Highlighting its growing naval prowess amid heated disputes in both the South and East China seas, Beijing unveiled its most advanced homegrown destroyer Wednesday, the Defense Ministry said.
The 10,000-ton guided-missile destroyer was launched from Shanghai’s Jiangnan Shipyard in the morning, the ministry said in a statement.
While it did not name the new vessel, the state-run Global Times, quoting the People’s Liberation Army Daily, said it was likely the Type 055.
The new vessel is significantly larger than its apparent successor class, the smaller Type 052D guided-missile destroyer. In terms of displacement, the Type 055 is the rough equivalent to the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke class of destroyer.
It is the first of China’s “new generation of destroyers,” the official Xinhua News Agency said, and is equipped with advanced “air defense, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons.” It did not give further details but said the vessel “marks a milestone in improving the nation’s Navy armament system and building a strong and modern Navy.”
The Defense Ministry said Wednesday’s launch marked a step forward for China as it takes the domestic development of destroyers “to a new level.” The PLA Daily called the ship “a symbol of the Chinese navy’s strategic transformation.”
The Type 055 will offer a huge boost to the navy’s ability to punch further into the western Pacific, working as a key component of the country’s future aircraft carrier strike groups.
Perhaps more importantly, it will form the backbone of China’s “maritime anti-missile system together with 052D destroyer,” the Global Times quoted one Chinese analyst as saying. It will also enable China to build its own version of the Aegis missile-defense system, the expert added.
In its annual report on China’s military, the Pentagon said that the new vessel “can employ larger cruise missiles” — including anti-ship missiles that could target rival carriers — while also escorting its own carriers “into blue waters.”
China is believed to be in the process of simultaneously constructing at least two other Type 055s, with Wednesday’s the first to be launched.
Experts say it could also play a key role in protecting China’s nuclear missile submarines in the disputed South China Sea. China claims most of the strategic waterway, through which $5 trillion in trade passes each year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims.
The new destroyer could also see action in the East China Sea, where Beijing is embroiled in a territorial dispute with Tokyo over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands.
The new destroyer is now scheduled to undergo a variety of tests, including equipment operation, berthing and sailing, Xinhua said.
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