Friday, August 12, 2022

Top Down View Of China’s ‘Most Sophisticated’ Warship – Type 055 Nanchang – Surfaces Online Amid Taiwan Tensions

The US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has infuriated China, which has responded by heavily deploying its military forces to conduct drills close to the island. Amid tensions, several high-definition images of China’s state-of-the-art weapons, including the Type 055 destroyer, have recently appeared on social media.

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Many detailed, high-resolution images of the Type 055 destroyer Nanchang, hull number 101, of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy have surfaced online. The Type 055 destroyer is the most sophisticated surface warship Beijing has ever produced.

The images provide a top-down view of the warship’s characteristics in an exceptionally descriptive way. According to reports, the warship is participating in the most recent round of drills directed at Taiwan in response to Pelosi’s visit.

The images appeared to be screen grabs from a television show and were later posted on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging platform. The program is thought to have been a part of this year’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Day, also known as Army Day (August 1).

The EurAsian Times had earlier reported that some videos were released on August 1 by state-run Chinese media outlets, one of which includes footage of a Type-055 destroyer to demonstrate Beijing’s military might.

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The location of the images in question is unknown. However, it is believed that the ship is berthed at its homeport, Qingdao, in the northeastern Chinese province of Shandong. 

Meanwhile, after Nancy Pelosi visited the island, the Chinese armed forces’ activities in the region significantly expanded. A senior American official’s presence in Taiwan is seen by China as the US endorsing Taiwan’s independence from China. 

Type 055 destroyer: Symbol of Chinese Navy's development - CGTN
Type 055 destroyer – CGTN

Beijing maintains that Taiwan was always a Chinese province and has never acknowledged it as a separate political entity.

Taiwan asserts that it was not a part of either the People’s Republic of China, established following the communist revolution, or the modern Chinese state, which was only created after the 1911 revolution. 

Since the 1970s, the US has upheld a “One China” policy in which it acknowledges Taiwan as a part of China. However, it maintains an unofficial relationship with Taiwan, a strategic or deliberate ambiguity ploy. 

What Do The Latest Images Reveal?

Regardless, images provide an incredibly clear view of many important aspects of this ship. The ship was the first to be commissioned and entered into service in 2020. A total of 16 such vessels are reportedly planned for construction, with at least six already completed. 

The 112 vertical launch system (VLS) cells at Nanchang are visible in the close-up shots. The VLS arrays on the Type 055 accommodate a wide range of air-to-surface and surface-to-surface missile models. 

View of Nanchang’s forward VLS array

Comparatively, the number of cells on the USA’s Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is 96, slightly less than the 122 cells on a Ticonderoga class cruiser.

The US Navy’s stealth destroyers of the Zumwalt class, which have 80 cells in total and are bigger than China’s Type 055s, also have a lesser missile-launching capacity than Type 055.

The system is said to be capable of firing at least HQ-16 and HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, the YJ-18 and CJ-10 families of land-attack and anti-ship cruise missiles, the Yu-8 rocket-assisted torpedo, and the YJ-83 anti-ship cruise missile.

One of the cells in the Chinese warship is also said to be capable of launching the DK-10 surface-to-air missile. This particular missile was designed and developed for export purposes but did not appear to have been accepted by the PLA.

An 11-barrel 30mm H/PJ-11 close-in weapon system (CIWS) is mounted in front of the primary superstructure, and the vessel is also equipped with a 130mm H/PJ-38 naval gun in a turret at the bow. 

The ship’s helicopter hangar is topped with a 24-cell HQ-10 short-range surface-to-air missile launcher. The hangar was created primarily for Harbin Z-9s but may be able to fit the PLAN’s new Z-20Fs. These images also provide some information about the ship’s countermeasures.

A 24-round HQ-10 surface-to-air missile launcher is mounted here on the helicopter hangars.

The four Type 726-series defensive launchers that Nanchang is equipped with, two of which are positioned on either side of the aft section of the ship’s superstructure, are visible in top view photographs of the vessel.

In crystal clear focus, the view of several what appear to be box-shaped antennas fitted along the edge of Nanchang’s bridge is perhaps most intriguing. Experts speculate that this element of the Type 055 design may be an essential component of the ship’s electronic warfare (EW) suite.

There is, however, no proof to support this argument. Regardless, large beyond-line-of-sight communications domes are one thing that appears to be lacking in comparison to their foreign counterparts.  

Given the vessel’s cutting-edge features, this class of ships serves as a shining example of China’s significant efforts in recent years to enhance its capabilities. The warship hasn’t encountered any combat situations, so it’s unclear exactly how effective its capabilities are. 

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