China officially launched the first of a new type of domestically built destroyer on Wednesday.  The 10,000 ton warship is the latest addition to China’s rapidly expanding military.

The new destroyer, the first in a class China has dubbed “Type 055,” is said to be a significant leap forward in terms of technology employed by China’s navy.

“It is the symbol of the navy to achieve strategic transformation development,” the People’s Liberation Army Navy website said.

This new class of destroyer has been entirely developed and built within China, a stark contrast from previous forms of Chinese power projection like their sole operational carrier, the Liaoning.  Although China is currently testing their first Chinese-built carrier (dubbed the Type 001 Class), their only carrier currently in service is actually a sister ship to Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov, both of which were built by the Soviet Union prior to its collapse.

“The destroyer is equipped with [sic] new type of air defense, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare weapon,” according to the website.  Reports indicate that each of these reportedly advanced weapon systems are not only new as a part of this class of destroyer, but new to the Chinese Navy all together.

This new class of destroyer is comparable in size to those fielded by international competitors like the United States and Japan in the Pacific, but has raised a number of eyebrows in India.  China and India have long experienced extremely strained relations, punctuated recently by a border dispute near the state of Sikkim on India’s northeastern border with Tibet.  The Type 055 destroyer may be somewhat comparable to America’s ships, but India has yet to field anything close in terms of firepower or technological capability.

“The colossal Type 055 is considerably larger and more powerful than India’s latest… destroyers which have still not been commissioned,” a report on the India based NDTV said.

Although weighing in at 10,000 tons, the Type 055 class destroyer is expected to displace as much as 13,000 once fully fitted with its complete arsenal of weapon systems and munitions.  Once commissioned, it will be China’s largest destroyer in service and is expected to play a vital role in aircraft carrier battle groups the People’s Liberation Army intends to stand up in the future.

China’s navy has expanded rapidly in recent years, launching as many as 18 ships, including destroyers, corvettes and guided-missile frigates in 2016 alone.

Li Jie, a researcher with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Naval Military Academic Research Institute, explained in an article posted on the PLA’s website that the new destroyer comes equipped with 100 vertical launch tubes for missiles that have the capability to strike targets as far as 2,000 kilometers away (1,242 miles), giving them a potentially longer range than the latest batch of workhorse Tomahawk missiles employed by the U.S. Navy.

USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers can carry 96 missiles each, with a maximum range of approximately 1,700 kilometers.

“Type 055 guided-missile destroyer carries medium-long-range and medium-short range air-defense missiles, which can significantly improve its overall air defense capability,” Li Jie said. “It also has a strong anti-submarine capability, so it is much more able to protect aircraft carrier battle group than the Type-052D destroyer currently in service.”

The new ship, which replaces the Type 052 destroyers capable of carrying only 64 missiles, also boasts the latest in Chinese stealth technology, giving it a smaller radar cross-section than its predecessors and making it more difficult to locate and track.  According to the PLA, it was also designed to produce less noise, infrared signature, and electromagnetic radiation than older ships, all intended to help keep the Type 055 hidden in plain sight.

How well this new ship actually stacks up against the likes of American Naval vessels is yet to be determined, but in any regard, its launch represents a significant leap forward in China’s expanding naval presence in the Pacific, particularly in the hotly contested South China Sea.


Feature image courtesy of China’s Ministry of National Defense