The first Chinese 055 destroyer was spotted at the Jiangnan shipyard by ImageSat analysts. According to visual documentation, the destroyer may be undergoing the installation of new hardware and may not be operational at this stage.
As opposed to the operational declaration of the ship last July, The photographs from recent months show that, in fact, the construction of the vessel is not complete. This documentation is consistent with SINA reporting that these new ships will enter operational service in 2019.
China is building the 055 Destroyers at two shipyards – Jiangnan Shipyard and Dalian Shipyard. ISI analysts succeeded in corroborating the overt reports – China is building six Type 055 class ships. In parallel. Three destroyers in each shipyard.
According to online reports, the Chinese navy has ordered a total of eight such ships, which will enter service by 2020. This order is probably the first of vessels of this type that will lead the battle group around the planned Chinese aircraft carriers. Each aircraft carrier will accompany by two destroyers 055. The remaining ships are likely to be used for air defense and defense of China’s maritime interests.
A new era of China-made destroyers
The new destroyer is expected to include several advanced combat systems. In 2015, military analyst Li Li claimed the Type 055 would have two 64-cell VLS grids (one fore and one aft) carrying YJ-100 long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, anti-submarine missiles, and anti-aircraft missiles. [Source: thaimilitaryandasianregion].
“The United States believes the ship would carry YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles. In 2013, Richard Fisher speculated that, if Chinese development extrapolated, the Type 055 might be the first Chinese warship to mount laser weapons. Potentially owing to Chinese deficiencies in anti-submarine warfare (ASW), the ship is expected to carry various undersea warfare systems such as towed array sonar, variable depth sonar, towed torpedo decoys, and active torpedo defenses”, write the thaimilitaryandasianregion.
The diplomat states that Type 055 looks like the core of a long-range battlegroup, or the central part of the escort for another significant PLAN asset, such as an aircraft carrier. These ships will show the flag as China’s navy demonstrates its increasing range, scope, and power. The need for range, self-sufficiency, and multi-mission capability creates the need for size.
Some media outlets are wondering whether the new hardware could be an innovative electromagnetic gun. Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times that “China’s People’s Liberation Army should consider the feasibility of equipping the Type 055, its first fully-electronic guided missile destroyer, with the electromagnetic guns”. [Source: ecns.cn].
In 2016, retired Rear Admiral Zhao Dengping discussed plans for a follow-up warship to the Type 055; a ‘Universal Combatant Ship’ that would be equipped with laser, railguns, and, most intriguingly, electromagnetically assisted missile launchers, which could increase missile range. [Source: PopSci]. Another post at PopSci website argues that “The second batch of Chinese Type 055 destroyers will likely feature railguns, starting in the 2020-2025 timeframe”.
There is no doubt that even without the electromagnetic gun, the destroyer type 055 is considered one of the most advanced vessels of the Chinese Navy.