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The Stairway To Heaven
by James Dunnigan
March 9, 2013

On February 1st China commissioned a third Type 052C destroyer. This one was portrayed as different from the first two. The Chinese press release described this ship, the Changchun (hull number 150), as a new type of destroyer. It is, for China. The 5,700 ton Type 53C ships are very similar to American Aegis equipped destroyers like the Burke Class. The Changchun is about 30 percent smaller than the Burkes (which entered service two decades ago). There appear to be eight 052Cs under construction or in service and the Changchun seems to have an improved (over what was in the first two Type 53Cs) Aegis type radar and combat system.

It was only last year that photos (official and otherwise) from a Chinese shipyard revealed at least two large destroyers, apparently of the Type 052 class, being built. One had been recently launched and it was noted that this ship was very similar to the American Aegis equipped destroyers (especially the Burke Class). Now several more Type 052C type ships have appeared in shipyards.

Over the last decade two Type 052B and two Type 052C destroyers have entered service. Now at least two of what appear to be Type 052D class ships are under construction. These appear to be armed with 64 American style (hot launch) VLS (Vertical Launch System) tubes for anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles. There is a single 130mm gun, six torpedo tubes (for submarines), and two 30mm autocannon for anti-missile defense. There is also one helicopter.

The older (2004) Type 052B Guangzhou Class Destroyers are general purpose ships (with anti-ship/submarine/aircraft capabilities). Armament consists of 48 HQ-16 anti-aircraft missiles (range 30 kilometers) and 16 C-802 anti-ship missiles (range 120 kilometers). There is a single 100mm gun and two 30mm autocannon for anti-missile defense. There is also one helicopter.

Type 052C Lanzhou Class Destroyer first appeared in 2005. These ships use cold launch VLS (Vertical Launch System) tubes. There are 48 HQ-9 anti-aircraft missiles. There are also eight C-602 anti-ship missiles, in two four-cell launchers. There is a single 100mm gun and two 30mm autocannon for anti-missile defense. There is also one helicopter. These ships are mainly for air defense and use a phased array radar similar to the American Aegis system.

With these three versions of the Type 052 destroyer China has, in about a decade, advanced their destroyer designs considerably and now have ships similar in capabilities to the first 8,200 ton American Arleigh Burke class destroyers that entered service in 1991. Since then, 62 Burkes have been built, with modifications to the basic design. The most recent version, that began appearing in 2000, displaces 9,100 tons. The Chinese are going through the same evolution but are doing it a lot faster.

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