China Launches Third and Fourth Type 055 Guided Missile Destroyers

China has launched two 10,000-tonne Type 055 guided missile destroyers simultaneously at the Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company (DSIC) in Liaoning province on July 3, 2018.

The launching of the third and the fourth destroyer within an year of launching the first ship reflects the rapid pace at which China is building the new class of warship. The first Type 055 destroyer was launched at the Jiangnan Changxingdao shipyard near Shanghai in June 2017 and the second one in April 2018. The ships are reportedly yet to begin their sea trials.

At 180 meters (590 feet) long and displacing over 10,000 tons, Type 055 guided missile destroyers are longer and heavier than the U.S. Navy’s Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers and Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyers, and is more comparable to the former than the latter.

The Type 055 is considered to be a successor of the smaller Type 052D (Luyang III class, Kunming class) guided missile destroyers that forms the backbone of  the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) fleet. China is still producing Type 052D destroyers.

The ships will be equipped with a 112-cell vertical launching system capable of being armed with new types of air-defense, missile-defense, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons. It will be also equipped with long-range, land-attack cruise missiles.

The firepower of Type 055 is believed to be double that of the Type 052D guided-missile destroyer, currently China’s largest and most powerful surface combatant in service.

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. 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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