Accompanied by marching music and tearing waves, a huge warship with the hull number 101 sailed into view out of heavy fog during the maritime parade on April 23 in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province to celebrate the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's 70th anniversary.
Those not lucky enough to experience this at the scene and were eagerly waiting to see it on television were disappointed when state broadcaster China Central Television was unable to provide a live feed of the parade, possibly due to the bad weather and sea conditions. But that did not stop them from enjoying picture reports that arrived a few minutes later, when they saw their long-anticipated expectation become a reality.
Chinese military enthusiasts have been dreaming for decades to see China have a 10,000-ton-class destroyer. Finally, the first domestically developed Type 055 Nanchang made its parade debut as a special birthday present to the PLA Navy, as the warship will reportedly join its North China Sea Fleet.
Between 1840 and 1949, China suffered more than 470 invasions by foreign powers from the sea. With the help of the Type 055 destroyer, a warship described by Chinese military experts as world class, fewer foreign hostile forces will have the ability to repeat such attacks.
With a displacement of more than 10,000 tons, the Type 055 can carry more weapons and equipment than any other Chinese destroyer.
The warship has eight eight-unit vertical launch systems (VLS) in the front deck and six eight-unit VLS in the middle, a total of 112 VLS units, the most among Chinese destroyers, reported Ordnance Industry Science Technology, a Xi'an-based periodical on the national defense industry.
By comparison, China's Type 052D destroyer has only 64, the US' Arleigh Burke-class destroyer has 96, and the US' Ticonderoga-class cruiser has 122, according to media reports.
These VLS units use the latest standard design of the PLA Navy, giving them both hot launch and cold launch abilities, the Ordnance Industry Science Technology report said. A hot launch means a missile ignites in its cell, and a cold launch means a missile is ejected from the launch cell before it ignites.
Missiles armed within the VLS units include air defense missiles, anti-ship missiles and anti-submarine missiles, according to the report. Some say that the ship may also have land-attack missiles.
In the air defense department, the ship is expected to be installed with missiles including HHQ-9B long-range air defense missiles and HQ-16B mid-range air defense missiles, Ordnance Industry Science Technology reported, noting that it could also be equipped with a type of mid-close-range surface-to-air missile developed from the DK-10 missile. With regards to warship-to-warship combat, the Type 055 could be equipped with YJ-18 anti-ship missiles, the report said.
This type of missile can fly at high subsonic speed upon launch, but accelerate to between Mach 2.5 and Mach 3 when approaching its target. This design keeps the missile light and far-reaching, while also giving the enemy as little reaction time as possible, the report said, noting that the YJ-18 carries a heavy explosive warhead, which, combined with the enormous kinetic energy from the fast speed, can severely damage a warship with tens of thousands of tons of displacement with only one strike.
Although anti-submarine assault is not the Type 055's main mission objective, it is likely equipped with Y-8 anti-submarine missiles and torpedoes. The warship is also equipped with an advanced sonar system and can carry medium-to large-sized anti-submarine helicopters on board, according to the report, which pointed out that the helicopters, missiles and torpedoes could form a three-layer defense web against even advanced nuclear-powered submarines.
The main gun of the warship seems to be an improved version of the 130 millimeter single-barreled H/PJ45A-130-1, which could be found on the Type 052D, Ordnance Industry Science Technology said. The gun can shoot 40 shells a minute, and a normal shell can travel 30 kilometers, while a rocket-propelled guided shell could hit targets even farther and more accurately, the report said.
The ship is also equipped with a Type 1130 close-in weapon system that can shoot tens of thousands of bullets per minute to neutralize incoming missiles. It also has a 24-unit HHQ-10 close-range anti-missile system that can effectively intercept supersonic anti-ship missiles, according to the report.
With such strong firepower, the Type 055 can either serve as a powerful escort to an aircraft carrier, or lead a flotilla sailing across the globe, as it also has very long operational range, Xu Guangyu, a senior consultant at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times.
"It is no inferior to Aegis ships like [the US'] Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and Ticonderoga-class cruisers. By comparison, the Nanchang is the best in Asia, and can be considered world class," Xu noted.
A Chinese military expert who asked not to be named told the Global Times that the Type 055 is also equipped with very advanced radar and electronic control systems, which allow it to make the best of these weapons.
With the Nanchang joining the PLA naval service, more Type 055s are being manufactured. A second one was launched in April 2018 in Shanghai, while the third and fourth ones were launched in July 2018 in Dalian, Northeast China's Liaoning Province, and more are expected to come, media reported.
Military observers say that the Type 055 might see variants in the future that could carry China's futuristic electromagnetic railgun, which can shoot hypersonic projectiles at Mach 7.
It might also upgrade its arsenal to serve as an antiballistic missile platform, the anonymous expert said.
"The Type 055 has huge room for upgrades, so I expect it to bring more surprises in the future," he said.