The 052D class DDG is the successor to the 052C class anti air warfare DDG. 052D inherits the same overall hull and some weapons and sensors from its predecessor, and fields an identical propulsion arrangement. However the 052D class but also boasts many improved capabilities such as a new type of main gun, an improved active phased array radar (APAR), as well as a much improved vertical launch system (VLS) with greater cell count. It is likely that 052D also boasts substantial internal upgrades such as improved combat management systems, a more modern combat information centre (CIC) and generally more capable mission related software and hardware.
Ancestry of the 052D class can be traced back to the original two ship 052 class DDGs commissioned in 1994, through to the improved 052B class DDG, and the Chinese Navy’s first aegis type 052C class AAW DDG. Each of these classes pioneered new capabilities for the Chinese Navy. The 052 class was the first Chinese Navy surface combatant equipped with gas turbines and various imported western combat management systems and sensors which would help guide development of indigenous combat systems and integration aboard future warships. The 052B class DDG was the first domestically produced surface combatant fielding an area air defence capability via the imported Russian naval Shtil SAM, however only two were produced. The 052C class DDG in turn was the Chinese Navy’s first surface combatant equipped with an advanced multifunction APAR providing fixed 360 degree coverage as well as the first Chinese warship equipped with a VLS and a naval SAM capable of true long range coverage through the HHQ-9. 052C enjoyed a longer production run than its successors, reaching six ships after a multi-year delay in production after the first pair were produced.
052D fields a more compact, more multi-role and generally more capable VLS compared to 052C, and is equipped with an improved variant of the Type 346 APAR dubbed the Type 346A, and also features new weapons systems such as a new 130mm gun designated PJ-38 and the HQ-10 missile CIWS. 052D is also the most stealthy 052 derivative (despite far from approaching the very low observable nature of the Zumwalt class DDG), and likely fields the newest generation of combat management systems, datalinking, and command capabilities.
However, despite the impressive qualitative advancements of the 052D class, it is the quantitative factor where 052D is most unique. 052D is the first class of destroyer that the Chinese Navy has produced in large numbers since it began its modernization drive in the mid 1990s. Previous Chinese destroyer classes were only produced in pairs, likely due to the Chinese Navy’s need to rapidly test and absorb new technologies and capabilities, but also probably due to the Navy’s relative dissatisfaction for their capabilities compared to international gold standard destroyers such as the US Navy’s Burke class DDG or the Royal Navy’s Type 45 DDG.
052D production began after 052C production without pause, where the first 052D DDG was launched in late August 2012, barely two months after the sixth and last 052C DDG was launched in mid July 2012. Since then, 052D production has continued, and indeed, production has been expanded to two shipyards rather than one.
Production of the first eight 052Ds occurred at Jiangnan shipyard at Changxing island near Shanghai, the same shipyard where the entire 052C class were produced. In early 2015, photo evidence finally confirmed long standing rumours that 052Ds were under construction by Dalian shipyard at the northern coastal city of Dalian, and Dalian’s first 052D was launched in November 2015, and construction of the second and third 052Ds from Dalian are well underway, as of early June 2016. Jiangnan is currently assembling a ninth 052D as well, which will likely be launched in mid to late 2016. Together, at least 12 052Ds have been confirmed as either in service, on sea trials, fitting out, or under construction.
The first 052D was commissioned in late March 2014, and a second 052D was commissioned in early August 2015, and the third commissioned in early December 2015. As of early June 2016, three 052Ds are commissioned, three 052Ds are in various stages of sea trials, and another four 052Ds are currently being fitted out, with three more under construction.
As of present, the consensus exists that that twelve 052Ds were ordered by the Chinese Navy, with nine ships to be constructed by Jiangnan shipyard and three by Dalian. Considering the rate of work at both shipyards, it is conceivable that all twelve 052Ds may enter service before 2020.
However, recent rumours have also posited that the Chinese Navy may order a further twelve 052Ds for a total production run of twenty four ships. If such rumours are true, then projection of when twenty four 052Ds may enter service is complicated by the expected 055 class large DDG within the next few years, which is expected to be produced at both Jiangnan shipyard and Dalian shipyard in not-insubstantial numbers as well. However, assuming 052D production at both shipyards is maintained without pause to fulfill a further twelve 052Ds, it is plausible that a full twenty four 052Ds could be commissioned by the early 2020s, even alongside initial construction of the 055 class.
But even assuming “only” twelve 052D class DDGs are produced, this number of warships combined with the six 052C class DDGs will provide the Chinese Navy with a substantial number of modern aegis type surface combatants by 2020.
Mass production of the 052D class DDG will likely do for the Chinese Navy’s destroyer fleet what the 054A class FFG has done for the Chinese Navy’s frigate fleet – specifically, the 052D class DDG will finally provide the Chinese Navy a modern, competitive destroyer class with qualitative capabilities in strategically relevant and flexible quantities.
Dimensions and Layout
Dimensions of the 052D class are generally similar to its 052C class predecessor, and picture evidence suggests no meaningful difference in either length (155 meters) or beam (17 meters). 052D may feature a slightly increased displacement compared to 052C, and some open sources have speculated a maximum displacement of 7,500 tons. Official disclosures from Chinese state media and the Chinese military do not seem to be available, however they also may deliberately under-represent the full displacement of their warships. Therefore, extrapolating from 052C’s estimated actual full displacement, and comparing to other similarly sized warships, 052D may have a full displacement in excess of 7,000 tons, making it a medium to heavy weight surface combatant.
052D appears to feature the same propulsion as the 052C class, in a Combined Diesel or Gas (CODOG) arrangement, featuring domestically produced QC280 gas turbines, a license produced version of the Ukrainian DN80. Output of the QC280s has been listed at 28 megawatts, however some outlets have suggested it may be lower at only 23 megawatts – this discrepancy may reflect initial shortfalls in performance by early prototypes and trials. Nevertheless, it is expected that 052D would be capable of reaching speeds in excess of 30 knots, similar to the 052C class DDG.
052D is equipped with a hangar and a helipad both of similar size to the 052C, however the hangar is set in a more aesthetically pleasing centreline within the aft superstructure as opposed to offset port like in 052C.
052D’s forward superstructure and deckhouse follows the same 052C and Burke style arrangement where four fixed radar arrays dominate the superstructure, however compared to 052C, each array is wider, necessitating an associated modification in overall proportions and scaling. As a a result of these small modifications, 052D’s superstructure appears to be more pleasing to the eye than 052C.
The first most visible difference in armament between 052D and 052C, is the 052D’s substantially larger main gun. 052D’s main gun is the PJ-38 130mm gun, and is a highly modernized, single barrel version of the Russian AK-130 equipped aboard the Navy’s Sovremenny class DDGs first bought from Russia in the early 2000s. The PJ-38 is thought to be a substantially more reliable and capable gun than the 052C’s 100mm French main gun design, not only fielding a larger calibre (and thus with associated larger shell size and greater range) but is also said to be able to fire a variety of extended range munitions, smart munitions, and air defence munitions, thus increasing the flexibility of 052D’s anti surface and anti air capabilities overall.
052D fields the same PJ-12 seven barrel 30mm CIWS as the 052C on its bow CIWS platform, however the aft PJ-12 aboard 052C has been replaced by a 24 cell HQ-10 SAM based CIWS on the helicopter hangar. This CIWS arrangement is somewhat reminiscent of the Republic of Korea Navy’s Sejong class DDG which fields a RIM-116 RAM launcher on the bow platform and a Goalkeeper CIWS aft. Regardless, 052D’s differing CIWS arrangement is likely reflective of careful analyses by the Chinese Navy, and the HQ-10 CIWS may provide certain capabilities which a PJ-12 lacks.
052D is also equipped with other standard weapons seen aboard Chinese Navy surface combatants, such as two triple 324mm torpedo launchers in aft locations behind enclosed doors, and also four eighteen tube flare, chaff and rocket launchers atop the helicopter hangar.
But 052D’s most substantial improvement in weapons systems over the 052C class is its new VLS, and 052D is equipped with 64 such VLS cells, 32 cells bow and 32 cells aft. The 052D’s VLS differs from the 052C’s VLS as it is arranged in rectangular modules with eight canisters each similar to the 054A’s VLS or the US Navy’s Mk-41 VLS or the European SYLVER. However, 052D’s VLS is in turn different to those other rectangular VLS due to the lack of a central exhaust vent. This interesting design was clarified through a surprisingly detailed “leak” of a national military standard (Guojia Junyong Biaozhun) document (5860-2006 standard) describing a new VLS system capable of both cold launch and hot launch of missiles. Exhaust from hot launched missiles are not vented through a common vent (like the other aforementioned hot launch VLS types), but rather through individual canisters, in a “concentric canister launch” (CCL) method where exhaust is vented between through a space between an “inner” and “outer” canister wall of each VLS cell. This is not dissimilar to the Royal Navy’s VLS for its previous generation Sea Wolf SAM, however 052D’s CCL likely features square “inner” and “outer” canisters rather than circular for the Sea Wolf.
GJB 5860-2006 also describes the new VLS as capable of firing multiple types of weapons, including quad packed weapons, and comes in three lengths: 9 meters, 7 meters and 3.3 meters, similar to the strike length, tactical length and self defence length variants of Mk-41. Therefore, the new Chinese Navy VLS (CN VLS, for the purposes of discussion) is likely to be the new standardized, universal, and future-proof VLS armament aboard all future Chinese navy surface combatants for the early to mid 21st century, and possibly beyond, similar to the US Navy’s Mk-41 VLS.
Any surface combatant equipped with the 9 meter length CN VLS (as would be expected aboard a medium to large sized warship like 052D) would thus theoretically capable of carrying and launching a significant variety of future Chinese Naval missiles so long as they are adapted for the CN VLS. In the foreseeable future, 052D’s CN VLS will likely be capable of firing the long range HHQ-9 SAM and its newer derivatives, the medium range HHQ-16 SAM and its newer derivatives, and new quad packed medium range SAMs that may be under development. Other weapons likely to be integrated aboard 052D includes the elusive new generation YJ-18 AShM, a new vertically launched ASROC type weapons such as the Yu-8/CY-5, or as well as a land attack cruise missile such as a navalized KD-10/DF-10 variant, which would provide the Chinese Navy a land attack capability similar to Tomahawk equipped US destroyers and cruisers.
With 64 VLS canisters, each capable of firing multiple types of weapons, 052D not only enjoys an increase in equivalent firepower compared to an 052C (which is equipped with only 48 single role VLS for HHQ-9 and 8 slant launchers for YJ-62 AShM) by fielding an additional 8 VLS canisters, but also fields substantially more flexibility in conducting various missions including anti surface missions, anti submarine missions, land attack missions, as well as medium range air defence, in addition to standard long range air defence. In future, 052D may also be expected to carry out ballistic missile defence missions through upgrades of its Type 346A radar and integration of future ballistic missile defence weapons.
[A more exhaustive analysis of the consequences and potential payloads of the new CN VLS will be done in a separate post, due to the great amount of material it will cover.]
The 052D’s APAR is an evolution of the Type 346 of 052C, and is designated Type 346A. 052D’s flat array cover suggests a pure liquid cooling arrangement for the radar, compared to a combined liquid and gas cooling for the Type 346.
Type 346A is also noticeably larger than Type 346 and is square shaped rather than rectangular. Picture evidence indicates Type 346A is the same height as Type 346, but is one third wider than Type 346, therefore simple arithmetic indicates an increase in array surface area size by 33.3%. The consequences of this substantial increase in array size may have interesting repercussions for the capability of the radar, especially in terms of peak power.
Type 346A almost certainly operates in the same S band as Type 346, however it is unknown at this stage if Type 346A may have leveraged recent international advancements in APAR design, such as replacing Gallium Arsenide derived transmit/receive modules with more efficient and higher power Gallium Nitride modules.
The rest of 052D’s sensor suite outwardly appears similar if not identical to that of 052C, with a Type 364 surface search radar atop its main mast, a Type 517 derived 2D UHF band radar atop the aft mast, among other sensors such as a fire control radar for the main gun, ECM arrays, and ELINT arrays.
052D is also equipped with a bow mounted sonar and appears to feature the relevant ports on the aft for both a towed array sonar and a towed torpedo decoy. It also features a the same model of variable depth sonar as the 056A class corvette and latter 054A class frigates, in a “swing up” door mechanism.
It is also likely that 052D is equipped with improved datalinks, communications systems and combat management systems compared to 052C, however these are substantially more difficult if not impossible to verify. Recent pictures also show 052D features a much larger combat information centre compared to the 052C class, and uses the same new type of control console as seen on the 056 class corvette.
Role in Chinese Navy:
The 052D class DDG improves upon the capabilities of the AAW oriented 052C class DDG, and also introduces true multi-role flexibility by virtue of its new CN VLS which allows mounting of a significant variety of current and future weapons.
Therefore, in the short term when only small numbers of 052Ds are in service, 052Ds will likely act primarily in the AAW role similar to the 052Cs and act as the primary air defence ship among a task force or a carrier strike group, as well as possibly acting as a command ship for flag officers. 052D will likely mount a variety of AShMs, LACMs, and VL ASROC type weapons in addition to LR SAMs and MR SAMs, but the two latter weapon types will likely make up the bulk of its VLS capacity in the short term, due to the need for a robust air defence capability and a somewhat limited number of true aegis type DDGs to fulfil the mission.
However, as more 052Ds gradually enter service, such as by 2020 when twelve 052Ds are likely to be operational, it is likely that 052Ds will be mounted with a greater variety of weapons during standard operations, as well as being replaced in the “capital ship” position by new 055 class large DDGs which are expected to enter service around that time and will likely feature substantially enhanced command and AAW capabilities as well as more VLS (possibly up to twice as many compared to a 052D). Thus, the 052D class DDG will provide the Chinese Navy medium-heavy surface combatant with blue water range and endurance, available in large numbers, capable of conducting offensive and defensive operations in the anti surface, anti air, anti submarine and land attack domains as part of a surface action group, a multirole task force, or a carrier strike group. If twenty four 052Ds are ultimately ordered, these capabilities will become even more prevalent, and would convincingly result in the Chinese Navy having second largest fleet of aegis type vessels in the world after the US Navy.
052D has also been called the “Chinese Aegis,” however to truly consider this term will require a content heavy post, therefore a separate post will discuss the topic in greater depth.
The 052D class is an evolutionary advancement of the 052C class, however these advancements are not minor, as they have truly propelled the original humble 052 hull to a world class multi-role aegis type warship capable of conducting a variety of missions with a variety of potential payloads.
But as important as the qualitative improvements of 052D class are, the quantitative production of the 052D is arguably just as important. A production run of twelve 052Ds expected to enter service by 2020 will, along with six preceding 052Cs, provide a robust and moderately large fleet of medium-heavy sized surface combatants capable of comprehensive AAW for a task force or a CSG. Twelve 052Ds are also sufficient to provide the core of one to two surface action groups (envisioning each SAG as two 052Ds DDGs with two 054A FFGs, supported by a 903/A class replenishment ship) sufficient to conduct patrol operations in blue water independent for multiple months and to conduct potential US Navy style land attack missions via VLS launched LACMs. Two forward deployed SAGs each assigned with two 052Ds would leave enough 052Ds and 052Cs available to provide the meat of any surface combatant group in the western pacific should the demand for naval confrontation arise (assuming half of the remaining 8 052Ds and 6 052Cs are operational and not under refit). This of course does not consider the 20 remaining 054As in the western pacific available for the Chinese Navy of which two thirds may be operational if the demand called for it (assuming no other blue water deployments), nor does it consider the older non-aegis type DDGs the Chinese Navy will still have in operation such as the four Sovremenny class, two 051C class, two 052B class, and two 052 class.
In short, the Chinese Navy appears sufficiently satisfied with the 052D’s qualitative capability to finally embark on true serial production of a destroyer class, and this serial production will in turn provide the Chinese Navy with a large number of medium-heavy warships unprecedented in its history. Combined with rumours of an increased production run of a further twelve 052Ds, along with the upcoming 055 class large DDG, the early 2020s may see the Chinese Navy finally emerge as the world’s second most powerful navy in terms of modern surface combatant tonnage, or at the very least rise to become Asia’s most powerful navy in terms of modern surface combatant tonnage.
The strategic implications of a mass produced 052D class DDG thus cannot be ignored or underestimated.