China Launches First Domestically Built Destroyer
As a military band played in the background, fireworks exploded and colorful streamers cascaded over the bow of China’s new Type 055 destroyer during a launching ceremony on June 28. The People’s Liberation Army Navy had much to celebrate as it commemorated the latest milestone in Chinese military modernization. The launch of China’s first homemade heavy destroyer is a significant step forward as China continues its efforts to rival the United States and expand its capabilities to become a world-class naval power.
The sleek new destroyer, launched from the Jiangnan Shipyard, is the largest surface combatant vessel that China has built since World War ii. Built in 3½ years, the ship displaces around 12,000 tons of water and measures 180 meters long and 20 meters wide. Its size allows it to carry two anti-submarine helicopters on its stern hangar. The ship is so large that the U.S. military classifies it as a cruiser—a larger class of warship—rather than a destroyer.
More remarkable than its size is the fact that the Type 055 is a high-tech warship.
The ship carries between 112 and 118 Vertical Launch System cells. Its predecessor class, the Type 052D, carries 64. Armaments the Type 055 can carry include rocket-boosted torpedoes, surface-to-air missiles and land-attack cruise missiles.
The Type 055 also boasts the most advanced radar system in China’s fleet. It is also designed with an integrated mast and fully enclosed foredeck to reduce its visibility on radar.
After undergoing sea trials, the destroyer will be commissioned for duty in early 2018 as a command ship and air-defense escort to protect large surface vessels such as aircraft carriers.
China’s navy has made great technological advances over the past three decades. What used to be a third-rate naval power is fast transforming into a modern fleet, increasingly capable of projecting its influence well beyond its shores.
Stratfor wrote on July 11:
Marking China’s ascent to the upper echelons of naval technology, the Type 055 is an important accomplishment for the country. When it comes to destroyer-class vessels, only two countries’ warships arguably supersede the Type 055 in technological advancement or combat capability: the United States’ Zumwalt-class destroyers, and South Korea’s Sejong the Great-class destroyers.
The new vessel is made all the more significant by the fact that it is being mass-produced. There are currently four Type 055 warships under construction in two Chinese shipyards, and many more are expected to follow. That capacity, combined with the ongoing production of the Type 052D, makes it clear that the Chinese Navy is witnessing a major increase in both the quality and number of its surface combatants.
The launch of China’s Type 055 destroyer is only one of a series of developments within the past year that displays the country’s rising military might. Just two months ago the nation celebrated the deployment of China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier. More recently, China opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti, located near the strategic Bab el-Mandeb choke point. With 3.5 million barrels of oil passing through daily, it’s the fourth-busiest choke point in the world. These developments are significant as China seeks to project its power globally and back its claims to the South China Sea.
In the past few years, China has continued to fortify the South China Sea, ignoring the territorial claims of surrounding nations. The military buildup of the Spratly and Paracel Islands have allowed China to project more power throughout the region. As Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote, “These militarized islands now function as forward bases for Beijing to challenge seven decades of American naval dominance in the Pacific Rim. This should alarm the world!” He continued:
Each year, $5.3 trillion of trade passes through the South China Sea. That is roughly one third of the world’s maritime commerce! Since Japan’s defeat in World War ii, America has protected this vital trade route and brought peace to this part of the world. Now the American military is retreating, and other great powers are coming in to fill the vacuum. This is going to dramatically affect trade around the world, and U.S. trade especially.
A trade war often precedes a shooting war. That is what happened just before World War ii—especially so in Asia.
China’s rapid advance in naval militarization has exacerbated the threat in the South China Sea, and now it is reaching out globally. To better understand where China’s naval buildup and control over the South China Sea is leading, read Mr. Flurry’s article “China Is Steering the World Toward War.”