China to Launch World’s Most Heavily Armed Destroyer in 2018

By | Oct 21, 2016 10:19 PM EDT
Soon to launch

Type 055. (Photo : PLAN)

China's first Type 055 guided missile destroyer -- the heaviest and most heavily armed in the world -- will be launched in 2018 and will enter service with the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) before 2020.

Displacing 14,000 tons, the Type 055 will become the heaviest destroyer afloat. It's about 2,000 tons heavier than the new USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) stealth destroyer of the United States Navy that became operational only this month.

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And with 128 vertical launch system (VLS) cells loaded with a mix of missiles, the Type 055 will have missile firepower greater than the U.S. Navy's Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, but will be at par with the Sejong the Great-class guided missile destroyers of the Republic of Korea Navy. The Zumwalt is armed with 80 VLS cells.

Media reports said the first Type 055 is being assembled at the Jiangnan Changxing shipyards in Shanghai. The lead ship of the Type 055-class began construction in 2015.

When launched, the Type 055 will be the largest non-capital surface warship built in Asia since World War II. The only warships heavier than the Type 055 were the heavy cruisers of the Imperial Japanese Navy that weighed over 10,000 tons.

The Type 055 will have four large AESA radars for defense against aerial and maritime threats. The radars will be linked to the ship's 128 VLS that carry air-to-air and anti-ship missiles.

The warship will be able to deploy future sensors and weapons like towed array sonar, variable depth sonar, towed torpedo decoys and active torpedo defenses. This means the Type 055 will have an organic anti-submarine capability, helping remedy the PLAN's greatest weakness.

Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo described the Type 055 as a "game changer in naval warfare." Adm. Yin is a member of the PLAN's advisory board on cybersecurity and once served as a national political adviser to the communist central government.

The Type 055 will see service as escorts to the Shandong, China's second aircraft carrier currently being built. But it's the second generation of the Type 055 -- the Type 055A -- China claims will be armed with railguns. PLAN expects to begin building the Type 055A starting 2020.

It plans to initially use its railguns, however, to replace its current close in weapons systems (CIWS) providing the last ditch defense of its surface warships. China's CIWS, the Type 730 seven-barreled 30 mm Gatling gun, is effective against slow aircraft and aerial drones. It is ineffective against supersonic cruise missiles and modern anti-ship missiles.

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