Type 055 Cruiser Test Rig
Five months after the first pictures surfaced in February 2014, the Type 055 cruiser testing rig at Wuhan has taken significant steps towards completion. The advantages of a land based test rig allow Chinese naval engineers to make cheaper adjustments and modifications to the electronics, compared to rebuilding an expensive cruiser on sea trials. Once launched, the Type 055 cruiser will be among the world’s most powerful surface combatant warships, giving the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) a multipurpose warship useful for both blue water expeditionary warfare and anti-access/area denial missions.
055 Test Rig, Front View
055 Test Rig’s Integrated Mast
While much scaffolding remains, the photos show recent additions include a 130mm H/PJ-38 cannon turret (or a mockup, given the current lack of ammo loading machinery beneath the deck) at the bow. One Type 1130 close in weapons system (CIWS) is located in front the of the bridge superstructure on a platform behind the PJ-38 main gun (the space between the PJ-38 and Type 1130 CIWS would hold 64-72 vertical launch system (VLS) cells). The Type 1130 can fire around 10,000 rounds of two pound shells to intercept missiles flying at Mach 4. To round out the Type 055’s defense armament, a HQ-10 air defense launched has been installed in the rear above the helicopter hangar. The gap forward of the hangar and behind the exhaust stacks could hold an additional 48-64 VLS cells.
Type 1130 CIWS
055 Hangar Close Up
The integrated mast and the rest of the test rig have received a coat of standard PLAN grey paint. However, the empty gaps in the stealthy integrated mast show that various fire control radars and communication arrays remain to be installed. Meanwhile, the stern of the mockup has seen the completion of its helicopter/UAV hangar, which will primarily be used in anti-submarine warfare operations.
March 2014 055 Test Rig
However, the most important part of the Type 055 mockup has yet to come in the form of radar and other electronic equipment installation. The photos show that the front portside (left) Type 346 radar has not been installed yet beneath the bridge (allowing the possibility, though, that the starboard side radars has already been installed). Given the lack of radar portside openings on the mockup, it appears that sensors, especially radars, will only be installed on the starboardside and front of the test rig (generally, only two sides need functional electronics to test out sensor performance and interaction on a warship). Installing the electronics of the Type 055 will be crucial to establishing baselines to understand interactions between electromagnetic activity from the sensors, electronic countermeasure (ECM)defenses and communications gear. Judging from the rate of progress in the past several months, it would be reasonable to assume that all sensors, ECM, and communications will be installed by fall this year, allowing the PLAN to immediately start using the test rig. At this pace, we should expect the first 055 hull to begin construction in the 2015-2016 timeframe.
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