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Shangri La Dialogue: US ‘Heaps Praises’ On China’s Type-55 Super Destroyers While USS Zumwalt Lags Behind

Amid the Shangri La dialogue, the US media discussed how China’s advanced warships, like the Type 055 destroyer and its sizeable shipbuilding industry, pose a massive challenge to the US Navy.

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As he attends the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore with leading military figures from the region, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is likely to be thinking about several issues, including Beijing’s escalating aggression in the South China Sea and around Taiwan, CNN noted in the latest report about China’s burgeoning naval fleet.

Moreover, the report highlighted that the US Navy’s chief recently warned that American shipyards couldn’t keep up with China’s expanding Navy, which is already the biggest in the world in terms of numbers. According to some experts, China can construct three warships in the same amount of time it takes the US to construct one.

Earlier this year, US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro emphasized that China now has a bigger fleet and is deploying it worldwide. As a result, Toro noted, Washington must update the US fleet.

“We do need a larger Navy; we do need more ships in the future, more modern ships in the future, in particular, that can meet that threat,” he added.

According to the Navy Secretary, the People’s Liberation Army Navy of China, which presently has about 340 ships, may field up to 400 in the coming years. However, fewer than 300 ships are in US Navy service, and a significant addition would take several years.

The US Navy’s Navigation Plan 2022, published last summer, states that the Pentagon wants 350 manned ships by 2045, which is still far less than China’s expected fleet. Making matters worse, the US fleet is anticipated to shrink as older ships are decommissioned, as per the US Congressional Budget Office report from November last year.

Del Toro asserted that US Navy shipyards fall short of Chinese ones in terms of production. He also mentioned that China has 13 shipyards, some of which have greater capacity than all the shipyards in the United States.

“That presents a real threat,” he claimed.

In contrast, the US is believed to have seven shipyards to build large, deep-draft ships for the US Navy and coast guard. According to Pentagon’s estimates, the Chinese fleet will grow to 400 in the next two years, while the US fleet will take until 2045 to hit 350.

The latest CNN report reflects the challenge posed by China’s expansive shipbuilding industry, but it also highlights the prowess of its cutting-edge warships that are ready to take over the world.

“But it’s not just the increasing vastness of the Chinese Navy that has raised concerns. Some of the ships China is churning out arguably have greater firepower than some of their US counterparts. Take China’s Type 055, in many eyes the world’s premier destroyer.”

Meet The Chinese Type 055 Destroyer

In comparison to the destroyers of the preceding generation, the Type 055 large destroyer is a massive platform that can carry a lot of equipment and remain at sea for extended periods. Its combined gas and gas propulsion system also allows it to sail faster.

The warship’s integrated radio frequency system, 130-millimeter naval cannon, massive missile carrying capacity, and anti-submarine weapons system, according to sailors on Type 055, give it remarkable all-around combat capabilities.

The CNN report notes that the Type 055 is larger than conventional destroyers with a displacement of 12,000 to 13,000 tons and comparable in size to the Ticonderoga class of cruisers of the US Navy.

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

It possesses more surface-to-air and anti-ship missile firing vertical launch system (VLS) cells—112 in total—than the newest Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the US Navy, which has 96. Furthermore, it has advanced radio and anti-submarine weaponry systems.

And China is manufacturing a lot of them. It started producing Type 055s in 2014, and the eighth Xianyang was just put into service. According to a report in Global Times, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy commissioned the Xianyang last month, the eighth Type 055 large destroyer. This essentially means that all eight warships in this class have now entered service with the PLA Navy.

Moreover, another Type 055 heavy destroyer Dalian recently concluded a 28-day distant sea drill that covered more than 8,000 nautical miles (14,816 kilometers) between the South China Sea and the West Pacific, demonstrating far sea capabilities. This puts in perspective CNN’s assertion: “China’s Type 055, in many eyes, the world’s premier destroyer.”

In contrast to China churning out one advanced Type 055 destroyer after another, the construction on the US’ Zumwalt-class destroyers started five years earlier, but only two have been put into duty, noted the CNN report. The ship’s construction began in October 2008 and was taken into service by the US Navy in October 2016.

Zumwalt Class – Multimission Destroyer

The USS Michael Monsoor and the USS Lyndon B. Johnson are the other two destroyers of the Zumwalt class that the Navy currently has in its inventory. The US Navy’s stealth destroyers of the Zumwalt class, which have 80 cells in total and are bigger than China’s Type 055s, also have a lesser missile-launching capacity than Type 055.

Military specialist Sebastian Roblin argued in a 2021 article that the Zumwalts lacked key essential components, like long-range area air defense missiles, anti-ship missiles, and anti-torpedoes. Roblin described the destroyers as an “ambitious but failed ship concept.”

The Chinese warship, on its part, is believed to be capable of firing at least HQ-16 and HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, the YJ-18 and CJ-10 families of land-attack and anti-ship cruise missiles, the Yu-8 rocket-assisted torpedo, and the YJ-83 anti-ship cruise missile.

Although the US Zumwalt-class destroyer will likely feature a hypersonic missile, that prospect is still years away from becoming a reality. On February 1, the US Navy announced at a symposium in Virginia that it plans to test-fire its new hypersonic weapon from the stealth destroyer USS Zumwalt in December 2025.

However, the expansion of the Chinese Navy and the Type 055 destroyers endanger the United States and regional security in the Indo-Pacific. This becomes even more perilous at a time when tensions are brewing in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, with a confrontation between Beijing and Washington, touted as a likely scenario before the end of this decade.

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