China’s ‘Largest & Most Advanced’ Destroyer Gets Combat-Ready; PLA Navy Set To Receive More Of Type-055 Warships

China is reportedly developing two additional Type-055 warships even as the country’s largest and most advanced destroyer, Lhasa, is conducting a series of drills in the Yellow Sea.

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The first Type-055 ship, Nanchang (101), was launched in June 2017 and formally inducted into the service in January 2020. Seven more have been built since then in Dalian and Shanghai. The eighth ship was launched in August 2020. Lhasa is the second Type-055 stealth guided-missile destroyer.

Two additional warships are being assembled in the large dry dock in Dalian. These are more likely Type-055 Renhai Class Cruisers, according to H I Sutton, a prominent submarines and sub-surface systems analyst.

Meanwhile, reports suggest that China’s second Type 055 warship, Lhasa, is combat-ready. The stealth guided-missile destroyer has been conducting a series of maneuvers to evaluate its operating capabilities over the last week. The warship is now being painted at a shipyard in Dalian where a contractor handles much of China’s navy shipbuilding, signaling that it is nearing completion.

The ship named after the Tibetan capital was commissioned into the North Sea Fleet in March. It is anticipated to be deployed to the PLA Navy’s major operations later this year.

Type 055 destroyer: Symbol of Chinese Navy's development - CGTN
Type 055 destroyer: CGTN

The Type-055 Class is considered China’s answer to the US Navy’s AEGIS cruisers. They serve a key role in guarding China’s aircraft carriers, as they are large and heavily armed. In general, the Type-055 is now equivalent to the Ticonderoga Class AEGIS cruisers of the United States Navy.

The Type-055 ships are considered the world’s biggest surface combatants, weighing around 13,000 tonnes. They are roughly a quarter larger than the AEGIS cruisers of the United States Navy. 

China’s Type 055 Vs US’ Ticonderoga Class 

Parallels are drawn between China’s Type 055 and the American Ticonderoga because of their capability and size. 

Upgraded radar systems are used in conjunction with universal vertical launch systems (VLS), which may carry a variety of warheads including missiles for air defense, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare.

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The VLS of the Type-055 contains fewer cells than the Ticonderoga Class. The Type-055 has nearly 112 VLS in comparison to Ticonderoga’s 122. The weapon load-out, on the other hand, is vastly different since it must be tailored to the needs of the user.

US Navy Ticonderoga-Class Guided-Missile Cruiser (AEGIS), USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) in the Arabian Sea, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (Via Twitter)

The Chinese ship is equipped with the HQ-9 long-range surface-to-air missile, as well as the HQ-16 medium-range SAM and possibly a quad-packed DK-10As. The DK-10A is modeled on the PL-12 air-to-air missile and would serve as an intermediate-range air defense missile comparable to the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile used by the United States Navy. Likewise, the Chinese Yu-8 anti-submarine missile is comparable to the VL-ASROC used by the US Navy.

Type 055 is equipped with a formidable 11-barreled 30mm close-in weapon system that boasts a high success rate. A massive 130mm naval cannon is also installed on the Chinese ship.

Regardless of Type 055’s multi-mission capability, these ships are being developed to serve as the primary escort for the Chinese carrier battle group. They could serve as the battle group’s anti-air warfare command and control center. The Ticonderoga class cruiser also performs a similar role. 

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But both ships have certain distinct features. Anti-surface warfare is a top priority for Chinese ships, and they employ the YJ-18 supersonic anti-ship missile. These massive, sophisticated missiles stand in stark contrast to the Ticonderoga Class’s Harpoons.

The Harpoons can only be carried in groups of eight, whereas the Chinese ships can reportedly carry a large number of YJ-18s.

China’s YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile.

The Ticonderoga Class is equipped with the Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile (LACM), which has proven to be quite effective. It’s unclear if Type-055 has a similar LACM although the YJ-18 could perform this role as well. 

In the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) domain, there is an even greater disparity in armaments. The RIM-161 SM-3 missile, which can intercept medium-range ballistic missiles, can be deployed to US AEGIS ships.

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China is said to be lacking in such a system. But many Ticonderoga Class ships will be decommissioned in the coming years as they have been in the service for more than 30 years. 

Nevertheless, China’s Type 055 destroyers may be seen as a strong rival to American warships of the same class, something the Asian giant would like to use to project its naval prowess in the Indo-Pacific region.