Recent photos from a shipyard in China sum up the news about Beijing’s navy: it’s growing, and fast. The sight of five brand-new guided missile destroyers shows China’s determination to field a fully modern navy to rival—or perhaps someday best—the U.S. Navy.
The photos, posted online by China Defense Blog, were taken at the Dalian Shipyard in northern China. (To get there, take a flight to Dalian, get on Dongbei Road, and make a right at the Dalian IKEA onto Shuguang Road. It’ll take you right to the shipyard.) Dalian is one of China’s most important shipyards and was responsible for the renovation of China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, from a rusting, incomplete hull to deployable ship, and China’s first indigenous carrier, Type 002, visible half a mile east here.
The photos show five destroyers: three Type 052D Luyang III and two Type 055 Renhai guided missile destroyers fitting out for service in the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). The Type 052D and Type 055 destroyers are China’s most modern designs. The unnamed ships have been hanging out at Dalian for the better part of a year. In the Google Maps satellite photos, the two ships side by side in the shipyard—the two Type 055s—appear still under construction with various parts of the superstructure missing. In the China Defense Blog photos, both ships appear complete, at least from the outside. Also in the satellite photos, the Type 052D in drydock has floated out and a second Type 052D has changed position.
The Type 052D Luyang IIIs first began construction in 2011. The 052Ds are 505 feet long, displace 7,000 tons, and have a top speed of 29 knots. The destroyers were designed as “air warfare” ships, designed to protect high-value PLAN assets—like the carriers Liaoning, Type 002, or Type 071 amphibious transports—from air and missile attack. Each has four Type 346A phased array radars, a Knife Rest air search radar, two target illumination radars, and sixty vertical launch missile silos for the surface to air missiles, anti-ship missiles, land attack cruise missiles, and anti-submarine weapons.