China's first homegrown aircraft carrier and the first of the country's new missile destroyers set sail for sea trials recently, sparking speculation that a new carrier battle group may be in the making.
The first of China's advanced Type 055-class guided-missile destroyers — apparently the Nanchang — set sail Friday from the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, according to the China Daily. The Type 001 aircraft carrier, China's first indigenously produced carrier and the country's second after the Liaoning, followed suit Monday.
The focus of the carrier trials, the second this year, will be the ship's propulsion systems, but Chinese analysts believe these trials could also look at command, communication, and management systems, as well as the ship's navigation and weapons systems, the Global Times reported.
An artist's depiction of China's Type 001A aircraft carrierPhoto via Tiexue.net/Popular Science
The Type 055 destroyer displaces 10,000 tons and is considered to be the largest and one of the most advanced noncarrier warships in Asia. The ship is expected to play a role similar to that of America's Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and serve as a key escort for China's aircraft carrier battle groups, according to the South China Morning Post.
The powerful Chinese destroyers, which are closer in size to cruisers, feature X-band radar and 112 vertical launch cells set up to fire HHQ-9 long-range surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles, CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles, and missile-launched submarine torpedoes. The ships are also armed with 130 mm dual-purpose naval guns and carry two anti-submarine helicopters.
The Type 055 destroyer's primary rival is said to be the U.S. Navy's Zumwalt-class destroyer, which boasts a wide range of advanced capabilities superior to anything China possesses.
A Chinese Type 055 destroyer.Screenshot YouTube
The Type 001A aircraft carrier, while similar to its refitted Soviet-era predecessor, is “improved in some places,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, recently told Business Insider. “It has a newer radar, it's a little bit bigger, the flight deck is a little bit bigger, the island is a bit smaller, so they have more space. It definitely has some upgrades on it.”
More advanced carrier capabilities are unlikely, though, until the unveiling of China's third carrier, which is commonly referred to as the Type 002.
The two ships, the Type 001A and the Type 055 destroyer, are expected to be delivered to the People's Liberation Army Navy within the next year or so, according to Chinese military experts. The Type 055 destroyer would most likely serve as an escort ship for the Type 001A carrier, creating a new carrier battle group with advanced combat capabilities.
The development of such platforms allows China to gain greater experience with carrier operations as it seeks to project power at greater distances beyond its shores.
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