China launches first Type 055 guided-missile destroyer

China has launched its first Type 055 guided-missile destroyer at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The report said that Zhang Youxia, chief of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Armaments Department, presided over the ceremony in which a bottle of champagne was broken over the ship’s bow.

The 10,000-tonne warship is the latest addition to the country’s rapidly expanding People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). In terms of size, it is roughly equivalent to the Arleigh Burke class of destroyer.

“It is equipped with new air defense, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons,” the report said, without giving further details. The vessel will have to undergo testing and sea trials before it is commissioned into use. China is believed to be planning to launch four of the ships.

The Type 055 is considered to be a successor of the smaller Type 052D guided missile destroyers that forms the backbone of PLAN fleet. China is still producing Type 052D destroyers and had commissioned one, the Xining, in January.

China is producing warships at a rapid clip as it modernizes its navy, which has been taking an increasingly prominent role among the country’s armed forces. State media has said that the navy commissioned 18 ships, including destroyers, corvettes and guided-missile frigates in 2016. In April, China launched its first domestically built aircraft carrier, a conventionally powered ship that likely won’t enter service until 2020.

Chinese Navy is undergoing an ambitious expansion and is projected to have a total of 265-273 warships, submarines and logistics vessels by 2020. China’s naval build-up, and it’s increasingly assertive stance over disputed territory in the South China Sea, has unnerved its neighbors.

China claims almost all the South China Sea which is believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas and through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The country has been building up military facilities like runways on the islands it controls. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the contested waters.

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