China has commissioned its second Luyang III guided missile destroyer as part of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) ongoing surface force expansion.
The Type 052D Luyang III class guided missile destroyer Changsha (173) commissioned in the last several weeks according to images that have emerged on the Chinese language Internet and reported by Jane’s Defence Weekly.
“Although launched only four months after first-of-class Kunming (172), it was commissioned 16 months later, suggesting an extensive program of trials,” wrote Jane’s.
The 7,500 ton surface combatant is part of a planned class of ten ships that reflect trends in U.S. and European guided missile combatant designs.
The ships are centered around the Type 346 Dragon Eye radar active electronically scanned array (AESA) and a new vertical launch system (VLS) capable of fielding the new YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) and an improved version of the HHQ-9 surface-to-air warfare missile and a future land attack missilee.
In particular, the Dragon Eye will expand the ability of the PLAN to operate further afield.
“While some older platforms with little or no air defense capability remain in the PLA(N) inventory, the addition of these new units allows the PLA(N) surface force to operate with increased confidence outside of shore-based air defense systems, as one or two ships are equipped to provide air defense for the entire task group,” read an April assessment of the PLAN by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI).
“These modern, high-end combatants will likely provide increased weapons stores and overall flexibility as surface action groups venture more frequently into blue water in the coming years.”
While the ships appear the equivalent of U.S. and Western combatants, the capabilities of the ship is still an open question.
“They are getting closer and closer to advanced naval weapon system in appearance,” Eric Wertheim, author of Naval Institute’s Guide to Combat Fleets of the World told USNI News last year.
“But are they really as good as they look? We really don’t know.”