Meet China’s Type 055: Beijing’s Very Own Zumwalt Stealth Destroyer?


Image: Reuters.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy is preparing to deploy a new, stealthy, heavily armed high-tech class of Type 055 destroyer intended to offer sea attack, air defenses and wartime support to carriers to carriers and amphibs at war on the open ocean.

by Kris Osborn July 10, 2020

Here’s What You Need To Remember: Commissioned earlier this year in January, the Nanchang has now completed its first replenishment exercises at sea. Interestingly, the ship represents China’s effort to engineer a stealthy destroyer by virtue of its blended body-bow, smooth exterior, absence of large protruding deck masts and few external deck-mounted weapons. In some respects, the ship does appear to resemble some elements of the U.S. Navy’s stealthy USS Zumwalt destroyer.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy is preparing to deploy a new, stealthy, heavily armed high-tech class of Type 055 destroyer intended to offer sea attack, air defenses and wartime support to carriers to carriers and amphibs at war on the open ocean.

A story from China’s People’s Online Daily says the Nanchang, a first-in-class new generation of destroyers can fire anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, anti-submarine missiles and even land-attack missiles. China apparently plans to deploy the new destroyer in support of two of its operational aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and Shandong, the article says.

Commissioned earlier this year in January, the Nanchang has now completed its first replenishment exercises at sea. Interestingly, the ship represents China’s effort to engineer a stealthy destroyer by virtue of its blended body-bow, smooth exterior, absence of large protruding deck masts and few external deck-mounted weapons. In some respects, the ship does appear to resemble some elements of the U.S. Navy’s stealthy USS Zumwalt destroyer. The Nanchang has very similar-looking deck-mounted guns and a smooth, flat, roundly curved deckhouse. Like the USS Zumwalt, there is a decidedly linear, inwardly-angled hull-deckhouse connection. It has narrow command post windows and appears to mirror the hull deckhouse configuration of the USS Zumwalt to some extent with radar panels blended into sides of the ship. Also, the central placement of the deckhouse, blended with a back end area, might represent a deliberate effort to align the ship’s center of gravity and therefore decrease the possibility of capsizing in rough seas.

Some of the ship’s stealth features were pointed out in a 2018 story in The Diplomat which describes the ship as having a “flared hull with distinctly stealthy features including an enclosed bow,” and hidden mooring points and anchor chains. This deck structure indeed does reveal an apparent attempt to engineer a ship with a lower radar signature, as there are no externally mounted, angular or protruding weapons systems hanging from the sides of the ship. There are few separated large, pointy antenna masts apart from one aligned straight up on top of the deckhouse and a small cluster on the back end.

However, unlike the USS Zumwalt which aligns VLS (Vertical Launch Systems) along the periphery of the ship deck, the Diplomat describes the Type 055 destroyers as having a “64 cell block of VLS.” More concentrated VLS might seem to leave a ship more vulnerable to catastrophic attack should an incoming weapon hit the centralized group of VLS. Having VLS on the periphery, however, would enable many VLS to sustain functionality in the event that some were disabled or destroyed by enemy attacks. Also, closely stacked VLS would emit a larger heat signature should multiple missiles be launched concurrently.

Finally, the back of the Nanchang looks a little “busier” than the USS Zumwalt; there does not appear to be a large, flat rectangular helo landing area on the Nanching but rather a series of small antennas and mounted weapons and sensor systems on the back end. These, it would seem, appear less stealthy than a USS Zumwalt but bring an added advantage of close-in or attached firepower. For example, the Diplomat article points out an “eleven barrel H/PJ-11 30mm Cose-in-Weapons System. The USS Zumwalt does not appear to have a deck-mounted Close-In-Weapons System as an Arleigh Burke-class Destroyer does. CWIS can offer a critical last-layer attack-defense weapon able to use a phalanx area gun to knock out approaching close-in drones or small boat attacks—by blanketing areas with thousands of small projectiles per minute.

In addition, aggregated antennas in the back might localize the ship’s electromagnetic signature to some extent, enabling directional emissions and a single, concentrated signal area. This would preclude a need to emit multiple signals from different locations, potentially spreading out an electronic footprint. The deck-mounted guns on the Nanchang are less cylindrical and elongated as they are on the USS Zumwalt. In summary, it seems one could accurately characterize the appearance of the Nanching as a bit of a hybrid blending between a stealthy USS Zumwalt and an armed Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.

The Nanchang could also help support the Chinese expeditionary mission scope such as its increased amphibious assault capabilities and expansionist strategies. As far back as 2011, the Chinese Navy has been on the radar for its rapid maritime build-up, according to an essay in National Defense University Press which cites Chinese Frigate and Amphib construction. The 2011 paper, called “The Chinese Navy: Expanding Capabilities, Evolving Roles,” says the Chinese had at that point built 12 new Frigates, a new generation of fast-attack craft and a Type 071 20-ton Amphibious Landing Platform Dock warship. The LPD, as described by the essay, carries two helicopters, two air-cushioned landing craft, and the ability to carry up to eight hundred troops. These Chinese naval assets offer a series of mission scenarios through which the PLA Navy could use its new Nanching destroyer to fortify expansionist aims.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. This article appeared earlier this year.

Source: National Interest “Meet China’s Type 055: Beijing’s Very Own Zumwalt Stealth Destroyer?”

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


8 Comments on “Meet China’s Type 055: Beijing’s Very Own Zumwalt Stealth Destroyer?”

  1. Steve says:

    China’s magical high end high tech weapons are perfectly designed with zero or minimal problems. No cost overruns, exaggerations, delays only perfection.

    The author Kris described the 055 as a cross between a zumwalt and arleigh burke. What nonsense. China’s 055 destroyer is the only one of its kind, best in the world and China is building an entire fleet.

    Like

    • Joseph says:

      It is actually incredible that the American can ‘see’ the Type-055 to be ‘look alike’ of the cross between the Zumwalt and the Arleigh Burke, yet they could not even see the likeness between the Type-054 and the FREMM when they are basically the same design. If China has not developed the J-20, the American would have talked nonsense about the J-10 to be the copy of the F-35 instead, forgetting the fact that they already speculated that the J-10 to be the copy of the F-16, or Israeli Lavi, in which they could decide which one.

      Like

      • Steve says:

        Agree 100% – it’s a trendy trash thing among US politicians to prejudice, slander and scapegoating China. It hurts their jealous eyes to see a rising prosperous modern China, a progressive Chinese government challenging the nonsensical American democracy, governed by a bunch of lunatic & despicable breed of US politicians. The purchase of FREMM Type 054 is a clear indication that US shipbuilding is stuffed up, they cannot trust their own decision making to avoid cost overruns, delays and poor workmanship leading to considerable defects. Chinese airforce jet fighters J-10C/D, J-16s both 4th gens with stealth coatings & PL10/12/15/21 missiles and J-20/31 are at least on par with US ones. As long as Chinese fighter jets, missiles, AESA radar are ahead of the US, their vilification will only hurt themselves because China can built better warships and jet fighters.

        Like

    • NSMSS1991 says:

      Type 055 has the best elements of the Zumwalt and the AB, and the drawbacks of neither.

      Like

      • Joseph says:

        Which ‘best’ elements of the Zumwalt and the AB that the Type-055 has? One is a stuffed up unstable design that doesn’t even work, and one is an obsolete design from bygone era that is no longer relevant. None of these could be categorized as ‘best’. It does not even have visible element of the Russian Sovremenny in which most of the early 21st Chinese destroyers were derived from, so how could it have American warship elements on it?

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      • Steve says:

        The zombie zumwalt was launched in 2013 and later discarded by USN. The main reason to scrap the Zumwalts – it is outgunned by China’s Type 055. USN dream of producing 1000 zumwalts vaporised into zombie spirit. Also, the AB is an outdated workhorse has its days heavily numbered for retirement in the junk dockyard.

        The USN greatly admired China’s Type 054 hull by purchasing the Italian FREMM Alpino to replace US dated floating bathtubs. This new warship will be the pride and joy of US next generation destroyers. Probably, the new USN FREMM Type 054 will perform FON in the SCS ( years later) and China’s PLAN will have a good laugh, take photos & send them a postcard..

        Like

    • For whom the bell tolls says:

      It is interesting to see how the author of this article compares the Chinese destroyers to the truly top of the line ships namely the Zumwalt and Arleigh Burke classes, He knows that the best that these Chinese destroyers can aspire to is to be “as good as”, but never to exceed

      Like

      • Steve says:

        Zumwalties n ABs has Conceded, Chinese destroyers has Exceeded.

        USN has conceded the Zumwalties scrapped, the ABs a wornout workhorse not worth innovating, too expensive, much cheaper to buy the FREMMie Alpino Type 054 hull ….. it’s an excellent marketing decision to avoid very poor workmanship leading to considerable defects. Pretty much like India’s aircraft carrier with significant defects. India should seriously consider buying the FREMMies.

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