China's domestically developed 10,000 ton-class Type 055 guided missile destroyer can counter stealth aircraft and low-Earth orbit satellites, a state-owned media has recently revealed for the first time, leading Chinese experts to say on Sunday that the capabilities will give Chinese forces a key edge over their opponents in modern warfare.
The Type 055 is equipped with a dual-band radar system that has anti-stealth and anti-satellite capabilities in low-Earth orbit, China Central Television (CCTV) reported over the weekend.
The anti-satellite capability in particular has prompted discussions among military observers.
Some of the advanced radar systems produced by modern technologies can detect low-Earth orbit aircraft, which often circulate the Earth at an altitude of 300 to 500 kilometers, Wang Ya'nan, a Chinese aviation and space expert and the chief editor of Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times on Sunday.
If the radar system has a high enough performance, it can not only detect, but also track the satellites, Wang said, noting that this means the radar can then guide weapons to attack the satellites.
With a displacement of more than 10,000 tons, the Type 055 is a 180-meter-long, 20-meter-wide guided missile destroyer with 112 vertical launch missile cells capable of launching a combination of surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, land-attack missiles and anti-submarine missiles, according to previous media reports.
Given the large size of the Type 055, it would be naturally able to carry a type of air-defense missile capable of reaching targets in low-Earth orbit, Wang predicted, noting that the radar system used on the Type 055 can also transmit data via data chain to land-based air-defense forces which can launch anti-satellite missiles.
In a test in 2007, China successfully destroyed a satellite, BBC reported at the time. Liu Jianchao, then spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, confirmed the test and stressed China was committed to the peaceful development of outer space.
US aegis ships also have anti-satellite capabilities. In 2008, a Standard Missile-3 fired from the USS Lake Erie guided missile cruiser struck a crippled US spy satellite, Reuters reported at that time.
Low-Earth orbit satellites can monitor vast regions of battlefields and provide rich intelligence to their operators. In wartime, if one side can suppress hostile satellites, it can neutralize a key part of a hostile intelligence source and gain an advantage for itself, Wang said.
While it is also the first time that China's state-owned media has confirmed the Type 055's anti-stealth capability, it is not much of a surprise when compared with its anti-satellite capability, as China has already revealed several types of anti-stealth radar systems in many open occasions, military observers said.
The US has equipped its Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps with F-35 stealth fighter jets in addition to previously commissioned F-22 stealth fighter jets and B-2 stealth bombers. It is also selling a large amount of F-35s to its allies in the Asia-Pacific region.
This makes anti-stealth capability essential to countering potential threats from US stealth warplanes, analysts said.