As China Declares Type 055 Cruiser Lhasa Battle-Worthy, Two More Reportedly Begun in Dalian
The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has declared its second Type 055 missile cruiser to be combat worthy following war games held in the Yellow Sea last week. The stealthy warships are the second-largest non-carrier warships afloat anywhere in the world, closely following the US' troubled Zumwalt-class destroyers.
The warship Lhasa, hull number 102, was first commissioned in March of last year. However, it was only after months of training on a variety of missions, including missiles and cannonfire, hunting for submarines, defending against nuclear, biological and chemical weapon attacks, visiting, boarding, search and seizure, personnel rescue and damage control, was the warship's crew of 280 sailors declared ready to go into battle.
A vessel training center attached to the PLA Northern Theater Command Navy set up the Lhasa's final test in the Yellow Sea last week, according to the Global Times.
"We will take advantage of scientific and technological methods to explore new ways of training, and set new examples in training with science and tech," said Captain Li Guoqiang, chief of staff at the vessel training center, according to the South China Morning Post.
"We will take advantage of scientific and technological methods to explore new ways of training and set new examples in training with science and tech," Li added.
Now being fully operational, the Qingdao-based Lhasa will be expected to take on similar duties to its elder sibling, the first-in-class Nanchang, commissioned in January 2020. Those will include escorting the PLAN's aircraft carriers and adding extra muscle to task forces sent to fly the flag.
The Type 055s (NATO reporting name Renhai-class) are massive warships, among the largest of their type. Weighing in at roughly 13,000 tons fully loaded, the 590-foot-long Type 055s carry 112 vertical missile launchers, which can be loaded with anything from supersonic, long-range anti-ship missiles to anti-submarine or anti-air missiles. The cruisers also have a single 130-millimeter deck gun mounted on the bow, a close-in weapons system (CIWS) for missile interception, and a rear flight deck for a Z-9 or Z-18 naval helicopter.
In the US Navy, China's major maritime rival, no equivalent warship exists. The Zumwalt-class destroyers, while slightly larger than the Type 055s, are geared toward land bombardment, but have been plagued with problems related to confusion about how to use them. The Type 055s have suffered no such conflict of identity: they are modern Aegis cruisers intended to outperform anything they might go up against.
Washington's older Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruisers are closer to the Type 055s, since both sport high-powered phased radar arrays and carry a huge number of missiles for a variety of missions. The "Ticos" have an anti-ballistic missile capability the Type 055s are believed to lack. However, they are about one-quarter smaller than the Type 055s and decades older, with Washington preparing to soon begin retiring the oldest ships. The Ticos' duties will be assumed by the US Navy's bread-and-butter warship, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which aren't much younger.
Beijing planned to build eight Type 055s, all of which are now in the water and in various stages of fitting out. However, more could potentially be on the way.
In a Wednesday article for Naval News, naval historian and analyst H.I. Sutton wrote that "new intelligence suggests that at least two more are under construction in Dalian, China." He provided no further evidence for this claim. However, some recent photos of the drydock in Dalian, a city on the northern shore of the Yellow Sea where most of the Type 055s were built, suggests that up to two more Type 055 keels might have already been laid down.
In both photos, observers note that too little of the hull exists at this stage to be positively identified as a Type 055 cruiser, as opposed to the far more common Type 052D destroyer.
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