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Luhu-class Multirole Destroyer
Type 052

The Luhu-class missile destroyers were the most sophisticated Chinese-built surface combatants in the PLA Navy, but were obsolete by Western standards. The first truely multi-role Chinese ships, they were designed by the China Warship Design Institute (formerly known as the Seventh Academy of the Ministry of National Defense). They were built at the Jiangnan Shipyard, which had previously built ten other types of warships, including its first gunboat, first submarine, first frigate, and first marine survey ship. The Luhu-class are armed with C-802 ship-to ship missiles, along with "Sea Rattlesnake" air defense missiles and one helicopter.

While improving the existing destroyer fleet, the Seventh Academy began work on new class of guided missile destroyer. Initially it involved a joint partnership with another country. Such a relationship could not be established, and instead research was concentrated in China's own research bodies. The new generation of destroyers emphasized an advanced combat-intelligence system that was superior to the ones already installed in the first-generation destroyers. It also had better real-time information capabilities and improved long-range surveillance. The anti-submarine, air-defense, and electronic counter measure capabilities were also enhanced.

Compared to the old Luda class DDG, this class represents a significant step forward in terms of weapon and electronic systems. The Luhu destroyer is the first Chinese naval system of indigenous design even approaching modern standards. But the decision to buy Sovremenny-class destroyers from Russia to accomplish the same functions is indicative of the problems confronting Chinese weapons designers. The Luhu-class air-defence systems lack a fleet defence capability beyond visual range.

The first of the new class was ordered in 1985, but delayed by priority being given to export orders for Thailand. Although these ships were intended to accomodate the American LM2500 gas turbine engines, the Chinese naval architects responsible for designing the Luhu's hull and engine space seem to have disregarded the engines' size specifications. The hull had to be returned to the shipyard for redesign after at least one ship had already been built.

These ships make use of over 40 advanced foreign technologies, providing the Chinese military with an opportunity to cooperate with foreign manufacturers on an extensive scale. Since most of the equipment on board is imported, the crew has to study English to learn over 1,000 English words so they can operate the imported equipment. Among the western equipments on the Luhu class is the Thomson-CSF TSR 3004 Sea Tiger Air/Surface search radars, and French-made guns.

The PLA Navy's missile-equipped warships -- the Jiangwei-class frigates, the later versions of the Luda-class destroyers, and the Luhu-class destroyers -- were probably the first Chinese warships to have combat direction systems that provide tactical integration of shipboard sensors and weapons. The Thomson-CSF TAVITAC 2000 combat data system compiles a picture of the tactical situation using inputs from radars and other sensors both on the ship and from remote sources. Connectivity with off-board sensors is provided through the Link-W6 data link, which is reportedly similar to the Link 11 of Western navies. Capable of tracking several hundred targets simultaneously, the system designates targets to weapon systems and may provide some assistance in tactical situation assessment.

Historically the biggest weakness of Chinese destroyers and frigates has been their inadequate of ship-to-air missiles. Because they have small displacements, most of the destroyers and frigates are not equipped with short-range and intermediate-range missiles, but use artillery with a limited firing range, one-man air defense missiles, and a small number of PL-8H short-range ship-to-air missiles for air defense. The weakness in air defense capabilities has confined the activity of China's destroyers and frigates to the Chinese coastal waters, within the area covered by the fighters of the Chinese Navy. The new Luhu class destroyers and Jiangwei class frigates are equipped with ship-to-air missiles, including the HQ-61B with a firing range of 10 km and Sea Sidewinders with a firing range of 14 km. However, the PLAN's HQ-61 and HQ-7 systems [based on the French Crotale land-based surface-to-air missile system] do not provide surface units with an effective area-defense capability. Although the long-range Sea Eagle air-search radar is of Chinese origin (although probably derived radars developed in other countries), the Luhu has no means of engaging air and missile targets at the ranges (over 150 kilometers) at which this radar could gain contact. This deficiency makes PLAN surface units extremely vulnerable to air attack. Another weakness of this type destroyer is its poor electronic surveillance system, which renders it vulnerable to being located and attacked.

Much of the Western technology on this design was obtained before the Tiananmen incident (in 1989) when Western countries were still helping China with its military modernization programs. Reportedly China has introduced improved electronics systems, including technology acquired from the US and France, leading to the introduction of an improved and enlarged version of the Luhu as the Luhai-class of guided missile destroyers, which are apparently intended to have enhanced air defense capabilities. While the two Luhu units are equipped with two US-made GE LM2500 gas turbine engines, the Luhai warships use the Ukrainian GT25000M gas turbine as their main engine.

The first of the class started sea trial in late 1992 with the second in mid-1995. The third and fourth were delayed/cancelled because of problems obtaining more LM2500 gas-turbines and other key Western systems. According to some reports, work on the third unit restarted in 1999. The introduction of Luhai-class suggests that the 052 Luhu building project has been terminated with two units, though at least four and perhaps as many as six had originally been planned.

The Harbin is the first Luhu-class 052 missile- destroyer of the Chinese Navy. The Harbin (DD 112) and two other Chinese ships visited San Diego CA on 21 March 1997 in the first-ever visit by People's Republic of China Navy ships to the mainland US. The ships visited Hawaii on their way to Southern California for the second part of a goodwill visit between the US and Chinese navies. As of this 1997 port call, none of the ships could desalinate water, so the crew drank rationed bottled water. Americans boarding the ship discovered that many of the interiors were made of plywood, and highly vulnerable to shipboard fires.



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