March 21, 2014
The Chinese Navy commissioned the first of the Kunming class, Type 052D, destroyers, the DDG-172, Kunming, on March 21, 2014. This is a new class of destroyer that is a significant upgrade over the Type 052C, Lanzhou Class, destroyers that the Chinese have finished building six of. The Lanzho Class was Chinas first true multi-rile, wide area defense destroyer employing a sophisticated battle management system, Phased Array Radars, and Vertical Launch missile systems. That earlier class had 48 cells for surface to air missile to defend a large group ships (like a carrier battle group) against air attack from aircraft or missiles.
The Type 052D Class, or Kunming Class, has been upgraded significantly. This vessel employs 64 cells of vertical launch missiles that are capable of launching anti-air missiles, anti-surface missiles, or anti-submarine missiles from the same cells, similar to the US Navy Mk-41 Vertical Launch System. In addition, the vessel sports a new main gun, a 130mm dual purpose gun supposedly capable of firing extended range munitions. Critically, the vessel is also fitted with larger and more powerful Active Phased Array Radars (APARS) over the Lanzhou Class, which will undoubtedly have longer range, and may well have better discrimination and resolution over their earlier APARS.
In addition, rather than two 30mm Close in Weapon System (CIWS) guns, the Kunming carrier a CIWS gun forward, but now has a 24-missile launcher, the FL-3000N, aft, over the helicopter hanger deck for close in missile defense. This system, also deployed on the Chinese aircraft carrier, Liaoning, CV-16, appears to be the equivalent of the US Navy RAM missile system.
With these improvements, the Chinese Navy, with the Kunming Class, are approaching parity with the US Navy systems deployed on the AEGIS Destroyers of the Arleigh Burke Class...though the Chinese vessels are 2,000 tons lighter and less heavily armed.
Here are pictures from the commissioning of the vessel.
The second in class, the DDG-173, Changsha, has just departed for sea trials and should also be commissioned later this year.
The third and fourthe in class have also been launched and are currently fitting out. The fifth in class is under construction, with the modular pieces of the sixth in class assembling at a Chinese shipyard. They expect to build and launch these from two seperate shipyards. It is expected that the Chinese will build at least twelve of these very capable vessels, and perhaps as many as eighteen. With the previous six Lanzhou Class, this will give the PLAN eighteen to twenty four very capable, very modern, area anti-aircraft, multi-role destroyers. They also have another eleven or twelve modern detroyers of different classes.
When you consider this in light of the twenty very capable and very modern Type 054A Frigates that have built over the last five years, and the twenty Type 056 modern corvettes they have built in the last two years, with another twenty of those slated to be built, the rapid expansion, growth, and modernization of the Chinese Navy is a significant occurance, with broad impact in the western Pacific.
Specifications for the Kunming Class follow:
CHINESE AND INDIAN AIRCRAFT CARRIER EXERCISE LINKS:
1ST CHINESE CARRIER BATTLE GROUP EXERCISES
INDIAN NAVY CONDUCTS JOINT AIRCRAFT CARRIER EXERCISES
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