The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned its fourth Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer, the Yangsha, IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly reports.
According to IHS Jane’s, the vessel was inducted into the PLAN’s South Sea Fleet in mid-July and will in all likelihood operate out of Yalong Bay naval base on Hainan Island.
The first Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer, Kunming, was launched in March 2014 and the Yangsha launched in July 2014. However, the vessel was commissioned a full 16 months after the Kunming, “suggesting an extensive program of trials,” according to the article.
All in all, the PLAN plans to build a fleet of 12 Type 052D destroyers–nicknamed “Chinese Aegis”–before shifting production to the newer Type 055D multi-role cruiser.
IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly further notes that “[e]arlier in July, the seventh Type 052D emerged from the building shed at the Jiangnan Changxingdao shipyard in Shanghai and after launch joined the sixth of class currently fitting out. Photographs showing visible progress on the eighth and ninth hulls have also appeared.”
The likely mission sets of the new guided-missile destroyer can range “from anti-piracy patrols to aircraft carrier escort to air defense for Chinese civilian activities like oil drilling rigs,” Popular Science explains.
Popular Science additionally notes:
In the past decade, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has built up a formidable area air defense capability, with an eye on deterring attack by enemy carrier groups and anti-ship missiles. While the ship’s powerful Type 346A radars provides for an air defense role, the 052D’s modular vertical launch systems also gives it powerful land attack and anti-submarine capabilities. In addition, the Type 0346A radar and other sensors give the 052D vast intelligence gathering capabilities, which is vital for anti-access/area denial operations.
In April 2015, the Pentagon’s Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) released an unclassified assessment of the Chinese navy’s new capabilities and missions in the years ahead also discussing the Type 052D guided-missile destroyer.
“These modern, high-end combatants will likely provide increased weapons stores and overall flexibility as surface action groups venture more frequently into blue water in the coming years,” ONI stated.
The report also emphasizes that the rapid commissioning of modern guided-missile destroyers will substantially boast China’s blue water navy aspirations:
While some older platforms with little or no air defense capability remain in the PLA(N) inventory, the addition of these new units allows the PLA(N) surface force to operate with increased confidence outside of shore-based air defense systems, as one or two ships are equipped to provide air defense for the entire task group.
In addition, the report notes that“the newest class, the [Type 052D] Luyang III destroyer is fitted with the new vertically-launched YJ-18 ASCM.”
In an earlier piece, I noted that the YJ-18 vertically-launched, long-range, supersonic anti-ship missile poses a severe threat to U.S. surface vessels (See: “China’s New Carrier Killer Subs”). According to deagel.com, the missile is specifically designed to kill Aegis-equipped destroyers:
After the vertical launch the missile’s turbojet engine is capable of flying at a cruise speed of Mach 0.8 for about 180 kilometers; after that point the warhead section separates and a solid rocket engine ignites allowing at a top speed of Mach 2.5-3 for about 40 kilometers (…) The missile can maneuver at 10G acceleration to avoid enemy interception by air-to-air or surface-air missiles.
The Type 052D boasts 64 vertical launch cells with each capable of carrying one to four missiles. Next to its YJ-18 load, Type 052D guided-missile destroyers will also be equipped with modern HHQ-9 surface-to-air-missiles, ONI reported back in April.