While the Pentagon and the White House grapple with US Navy demands to build a 500-ship fleet to match the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLAN) Navy, China is steadily launching new ships at an alarming rate.
According to state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), the PLAN recently commissioned its second 10,000 ton-class Type 055 large destroyer after the first ship in its class entered service in early 2020.
The commissioning of the Type 055 guided missile destroyers, considered some of the most powerful warships in the world and on par with the US Navy, marks the strategic development transformation of the PLAN, an analyst told The Global Times.
It will also enable the service to better safeguard China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and development interests, he said.
The Lhasa — named after the capital of Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region — is the second Type 055 destroyer that has entered service with the PLAN, and appears to boast the hull number 102, Global Times reported.
The first is the Nanchang, which has hull number 101 and was commissioned on January 12, 2020, also in Qingdao, where the Lhasa recently made is first public appearance.
Video footage released by Passion News, a news portal run by the Chinese Communist Youth League Central Committee, which showed the interior of the Lhasa when Zheng Weiguo, deputy mayor of Lhasa, visited the ship in the namesake of the city on Tuesday.
Since the Lhasa made its debut in Qingdao, it is likely that the warship is affiliated with the PLA Northern Theater Command Navy, Shanghai-based news website eastday.com reported.
Chinese naval expert Li Jie told the Global Times that Type 055s are expected to accompany aircraft carriers and act as powerful escorts, or they can lead a task group and conduct a wide range of missions.
China now operates two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and the Shandong, with the third under construction, so more Type 055 destroyers are needed to form carrier combat groups.
China launched eight Type 055 large destroyers as of the end of 2020, after the first ship was launched on June 28, 2017, eastday.com reported.
The remaining six Type 055s are being outfitted or are in sea trials. They are expected to be commissioned in about one to two years, according to the pattern of warship construction.
With a displacement of more than 12,000 tons, the Type 055 is a guided missile destroyer about 180 meters long, 22 meters wide.
On the weapons front, it features a whopping 112 vertical launch missile cells capable of launching a combination of surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, land-attack missiles and anti-submarine missiles, and the warship is also endowed with the capability to gain strong situational awareness, eastday.com reported.
The PLAN also claims the Type 055 destroyer can counter stealth aircraft and low-Earth orbit satellites, thanks to a dual-band radar system, CCTV reported in October 2020.
Satellites often circulate the Earth at an altitude of 300 to 500 kilometers.
If the radar system has a high enough performance, it can not only detect, but also track the satellites, which means the radar can then guide weapons to attack the satellites.
This would be of particular concern to the US Navy, which, in any shooting war, would depend on satellites for the complicated kill chain required to target and destroy enemy ships.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has directly, and without hesitation, said that a much larger 500-ship US Navy will be necessary to contain Chinese expansionist ambitions, National Interest reported.
“We’re going to have to have a much larger fleet than we have today, if we’re serious about great power competition and deterring great power war, and if we’re serious about dominant capability over something like China or some other power that has significant capability,” Milley told SeaPower Magazine.
However, given the expected budget realities, and the extent to which the Covid-19 has diminished available funding, Milley said he was not optimistic that a timely budget with about 3 to 5 percent real growth would be a “realistic thing in the coming year.”
China already operates more than 300 ships and is larger than the current US Navy.
In addition, Beijing is also adding new carriers, destroyers, amphibious assault ships and drones at an alarming rate, a reality now generating massive attention at the Pentagon.
Sources: The Global Times, Navy Recognition, CCTV, eastday.com, National Interest, SeaPower Magazine