On July 3rd, China launched two gigantic "Renhai" Type 055 guided missile destroyers (DDG). Along with one 25,000 ton Type 071 landing platform dock, another 13,000-14,000 ton Type 055 DDG launched this April, and one 7,500 ton Type 052D, China has launched nearly 80,000 tons of major surface combatant warships. With more destroyers and frigates under construction, it's not impossible that China's total launched warship displacement for 2018 could hit 100,000 tons.
The ships were launched at the sprawling Dalian shipyard (also were the CV-17 aircraft carrier was built). Each Type 055 destroyer (classified as a cruiser by the US Navy due to its large size and arsenal) is 590 feet long and 65 feet wide; it is the world's second largest Post-Cold War surface combatant, after the Zumwalt stealth destroyer. The ships' primary combat systems are giant Type 342X radars and 112 vertical launch system (VLS) cells. The Chinese 'universal' VLS are 2.1 feet wide and 29.5 feet long, making them much larger than the 2.3 feet wide and 25.9 feet long Mk 57 VLS, the largest US VLS system. While the Ticonderoga cruisers and South Korean KDX-III destroyers have more VLS cells than the Type 055; the Type 055 can carry more ammunition mass in its larger VLS.
Currently, each Type 055 has a 5 inch H/PJ-130 cannon. However, reported American analysis claims that China is working to have operational railguns, which use electromagnetic forces to launch Mach 7 shells, by 2025 (this date is prospective and highly dependent the success of the research program). Of China's current warships, only the Type 055 has the necessary space for the electrical generators needed for power hungry railguns. That would likely be the next Renhai variant, the projected Type 055A destroyer, which would have surplus electrical generation through its Integrated Electric Propulsion System (IEPS).
In addition to the four Type 055s already launched, four more may be built before Chinese shipyards switch to the more advanced Type 055A.
The first Type 055 launched last year is likely to be commissioned late this year once the Jiangnan shipyard finishes installing electronics and completes basic crew training. Its three sister ships will probably enter service next year. The Type 055 provides China with a first-rate heavy warship that can deploy globally, whether to show the flag in foreign waters, participate in peacekeeping and joint military exercises, or project power well beyond China's waters.
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Peter Warren Singer is a strategist and senior fellow at the New America Foundation. He has been named by Defense News as one of the 100 most influential people in defense issues. He was also dubbed an official "Mad Scientist" for the U.S. Army's Training and Doctrine Command. Jeffrey is a national security professional in the greater D.C. area. They both are Associates with the U.S. Air Force University's China Aerospace Studies Institute.