China officially commissioned the lead ship in its new class of destroyers, state media reported on Friday (h/t Defense Industry Daily).
A short report and accompanying slideshow on some of China’s largest official media outlets states: “A guided missile destroyer was delivered and commissioned to the People’s Liberation Army Navy on Friday. The warship ‘Kunming’ with hull number 172, was officially handed over at a ceremony held at the port of Jiangnan Shipyard (Group) CO., Ltd in Shanghai. The warship belongs to the new generation of China-made guided missile destroyers and has a strong capacity for regional air defense and naval warfare.”
The Kunming is the lead ship in China’s new Type 052D class of guided-missile destroyers (DDG). It was first launched in the summer of 2012, at which time James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara noted on The Diplomat: “The PLAN may have found its premier surface combatant.” Defense Industry Daily notes that 6 Type 052D vessels will be launched by 2015, with 12 expected by 2018.
The new DDG is the successor to China’s Type 052C DDGs. It displaces between 6,000 and 7,000 tons, and is equipped with a new 130 mm main gun. The Type 052D also boasts Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system. It is often compared, perhaps inappropriately, to the much heavier Arleigh Burke-class DDGs and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers.
Back in September 2012, Holmes and Yoshihara described the Type 052D this way: “The Type 052D is a stealthy, 6,000-ton, gas-turbine-driven ship boasting 64 vertical launch cells (VLS in Western parlance). A VLS cell is essentially a canister embedded in a ship’s hull. Each can disgorge one to four missiles, depending on the missile load. VLS allows for quick firing of anti-air, anti-ship, or land-attack missiles without the bother, delay, and technical headaches associated with uploading munitions onto launchers from magazines deep within the ship.”
The new DDG will be available for a wide-ranging number of missions for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Perhaps most notably, the Type 052D could be deployed as part of a carrier battle group, or else to protect other valuable Chinese vessels like its amphibious assault ships. In doing so, they could be used to great effect as part of missions to seize islands in places like the South China Sea and East China Sea.
Notably, they also could provide sea-based air defense support for a PLA contingency to storm and occupy Taiwan by force. Deploying Type 052D vessels as part of an amphibious assault group in a Taiwan invasion would further hobble Taipei’s Air Force.
Here’s a short YouTube video of the new DDG: