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Type 055 / DDG-X [Area Defense Project]

The Type 055 guided missile destroyer [cruiser] must be one of the most anticipated platforms in the Chinese Navy, apart from the aircraft carrier. By 2014 photographs of a radar test installation apparently associated with this programs had finally surfaced on the Chinese internet. It remains unclear whether the Type 055 would prove to be a 160-meter long DDG-57 counterpart or a 180-meter DDG-1000 counterpart.

In marach 2016 Chinese media reported that the 175-meter-long vessel would be outfitted with four new types of missiles, including medium-range air defense and antisubmarine missiles, as well as long-range air defense missiles and supersonic long-range anti-ship missiles. The Type 055 destroyers would also brandish long-range land attack cruise missiles and a sea-based missile interceptor. It would have ninety-six vertical launching systems, meaning the ship would not only be able to carry more weapons, but also larger missiles.

In addition, the all-important phased array radars have been upgraded to include both X-band and S-band arrays and thus may be on par with America's top air-defense ships. The radars deliver the ship's core competence. Like the Aegis-equipped destroyers that formed the model for its predecessors, Type 055's main mission is still certain to be fleet air defense, including for Beijing's carrier battle groups. The Type 055 guided missile destroyer's other missions would likely include missile defense and anti-satellite operations.

The PLAN seeks to push its maritime defense perimeter further seaward. This change in operations would require newer, more modern warships and submarines capable of operating out to the Ryukyu Islands and into the South China Sea. At these extended ranges, the platforms would have to be better armed to enable defense from all methods of attack. The Navy has been conducting research and acquiring foreign technology in an effort to improve the broad range of naval warfare capabilities; it also is acquiring new classes of ships that would be better suited for operations out to the limits of the East and South China Seas.

Through the end of the 20th Century the PLAN continued to have long-standing concerns about its capability to engage enemy aircraft, cruise missiles and precision-guided munitions. This problem is becoming more significant as the Navy strives to operate away from the protection of land-based air defenses. PLAN surface combatants had a limited, and primarily self-defense, anti-air warfare (AAW) capability. Only some of its destroyers and frigates are outfitted with SAM systems; the others were armed only with AAA and possibly man-portable air defense systems.

In addition, PLAN warships lacked the modern air surveillance systems and data links required for area air defense missions. The combination of short-range weapons and lack of modern surveillance systems limits the PLAN to self-defense and point-defense anti-air warfare only. Consequently, except in unusual circumstances, no PLAN ship is capable of conducting air defense of another ship. Additionally, the PLAN could not reliably defend against either current or projected anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM).

This changed with the advent of the Type 052C Luyang II, the first of which commissioned in 2004. Type 052D, the first of which commissioned in 2014, is a newer design than the DDG-57 Arleigh Burke, but both vessels are very good looking and capable. However, there are characteristics of the Burke IIA that are noteworthy and important, despite aesthetics. The Burke IIA has 96 VLS cells the Type 052D has 64. The Burke IIA carries two helicopters, the Type 052D carries one. The slope on the side panels of the Burke IIA provide better radar dispersion, because they are sloped more, particularly above the main deck, and also with the "raked" mast. The bow Sonar on the Burke IIA is much more powerful than that on the Type 052D. The wider beam on the Burke IIA allows for better handling, particularly in rough sea states. The AEGIS system and cooperative engagement capabilities on the Burke IIA are very well known, understood, and proven. The effectiveness of the new APARs and the combat system on the Type 052D remain unknown.

There has been some speculation that a new design would be constructed with a 10,000 ton displacement. This might be equipped with the "Rif" Naval S-300 system, which utilizes a single Tombstone phased array radar, in a vertical launching system (VLS).

Since late 2012, Chinese military forums began discussion of a new Type 055 missile destroyer. Sources reported that the design of the destroyer has been completed. The destroyer was to have better stealth design with low noise, infrared and electromagnetic characteristics. It was said to have a new generation of multi-module active phased array radar with a range of 600 km able to monitor and control several hundred targets and automatically distribute targets to various combat units (including the destroyer itself and other combat units), and a joint combat data distribution transmission system similar to the Link-16 of US Navy. Its firepower was said to be 3 to 5 times greater than that of US Arleigh Burke class destroyer and 2 times greater than that of US Ticonderoga class cruiser, although it was unclear what this was supposed to mean. These reports claim that a Chinese aircraft carrier combat group would contain one carrier, two 055 destroyers, four 052D destroyers and four 054A frigates.

By one observer concluded as of mid-2013 that "No doubt PLAN would not stop at Type 054D... and would carry on advancing if economic and politics continue to be stable and there are no major problem happening internally. But up till now, unless there are official sounding or anyone who could provide good solid source and references, it seemed like alot of hot air are around and alot of fanboys dream."

China Defense Blog wrote on 07 April 2014 that "The mockup of the CV LIAONING was built at Wuhan in late 2009, and the actual ship entered the fleet in 2012. Using this same timeline we might expect the keel of the new cruiser to be laid in 2015 with a 2017 commission date." Totoro's April 2014 dimension estimates at China Defense Blog of 163m long, while exemplary, are only very preliminary, and there is a train of thought that the 055 may end up being some 186m long with a 23m beam.

Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer wrote on 01 May 2014 that "New photos of the work ongoing outside of Wuhan, China, show that the engineers and scientists of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) are making fast progress in completing the 055 guided missile cruiser's (CG) electronics testing mockup... The main feature of the 055 CG is its Type 346 series of radars, of which four are to be mounted on the forward superstructure around the bridge. ... The newest photos also show that the integrated mast (the grey colored tower on top of the superstructure) is taking shape. The integrated mast above the bridge will hold smaller but equally important radar, in addition to communications and electronic jamming equipment. Compared to traditional masts, integrated masts are stealthier by enclosing all the antennas and supporting structures. While not as large as the Type 346 radars, the X band radar mounted in the middle of the integrated mast offers better resolution than the Type 346, which is important for target identification and discrimination (i.e. identifying fighter aircraft against decoys and jamming)."

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