China Destroyer Consolidates Innovations, Other Ship Advances
The People’s Liberation Army Navy pours lessons from earlier designs into a new fleet asset.
A new destroyer being deployed by China offers improvements in technology that rival those of the newest destroyers being built for the U.S. Navy. Its advances include phased array radars and improved missiles and launch systems. With room to grow, this ship seems destined to play a significant role in naval operations.
Known as the 052D, the destroyer represents the culmination of technology development among People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) destroyers. It likely will be prominent in future PLAN carrier group operations.
Since 1991, China has built only one or two hulls of each of five new classes of guided missile destroyers (DDGs). Only the 054A frigate and Type 022 trimaran missile boats had gone into large-series production. The Type 052C destroyer is the only class thus far that has entered into series production, with six hulls being built.
The first 052D hull construction started in 2011 at China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) Changxing Shipyard using modular construction techniques based on Western technology for rapid mass production. The first Kunming hull, 172, was launched August 28, 2012, and the second Changsha hull, 173, was launched only three months later. The third hull was launched on July 1, 2013, with at least two more on the way. It is estimated that eight to 10 new 052Ds will be built, unlike prior 052 builds. So far the five 052D hulls have been constructed at Changxing Shipyard, but some later versions could be built at other shipyards with modular construction technology. The 052D is the destroyer design to be series-produced for future carrier battle groups.
Among its topside systems, new phased array radar antennas on the 052D are larger than those on the 052C, possibly indicating a lower frequency system. The U.S. Navy SPY-1 Aegis radar installed on USS Norton Sound (AVM-1) for ship trials in 1974 used passive electronically scanned array (PESA) technology. The Soviet Sky Watch phased array radar, also a PESA system, first appeared in 1988 on the Soviet carrier Gorshkov but had troubles on sea trials. Both the Gorshkov and the following carrier Tblisi used mechanical scanning Top Sail/Top Pair radars as their backup air search. Since 2000, new active electronically scanned array (AESA) technology has been the newer, more capable radar design fitted on the 052C Type 346 APAR. The 052D has an improved Type 346A AESA radar. The new U.S. Navy DDG 1000 Zumwalt probably will have the new technology X-band track and S-band search dual band radar (DBR) or air missile defense radar (AMDR) currently being developed by three U.S. contractors.
On top of the bridge of the first three 052D hulls is the usual Band Stand over-the-horizon targeting radar radome, along with a Type 344 fire control director and electronic countermeasure (ECM)/jammers on the enclosed mast. Mounting plates outboard the stack may be for 30-millimeter guns, but the 052C had boat davits in that location.
Further aft, the VHF Type 517HA relic 1950 vintage yagi antenna is retained. The 2D very high frequency radar is moved forward on the 052D to make deck space for an aft vertical launcher. Satellite communication radomes are adjacent to it. Light Bulb datalink radomes also probably will be added.
On the forecastle is a new main battery H/PJ38 single-barrel 130-millimeter/70-caliber water-cooled gun developed by the Institute of Mechanical & Electrical Engineering at Zhengzhou. The PJ38 has a reported rate of fire of 40 rounds per minute and a maximum range of 29 kilometers. Its new electrical servo aiming control, based on the Russian AK-130-millimeter gun, and anti-recoil design were enabled by the use of an aluminum and fiberglass stealth shield on the gun mount. This gun also can fire long-range, precision-guided shells not used on prior warships.
On the O-1 level directly behind the 130-millimeter gun is a single H/PJ-12 close-in weapon system (CIWS) with its own radar, electro-optic director and laser rangefinder. This seven barrel, 30-millimeter CIWS has been on 054A frigates and prior 051/052 DDGs. The PJ-12 Gatling gun has a rate of fire of 4,600-5,800 rounds per minute and a 2.5 to 3.5 kilometer engagement range.
The 052D’s Type 726-4 18-barrel decoy rocket launcher has been installed on earlier 051C, 052B/C and LSD 71 ships. Type 726-4 is a digital system with expendable passive flare and chaff, and it may include active payloads carried on small rockets.
The optical fire control (OFC)-3 on the 052D is probably advanced over the basic model on the 052C with electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) and a laser rangefinder. The 052D version added TV and a night vision camera. Associated with OFC-3 is the infrared surveillance IR-17 system, which was installed on earlier 051 and 052 DDGs. China claims the IR ranges are 8 kilometers against sea-skimming antiship missiles, 20 kilometers against cruise missiles and 30 kilometers against aircraft, which seem unrealistic.
Located aft above the helicopter hangar is an HHQ-10 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) FL-3000N missile station with 24 cells. This compares to eight cells on the Type 056 corvette and 18 cells on Liaoning carrier.
The 052C helicopter hangar for the Ka-27 that was on the port side has been relocated on centerline of the 052D. Although the hangar has more room, the 052D still should carry one Ka-27 as does the 052C because unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are stored and maintained in the hangar. The rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) launching winch systems on each side are under the hangar as in the 054A frigates.
Many of the below deck systems are less certain. The combined diesel and generator (CODAG) propulsion on the 052D is the QC-280 Chinese copy of Ukraine Zorya-Mashproekt UGT 15000, also designated DN/80 gas turbine propulsion. Xian Aero Engine (XAE) manufactured the QC-280 under license from Ukraine in 1990 when eight were imported as the QD-80 for two Luhu ships. The XAE-built prototype with 28 megawatts of power was installed on the 052B Wuhan hull 169 in 2009, which made a Somali TG9 deployment in 2011. CNET 5 with DDG 168 left Hainan for the Gulf of Aden from March to July 2010, but it was not believed to have been modernized with the QC-280. The 052D reportedly has two diesel engines each providing six megawatts of power. All 052B/C Luyang DDGs and the 052D have license-produced MTU 20V 956TB92 diesel engines by Shaanxi Diesel Work rated at 4.9 megawatts of power.
Closely related, but mentioned only in one cryptic Internet note referring to “shipboard power equipment to get the system upgrade,” is a key system to support the many new complex and power-hungry combat systems. It is nearly impossible for the 052D to have a total electric ship system as in the U.S. DDG 1000 because the 052D is the same dimensions as 052C—smaller than the DDG 1000. No open Chinese description exists of any 052D specific power upgrades.
The 052D new multipayload universal vertical launch system (VLS) is capable of launching four different warfare mission missiles of both hot- and cold-launch types. Traditionally, Chinese VLSs on the 052C were the cold-launch HHQ-9 that would pop up the missile for ignition outside the launcher. Later, hot-launch HHQ-16 systems appeared on the 054A frigates, which launched anti-air warfare (AAW) and possibly antisubmarine warfare (ASW) missiles. The U.S. MK 41 VLS hot launchers ignite the rocket in the cell, venting the flame out through vents until the rocket clears the cell with various anti-air, surface-to-surface and antisubmarine payloads.
The advanced antiship cruise missile (ASCM) YJ-18 has not been installed on any previous PLAN warship. The weapon test ship 892 had two new rectangular missile launchers that were believed to house navalized DH-10/CJ-10 land attack cruise missile (LACM) intended for the 052D. In September 2013, Chinese Internet and Western media sources stated that the missiles were in fact the Chinese variation of the Russian supersonic 3M54E Club antiship missile (ASM), designated YJ-18 or Eagle 18 by China. These missiles can fly for 180 kilometers at a turbofan cruise speed of Mach 0.8, and 40 kilometers at a Mach 3 rocket/ramjet sprint, resulting in total range of about 220 kilometers. Weight is estimated at 1,200 to 1,300 kilograms, and their booster and control surfaces are similar to the prior YJ-62.
The 140-kilogram warhead relies on supersonic impact for killing power. The missile’s length with its booster is 6.9 meters, and its diameter is 533 millimeters. This makes it compatible with VLS and submarine torpedo tubes. Its cruise altitude probably is selectable at 5 meters or 7 meters as on prior Chinese ASCMs.
Initially these YJ-18s have been installed only on the 052D VLS. They certainly will be placed soon on other non-VLS ships with topside launcher backfits because of their superior performance. Other VLS payloads include HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), possibly a DH-10 LACM, and a short-range Evolved Sea Sparrow-type point defense SAM. The universal VLS reportedly has a new rocket-propelled torpedo, Changying-5, with a range from 5 to 8 kilometers, but no weapon of this type has been seen since the CY-1 at military shows in the late 1980s. The missile modules have three sizes: the largest is 9,000 millimeters long; the medium size is 7,000 millimeters long; and the smallest is 3,300 millimeters long. Every module diameter is 850 millimeters except the concentric launcher insert. This provides the ability to hold large antisatellite or antiballistic missile interceptors if required. No YJ-62 or YJ-63 SSM launchers are on 052D, as they were on previous ships. Two triple barrel 324-millimeter ASW torpedo launchers are retained under the aft helicopter deck for short-range ASW defense with Yu-7 ASW torpedoes.
The 052D is expected to use a new Chinese datalink, the joint service integrated datalink system (JSIDLS), that was certified in June 2012 and is comparable to the U.S. Navy’s successful Link 16 for Aegis. The 052D would share a new automated maintenance support link from combat systems to the support auxiliaries, and even home base, on fault isolation and repair part ordering that was being used in Somali deployments on 054A frigates. A July 2009 PLA Daily article quoted Xu Jianmao, an instructor at the National Defense University, saying “ship equipment support soft power,” such as a software information management system, is quantified and is in use. This alleviates the popular conception that China relies on other nations for repairs. The common HN-900 intership datalink on all current warships requiring Naval Tactical Data System-like capability, probably will be replaced on 052D with a new naval common tactical data link (NCTDL), which is the next generation two-way encrypted datalink that can support new electro-optic and laser pod UAVs.
The 052C combat direction system (CDS) was designated H/ZBJ-1. With the PLA having new missiles, launchers and sensors, it would be reasonable to expect a next-generation CDS complex. One Web page with a 054A frigate illustration showed eight display consoles surrounded by an Ethernet local area network (LAN) connecting to 15 weapons/sensors and a video bus connected to eight sensors. This probably is very similar to the 052D CDS functionality. A Chinese Web page showed a new Chinese DDG, with hull number 601, having a description in Cyrillic designated as “Meridian” in English of two main weapon display consoles and five similar consoles more specific to particular warfare functions. Below that were 12 blocks with icons representing different radars, launchers and communications. Another Web page showed a Jiangsu Research Combat Control System (JRSCCS) combat direction system architecture on an Ethernet LAN and video bus with five work stations. This appeared to be for a smaller, less complex vessel.
The 052D does have a limited backup CDS in case of a casualty to the main CDS. The Jiangsu Automation Research Institute (JARI) developed the OFC-3/IR-17 integrated JRSCCS. This can be used to direct other weapon systems in an emergency, via its link to the main CDS, using the single Jiangsu Research Console connected to five subordinate weapon consoles. This could be the Ethernet LAN system.
Most descriptions of the 052D do not mention sonar. One source does describe the usual SJD 8/9, an alleged copy of the French Medium frequency DUBV-23. While most references credit China with obtaining the DUBV-23 production license from France as SJD-7, a representative of Sintra Alcatel denies it was sold to China. No mention exists of a variable depth sonar (VDS) or towed array, but photos of the 052D stern show a port for a towed array—most likely the H/S JG-206, which is found on the 054A and 052C—and a torpedo decoy opening on centerline.
The presence of the latest technologies in other areas would make the more capable Russian MG-335 Platina hull sonar and an H/SJG-206 towed array seem reasonable, especially with the long-range new ASW rocket torpedo VLS payload. One Chinese Huangqiu Web page illustration of 052D sensors depicts the bow sonar as a spherical array, as in a submarine bow sonar. Both the DE-1160 and MG-335 are cylindrical shaped transducers with the arrays mounted on vertical sides. The figure is inaccurate, but it is the only open source data available on the sonar.
Although the 052D is claimed to be the equal of U.S. Navy Aegis destroyers and cruisers, a couple of its new systems actually are comparable to the next-generation DDG 1000 or Flight III DDG 51. They are the hot/cold-launch universal VLS and the AESA radar, which is more versatile than the Aegis SPY-1 array. The associated Aegis software remains decades more advanced than the Chinese software, especially the new antiballistic missile and cooperative engagement capability missions capabilities.
James C. Bussert, employed at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia, is the co-author of “People’s Liberation Army Navy Combat Systems Technology, 1949-2010.” The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Defense Department or the U.S. Navy.