China’s fourth Type 055 warship—its most advanced and largest destroyer—is anticipated to come into operation next month, with more to follow in the next two years, South China Morning Post reported.

The stealth-guided missile destroyer will boost China’s naval combat strength on the high seas.

“The PLA Navy (PLAN) is likely to formally take over the Yanan [the fourth Type 055] in December,” said a source close to the People’s Liberation Army, who asked to stay unidentified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

He revealed that a fifth destroyer, named the Anshan, was also ready to go into service in the first half of next year.

The timing for the two destroyers to reach operational duties is also confirmed by another source, close to the Navy, who said it planned to commission more Type 055 warships in the next two years. Three more are currently being built.

“But commissioning of other destroyers will be determined by how the COVID-19 pandemic develops,” the source, who also requested anonymity, said. “The schedule could be changed if the situation gets worse.”

China’s Type 055 destroyer versus US’s Zumwalt-class stealth ship

The Type 055 is the second most potent destroyer after the U.S. Navy’s DDG-1000 or Zumwalt-class stealth ship. The former has a displacement of more than 12,000 tonnes, while the latter is bigger, with a displacement of more than 15,000 tonnes, and its stealthy hull design makes it well suited to land attacks.

Military experts say that the Type 055 is better equipped and more of a multi-role warship. At more than 590 feet long and 66 feet wide, it is a fearsome piece of marine and military engineering, equipped with air defense, anti-missile, anti-ship, and anti-submarine weapons.

Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, said the Type 055 activities in last month’s joint exercises between China and Russia showed that it could undertake more roles than the Zumwalt-class destroyer.

“This warship is a bodyguard for China’s aircraft carriers and large amphibious helicopter landing platforms like the Type 075 and, in the future, the Type 076,” Li said. “But it’s also capable of fighting alone, or leading a small flotilla on the high seas.”

He also noted that the Type 055 destroyers possess China’s most advanced integrated electric propulsion system, enabling them to travel up to 10,000 nautical miles—2½ times further than the Navy’s Type 054 multi-role frigate.

A description of destroyers belonging to China (armedforces.eu/Screenshot via TheBL) 

Latest report on China’s navy power

Naval News on Nov. 05 reported that The United States Department of Defense (DoD) released its annual report on military and security developments involving China. The Chinese Navy is now the largest globally, with 355 ships and submarines, including approximately more than 145 major surface combatants. 

Countries by number of destroyers (armedforces.eu/Screenshot via TheBL)  

The report shows that in 2020, the PLAN is composed mainly of modern multi-role platforms. In the near term, the PLAN will conduct long-range precision strikes against land targets from its submarine and surface combatants using land-attack cruise missiles, notably enhancing the PRC’s global power projection capabilities. In addition, the PRC is improving its anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities and competencies to protect the PLAN’s aircraft carriers and ballistic missile submarines.

SCMP added that Nanchang, the first Type 055 to go into service, led a five-ship flotilla for the drills with Russia’s Navy in October. Five Russian warships participated.

The drills began in Russia’s Peter the Great Gulf. The two Navies later conducted their first joint passage through the narrow Tsugaru Strait and Izu island chain in the Japanese archipelago en route to the western Pacific. The PLA flotilla sailed to the East China Sea afterward for more training.

Lu Li-Shih, a former instructor at Taiwan’s Naval Academy in Kaohsiung, said the Chinese would have “immediately conducted manoeuvres based on sea battle tactics they learned from Russians.”

“This is the best short cut for the PLA Navy to create new training guidelines, based on what the Russians are already doing, and it will help them to build joint operation strike groups—another step towards becoming a real blue-water navy,” Lu added.

Based on the experience of last month’s China-Russia joint drills, he gauged that in the future, Type 055 destroyers could start sailing further to the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, or other unfamiliar waters.

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