David Axe’s recent War is Boring article on China’s new Type 055-class cruiser focused on its bristling load of vertical-launch missile cells. The Type-055 carries 112 cells (not 122, as Axe states), which almost matches the US Navy’s Ticonderoga-class cruisers and exceeds the 96 launchers on Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyers (DDGs) and Japan’s equivalents.
Axe says the number of vertical-launch cells serves as a useful proxy for naval firepower. Many would dispute this as too crude a measure. The vertical-launch cell count sometimes excludes separately housed anti-ship missiles, and important enabling capabilities such as radar, sensors and combat systems that do more to determine the war-fighting quality of modern warships than the quantity of missiles they can shoot.
Moreover, the latest generation of networked communications on US Navy warships and aircraft, available in future to close allies like Australia, enable one platform to fire the missiles of another, generating a massive multiplier effect. Different types of missiles can also be launched from vertical-launch cells: cruise missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and anti-submarine weapons. Smaller missiles like the Evolved Sea Sparrow (ESSM) can be quad-packed within a standard launch cell.
But the greater the mix, the fewer cells are available for any one type. So let’s assume there is some basic value to the vertical-launch cell count as a measure, in capacity terms at least.
Axe draws more comfort from the comparison across fleets than between ships. The US Pacific Fleet’s 36 DDGs and 12 Ticonderoga-class cruisers between them possess almost 5000 missile cells, compared to around 1500 across China’s modern force of 39 destroyers and frigates, excluding the in-production Type 055. Japan and South Korea also pack a hefty punch on their destroyers.
How does Australia’s Navy stack up in comparison? Poorly, in short. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Lowly Institute website.