The lead ship of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s’ (PLAN) new class of Type 055 guided-missile destroyers (NATO designation: Renhai-class), Nanchang (with hull number 101), was commissioned on January 12 at a naval base in the port city of Qingdao in eastern China’s Shandong Province, according to local media reports.
It is the first new warship to enter service with the PLAN in 2020. The PLAN surface combatant was launched in 2017 in Shanghai and began post-builder sea trials in late 2018.
Type 055 surface combatants are multipurpose platforms and can be deployed in long-range air defense, anti-surface warfare, anti-air warfare, and anti-submarine warfare missions, next to others. 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 Nanchang is estimated between 10,000 to 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 will also be capable of firing anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) and can operate up to two Z-18 anti-submarine warfare helicopters from its deck. The PLAN reportedly plans to assign at least two Type 055 guided-missile destroyers to each of its three fleets.
Over the next four years, a total of eight Type 055 warships are slated to be inducted. Five Type 055 destroyers have been launched over the last 18 months. By the late 2020s, over two dozen Type 055 surface combatants could have joined the service.
In conjunction with the Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer, the Type 055 will constitute the core of future long-range PLAN battlegroups and carrier strike groups.
As I reported previously, naval analysts have noted a number of design flaws in the first-of-class Type 055 destroyer, 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 survivability in naval combat.