticonderogaclass cruisers and the latest Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, but smaller in displacement than the Zumwaltclass 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.

The two latest members of the Type 055 class are seen at the Dalian Shipyard this week. Photos: Weibo
At least two more ships of the Type 055 class are seen under construction in Dalian. Photo: Weibo

“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.

A large canon believed to be China's first homemade railgun is seen on the bow of the Haiyang Shan landing ship. Photo: Weibo/Sina Military
A large cannon believed to be China’s first home-made railgun is seen on the bow of the Haiyang Shan landing ship. Photo: Weibo/Sina Military

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.

Read more:
PLA website confirms sea trial of shipborne railgun

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