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Type 051B Luhai-class / Luyang-class Multirole Destroyer

The Type 051B [not 052 or 052A] Luhai-class multirole destroyers represent a significantly enlarged development of the Luhu-class destroyer design with some evident radar signature reduction features, and [eventually] significant air defense enhancements.

The Luhai-class is 2000 tons larger than the previous Luhu-class, and is equiped with 16 C801/802 SSMs, an 8-cell HQ-7 SAM launcher, and two Z-9A helicoptors. The HQ-7/Crotale short-range SAM appears ineffective against modern sea-skimming missiles attacking from multiple directions.

Construction on the first ship, DD-167 Shenzhen, began in May 1996. This first unit was launched in 1997 and entered sea trials in October 1998. The first Luhai was equiped with only the short-range HHQ-7 SAM, prompting speculation that the next generation DDG (Type 052B?) would have an improved fleet-wide air-defense capability. The configuration of the ship indicated that a vertical launch system [VLS] will eventually installed, though this was not fitted on the initial unit apparently due to delays in the development of the HQ-9 anti-aircraft missile. It was completed in 1999 and entered service, though subsequently may have gone under refit to install VLS for HQ-9 SAM.

At one time there was almost complete confusion concerning the type designation of this class, vastly complicated the already complex task of understanding these ships. Some sources refer to the Luhai as Type 051B, others as Type 52B, and others as Type 54. The Type 051 nomenclature is associated with the very different Luda-class, and it was a bit difficult to understand how the Luhai would be designated as a variant of this class, skipping over the well-attested Type 052 designation of the Luhu-class of which the Luhai-class is a further development. The Type 054 nomenclature later turned out to be associated with the new FFG Jiangkai class of frigates.

The relationship between the Luhai and Luyang classes remains obscure. Prior to 2005 the Luyang nomenclature was extremly poorly attested. In 2001 it was reported that China had begun building a new-generation Luyang-class guided missile heavy destroyer, similar to Sovremennyy-class ships and designed to provide sector air defense for the PLA's first-generation aircraft carrier group. At that time, this was projected to materialize as early as 2003-2005 [which did not]. As of 2002 the Luyang-class missile destroyer was said to be in the design process, characterized at that time as an improved variety of the Sovremenny. China was reportedly acquiring the technology for manufacturing DN-80 turbine engines from Ukraine.

By 2005 it became apparent that the Luhai was built at Dalian, while the Luyang units were built at Jiangnan. The later were readily distinguished from the former by their slab-sided hull.

Another notable difference between the previous Luhu-class and Luhai-class and the Luyang is the replacement of the diesel-gas-turbines with gas-turbine engines. This follow-on to the Luhu destroyer has a wider hull (broader beam) to accommodate the different and somewhat larger and bulkier marine gas-turbine engine. The post-Tiananmen sanctions imposed by the US precluded acquisition of additional GE LM 2500 engines like those in the Luhu. These follow-on ships use Ukrainian G525000 gas turbines, selected due to a combination of technical and political factors.

The People's Liberation Army Navy upgraded the CNS Shenzhen guided missile destroyer, once the most powerful domestically made warship in the Navy, amid a massive modernization of the country's naval arsenal. The only Type 051B Luhai-class ship, the 6,000-metric ton Shenzhen entered service with the South Sea Fleet in 1999 and was then the largest and most advanced domestically made warship of the Navy for about five years until the first Type 052B destroyer, CNS Guangzhou, was commissioned in 2004.

When the Shenzhen was commissioned, the Navy's destroyer fleet consisted of antiquated models, mostly 3,600-ton Type 051 guided missile destroyer vessels with older weapons and radars. Therefore, the Shenzhen was chosen as the command ship of the South Sea Fleet and has taken part in many overseas visits to show the best image of the Chinese Navy.

In 2014, the Shenzhen started a major upgrade of its weapons and electronics systems. It was recently spotted at a naval base of the South Sea Fleet with new weapons and a streamlined superstructure, indicating it has finished the modernization work, People's Daily reported.

A captain of a Navy guided missile destroyer who wished not to be named told China Daily 22 February 2017 that the overall capability of the refitted Shenzhen is at least double that before the upgrade. He said the ship's information capacity and firepower are much stronger than before.

Cao Weidong, a researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said that the biggest change to the Shenzhen is with its weapon systems. "The HQ-7 short-range surface-to-air missile launcher has been replaced with a vertical launch system, which enables the ship to carry a larger number of missiles and to use more kinds of missiles," he said, explaining that the change will extensively improve the ship's combat capability.

In addition, its four 37-mm two-barrel anti-aircraft guns have been replaced with two close-in weapon systems, whose faster rate of fire increases the vessel's survivability against incoming missiles. The radars and sonar systems on the ship were also upgraded to enhance its capabilities in terms of reconnaissance, detection and monitoring, according to Cao.

Fang Bing, a weapon expert from PLA National Defense University, said the modifications on the Shenzhen's masts and superstructure would reduce its radar signature, thus give it stealth capability. Before the Shenzhen, the Navy upgraded the CNS Guangzhou as well as the two Type 052 class destroyers - CNS Harbin and CNS Qingdao.

Type 052? Luzhou

Matters were further confused when Bill Gertz reported in June 2005 that two Luzhou guided-missile destroyers were under construction. This nomenclature, not previously attested, appears to reference new construction at Dalian of some variant of the Luhai. It was not immediately apparent whether this was the long awaited DDG-X, or a low-end substitute for this ship.

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