The fourth 052D guided-missile destroyer will soon be put into use, according to Cao Weidong, a Chinese military expert, in an interview with China Center Television.
There was already speculation that the new destroyer was ready for delivery, since a number of photos circulated online showed a ship closely resembling the previous 052D guided-missile destroyers berthed at a harbor with hull number 175 painted on its body. Cao confirmed that this guess was reasonable because ships generally get put into trial maritime operation as soon as they receive hull numbers. The ship will be delivered to the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) pending a successful trial operation, Cao added.
It is reported that the layout of the 052D destroyer is similar to that of the earlier 052C, but the superstructure of the 052D slopes inward at a greater angle, providing reduced radar cross-section. Three existing 052D destroyers have already been deployed as part of the South Sea Fleet. “Kunming,” the first 052D destroyer, was put into use on March 21, 2014. “Changsha,” the second, was put into use on Aug. 12, 2015. “Hefei,” the third, was put into use on Dec. 12, 2015. The respective hull numbers of the three ships are 172, 173 and 174.
Some analysts have said that the overall performance of 052D destroyers is superior to that of Japan’s Atago-class destroyers, South Korea’s Sejong the Great-class destroyers and the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
According to Cao, compared with Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, China’s type 052D destroyers are inferior in terms of quantity, displacement and ship-based guided missiles. On the topic of the future development of China’s guided-missile destroyers, Cao said that China needs to build larger models, including a 10,000-ton guided-missile destroyer.
Furthermore, the country needs an increase in the quantity of guided-missile destroyers, as China will build more aircraft carriers in the future. Since China does not currently have cruisers, larger guided-missile destroyers are needed to play the role of cruisers, Cao said.