The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is in the process of upgrading a number of older classes of surface warships with new anti-ship missiles, missile defense systems, and cannons capable of firing precision-guided ammunition, Popular Science reports.
Based on photographic evidence, it appears that the 6,100-ton Type 051B Luhai-class destroyer Shenzhen, commissioned in 1998, is currently being retrofitted with a total of 32 medium-range vertical launch systems (VLS). These new 32 HQ-16 surface-to-air missiles (SAM) have an approximate range of 50-60 kilometers and can engage very low flying and high altitude targets. “This is a significant gain, quadrupling the ship’s available fire power and 16 times the area covered by missile,” Popular Science notes.
While not discussed in the article, the missiles will, in all likelihood, be the HQ-16B or C, the latest two variants of the SAM system.
In addition, the Shenzhen will be fitted with two new Type 1130 Gatling cannons, providing an additional defense against incoming supersonic missiles. According to the Popular Science, the Type 1130 Gatling canon “can spit out 10,000 one pound 30mm shells a minute at incoming supersonic missiles. These upgrades will increase the Shenzhen’s defense against anti-ship missile, enemy aircraft and enable it to provide some level of air defense cover to other warships near it.”
The PLAN is also currently overhauling two of its Sovremennyy-class destroyers, the Hangzhou and Fuzhou, and is intending to upgrade two more ships of the class, all purchased from Russia in the 1990s and 2000s. The PLAN is primarily replacing Russian-made weapons systems with newer Chinese hardware, including new Chinese electronics systems and sensors, as well as new cannons and missile systems.
Like the Shenzhen, the Hangzhou is currently being refitted with a VLS. Two to three sets of eight cell VLS will be installed aboard the Hangzhou replacing two 3S90 (Uragan) unitary launchers for 9M38 surface to air missiles “Those 32-48 VLS can maximize the Hangzhou’s air defense capability by being able to more quickly fire SAMs, or carry land attack cruise missiles to extend its reach against land targets,” Popular Science notes.
In addition, all of the four Sovremennyy-class destroyers “will replace their Russian-made AK-130 dual barrel turrets with single barrel H/PJ-38 130 millimeter turrets. While the new turrets fire fewer shells, those Chinese indigenous munitions will have greater range and sophisticated precision guidance.” Furthermore, the Russian-made KT-190 quadruple launchers for 3M80E (aka SS-N-22 Sunburn) are being replaced with a new system for Yingji (YJ)-12A antiship cruise missiles.