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China’s Fleet of ‘Carrier Killer’ Destroyers Is Growing

Courtesy Jake Greenberg/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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China recently produced another “carrier killer” destroyer, the latest in an ever-expanding fleet of Chinese ships capable of threatening American naval power in the highly-contested Asia Pacific.

The eleventh People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer, an elite class of guided-missile destroyers, took to the waters just last week. As is, China already has more of these ships than Japan has Aegis destroyers.

The newest addition to China’s collection of Type 052D destroyers was built by Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company (DSIC). This is the second ship of this type that DSIC has completed. The first is currently in the process of being outfitted for combat, and a third is already being constructed.

The primary shipyard for the Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer is the Jiangnan Shipyard, which has already produced nine destroyers of this type. Its ninth Type 052D destroyer set sail last month on July 28.

According to a recent article in The Diplomat, China had initially signaled that it would only construct 12 Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyers and then switch to the production of Type 055D multipurpose cruisers, but China has since placed an order for four more Type 052D destroyers.

The Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer, nicknamed “China’s Aegis,” fits perfectly into China’s anti-access, area-denial (AA/AD) strategy, a largely projectile-based strategy which China has been using to keep other regional actors, specifically the United States, away from Chinese territory, both actual and imagined.

The Type 052D destroyer is often referred to as a “carrier killer” because it is designed to defend against aircraft carriers, submarines, and anti-ship missiles. These ships are expected to be deployed alongside China’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and any future carrier units.

Each Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer is equipped with a powerful Type 346A radar system, which gives the Type 052D intelligence gathering capabilities for AA/AD activities, and a dangerous supply of YJ-18 long-range, supersonic anti-ship missiles, which were specifically designed to counter the Aegis system.

According to Deagel.com, the Type 052 Luyang III-class destroyer’s anti-ship missiles travel at Mach 0.8 for 180 kilometers, at which point the warhead separates and a solid rocket engine causes the missile to accelerate to Mach 2.5-3 for 40 kilometers. The missile can maneuver at high speeds to avoid interception by air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles.

This new class of destroyers could easily represent an extension of the Chinese AA/AD strategy in that it has the potential to facilitate the construction of a “blue water” navy with the ability to carry out “far seas defense,” which could be interpreted as the “defense” of territories claimed by and possibly belonging to other countries in the region. The PLA South Sea Fleet commissioned the Yangsha, the fleet’s fourth Type 052D back in July, and another Type 052D participated in the massive live-ammunition drill the PLAN conducted in the East China Sea last week.

As these vessels grow in number, the Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer could pose a serious challenge for the United States, Asia’s primary security guarantor.

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