Over 30 Chinese and 18 foreign warships from 13 countries participated in a naval parade on April 23 in the western Chinese port of Quingdao to mark the 70th anniversary of the creation of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), which was founded in 1949. The parade was as overseen by Chinese President Xi Jinping who was embarked aboard the Type 052D destroyer Xining along with PLAN Commander Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong.
The parade consisted of six separate formations. The most notable ship in the parade, next to an upgraded Type 094 Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, was the lead ship of the new Type 055 guided-missile destroyer class (NATO designation: Renhai-class), Nanchang, (with hull number 101), which was launched in 2017, and has been undergoing sea trials following a 14-month outfitting period.
The PLAN plans to procure up to eight Type 055 guided-missile destroyers over the next four years with at least six ships of the class under construction and the latest launched in first quarter of 2018. There has been speculation among naval analysts that the PLAN could induct up to 24 Type 055 surface combatants by the mid to late 2020s. As I previously summarized:
The 180-meter long, 20-meter wide Type 055 class is a development of the Type 052D Luyang III-class guided-missile destroyer, but is about a third bigger than the latter. Given its size, the U.S. Department of Defense has classified the Type 055 as cruiser [CG] rather than a destroyer. According to some estimates, the displacement of a Type 055 destroyer appears to be almost a third greater than that of a Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer.
The full-load displacement of the Type 055 is estimated at around 13,000 tons. Additionally, I explained:
The Type 055’s main armament consists of two cell blocks consisting of a total of 112 vertical launch systems (VLS) capable of firing medium- to long-range surface-to-air [SAM], anti-ship, and land-attack cruise missiles including HHQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 long-range, anti-ship cruise missiles, CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles [LACS], next to others. The ship is also armed with a H/PJ-38 130mm main gun. Later upgraded variants of the Type 055 destroyer could also be armed with a railgun.
The warship can also carry up to two Z-18 anti-submarine warfare helicopters. Together with the Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer, the Type 055 will form the core of future long-range PLAN battlegroups and carrier strike groups. Type 055 warships are multipurpose platforms and can be deployed in long-range air defense, anti-surface warfare, anti-air warfare, and anti-submarine warfare missions among others.
Some naval analysts have pointed out a number of design flaws including the low positioning of its flat-array radar system, which will likely affect the ship’s range of detection and the use of light aluminum alloy in the upper decks, which can reduce the Type 055s durability in naval combat.