On April 21st, 2022, China announced the launch of six new warships and two types of advanced vessel-based helicopters, confirming Beijing’s strategy to play a decisive role in the Asia-Pacific region and contrast U.S. military presence in the area.
The new warships include a Type 075 amphibious assault ship, three Type 055 large destroyers and two Type 052D destroyers. The analysis of the new vessels for the Chinese Navy might help understand Beijing’s military capabilities and power and the future geopolitical risk.
075 LHD (NATO reporting name: Yushen-class Landing Helicopter Assault)
Guangxi is China’s second Type 075 amphibious assault ship (Hull 032), which entered service in the Eastern Theater Command, in charge of the East China Sea and the Taiwan Strait (Il confronto militare sino-statunitense per il controllo dell’isola di Taiwan). These days, the Guangxi will perform training manoeuvres with Z-helicopters 8, Type 05 amphibious armoured vehicles and landing craft with Type 726 air suspension. The first amphibious assault ship, Type 075, called Hainan (Hull 031), entered service in the Southern Theater Command will handle the South and East China Seas.
As for the specifications of the 075, the open data speak of about “36,000 tons of displacement”, “capacity of 28 helicopters”, “Two 16PC2-6B Diesel Engines, capable of delivering 12000 kW ” and “four CIWS(Close in Weapon System), two of which HQ-10(红旗-10/RedBanner-10) and two H / PJ-11(30mm 11-Barrel Gatling gun) “.
A total of eight LHDs(Landing Helicopter Dock) are said to be for the People’s Liberation Army Navy(PLAN), while a larger version (sometimes referred to as Type 076) is said to be expected.
055 (Nato/Osd Renhai-class cruiser)
The three large 10,000 ton Type 055 destroyers that entered service include Anshan (hull 104) and Wuxi (hull 107) with Northern Theater Command and Yan’an (hull 106) with Southern Theater Command, will then join Nanchang (hull 101-January 2020), Lhasa (hull 102-March 2021), and the Dalian (hull 105-April 2021).
The Type 055 destroyers are the most prominent surface fighter currently under construction globally, developed and built by China, have a length of 180 meters, a beam of 20 meters and a draft of 6.6 meters for a full load displacement of approx. 13,000 t. Type 055 possesses more significant armaments than any other Western rival and the second in terms of stealth capabilities, except for the three American Zumwalt-class ships, with superior stealth capabilities. It is equipped with new missiles, anti-ship, anti-submarine, anti-missile, anti-air and sea attack capabilities.
Also, on April 21st, 2022, the new hypersonic anti-ship ballistic missile called Yj-21 was launched, demonstrating hypersonic strike capability in response to the US Navy, which recently announced the use of direct energy weapons aboard.
Type 055 is expected to serve as an escort in future aircraft carrier groups, alongside the lighter Class 052D destroyers, integrating four classes of surface-to-air missiles providing advanced defence capabilities. At present, Type 055 is widely regarded as the most destroyer class capable in the world.
052D/DL (Nato/Osd Luhu-class destroyer)
Two type 052D destroyers also entered service, namely the Shaoxing and the Baotou. While Shaoxing recently joined a series of realistic combat drills organised by the Eastern Theater Command Navy, Baotou joined a five-day live-fire drill in the Yellow Sea.
The Type 052D was preceded by the Type 052C and Type 052B class destroyers. Type 052D is a true blue water navy warship, manoeuvrable and fast. The first ship of the class, Kunming (hull number 172), was put into service in March 2014.
The new 052DL variant is significantly longer than the original (4 meters)Type 052D design and allows it to accommodate the new Z-20 helicopters. Displacing 7,500 tons, the class has a length of 157 meters, a beam of 17 meters and a crew of 280 sailors.
In both versions, the most notable improvement is the integration of a powerful new meter wave radar, which is reportedly optimised to track invisible targets in the air such as bombers, fighters and specialised radars that evade cruise missile classes. Then the 517B radar fitted to the Type 052D was replaced by a new type of onboard radar with a more extended detection range, lower power consumption, and reportedly anti-stealth capability.
The ability to track stealth aircraft at greater distances and with greater accuracy at sea could allow the Type 052D / DL to target them alone, with ships deploying four separate classes of surface-to-air missiles with a range of 300 km, or to pass on target given to other ships or aircraft like J-10C J-16 and J-20 platforms, are notably optimised to counter stealth targets and are all equipped with powerful AESA(Active Electronically Scanned Array) radars, modern data links and their stealth coatings. The Type 052D and DL Classes deploy multi-role vertical launch systems making them considerably more versatile than European or Russian destroyer classes, and the ships can deploy a wide range of munitions from 64 cells for air defence anti-shipping, land attack and anti-submarine warfare, including the YJ-18 long-ranged sea-skimming cruise missile. This modern class of vessels is considered the Chinese equivalent of the American AEGIS (integrated combat system for naval units) destroyers.
These ships were built for the PLAN at two shipyards: the Jiangnan-Changxing Shipyard and the Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company.
For the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, the Chinese Navy showed off its acquired ability to modernise its navy in a short time.
We already know that the investments for the construction of a highly advanced navy will be huge in the short term and will tend to respect the planning that the leaders have already established. For instance, by the end of 2025, the PLAN will have to equip itself with at least four aircraft carriers to achieve broad interoperability and continue deterrence against the United States, also taking into account threats from other regional actors in the South China Sea area as well as the defence of the Maritime Silk Road and beyond.
This fleet expansion in terms of quality and quantity is expected until 2049 and will go through various phases, but there is no doubt that if China proceeds at this pace, by that date, in the light of new technologies, it will become a significant global maritime power.
Author: Fabio Tiburzi
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