Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Type 055 Destroyer: A True Multi-Role Surface Combatant For Peoples Liberation Army Navy

The Type 055 destroyer is a class of guided missile destroyers being developed in China for the People's Liberation Army Navy Surface Force. There have been two versions of the Type 055, the first one was a much earlier proposed destroyer design that was eventually cancelled, and the other is a modern design using the same "Type 055" designation according to many internet claims, which has yet to be verified by official or independent sources.
Computer Generated Graphics of Type 055 destroyer.
The Type 055 was originally a proposed project in the late 1960s order titled “Recommendations on Building Oceanic Escort Ships”, but its progress was seriously delayed due to political turmoil in China at the time, namely, the Cultural Revolution. It was not until more than half a decade later in 1976, the year the Cultural Revolution ended, was the requirement of the ship finally completed and issued. At the time of its appearance until its final cancellation, the Type 055 was the second air defence ship of PLAN, after the Type 053K Jiangdong class frigate. The standard displacement of Type 055 design was in excess of 8000 tons.

Even as the requirement was completed, it was flawed with unrealistic standards that were way beyond the scientific, technical, and industrial capabilities of China at the time due to the influence of the Cultural Revolution. For example, the sea-keeping requirement mandated that the ship should be able to navigate anywhere in the world except polar regions, but this conflicted with combat requirement: China lacked the capability to develop any multifunctional radar, so separate radars were needed for different tasks. The Type 518 radar was needed for long range early warning / surveillance, the Type 381 radar was needed for 3-D air search / track, and each gun and missile needed its own fire control radars. In addition, there was need for navigation, surface search, and helicopter control radars as well. The Type 518 radar itself would effectively negate any possibility of meeting the sea-keeping requirement because its antenna of 8.5 meter diameter weighed 4.5 ton, and must be installed on a mast of at least 25 meters, thus severely restricting wind scale and sea state allowed for safe navigation of the ship. However, reducing the weight of radar antenna would lead to the great decrease in performance, thus not meeting the combat effectiveness requirement.

The problem is further exasperated by the problem of the ship being top heavy: due to the fact each electronic system was single function only, numerous of them were needed to meet the original requirement, resulting in a total of 22 radars and 33 communication gears, which in addition to heavy weight, also generated the problem of electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) problem, so bad was the EMC problem that the missile control system could not function properly when everything was turned on, potentially causing missiles to be accidentally launched.

After the Cultural Revolution ended, the strenuous design requirements of the Type 055 that was settled during the Cultural Revolution went through re-evaluation, as with most projects of that period, and difficulties revealed in the design requirement review caused the criteria to be drastically revised and scaled back. There was later a modernisation plan to adopt British subsystems including combat data system, Sea Dart surface-to-air missiles (SAM), and Rolls-Royce Olympus TM3B high-speed gas turbines propulsion system used on the Type 42 destroyer. However efforts to incorporate British systems did not materialize, and just like the Type 051S destroyer, the Type 055 project was finally cancelled in the early 1980s, under the order of then commander of PLAN Liu Huaqing.

Since late 2012, Chinese internet websites circulated discussion of a new class of PLAN destroyers was being designed as the successor of the highly successful Type 052D destroyer, using the same "Type 055" designation as the cancelled project from the 1960s.

Photos appearing on Chinese websites in 2014, revealed that a Type 055 shore integration facility was being constructed at the Ship Design and Research Center (701 Institute) of CSIC at the Wuhan University of Science and Technology. The mock-up facility has been extensively used for testing of electronics and systems for the destroyer program, and shown to be integrated with a Type 346/348 series radar and an enclosed mast similar to Advanced Enclosed Mast/Sensor on European ships. There is speculation that the Type 055 may also have an L-band radar installed on the aft section of the ship similar to the SMART-L system. The class is expected to be armed with 112 to 128 vertical launch missile cells that can fire antiship missiles, ASW missiles, land-attack cruise missiles or SAMs.

In late December 2014, a photograph appeared on the internet indicated the first cut of steel ceremony at a Chinese shipyard. If the image is accurate, construction of the first unit has begun.

U.S. media sources have speculated that the Type 055's power and strength could make it on-par with the latest U.S. Navy Aegis warships. Some U.S. sources predict the Type 055 could carry 128 missiles, be able to carry out in-depth strikes through cruise missiles to protect its task force's airspace, and might be equipped with electromagnetic railguns and laser weapons in the future. The semi-official PLA Daily, published an article however stating the class is not a "game changing" vessel as it's not much larger than contemporary Russian, Japanese, or American destroyers, and will only be equivalent to the U.S. Arleigh Burke-class destroyer or Japanese Atago-class destroyer.
Source: Wikipedia

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