Over the last few months, a number of pictures from Jiangnan Changxing shipyard have surfaced, seemingly depicting a number of large hull modules which are consistent with what would be expected for a large surface combatant. Close inspection and rough eyeballing demonstrates these modules are different in configuration and also significantly larger than what would be expected for an 052D class destroyer. The appearance of these modules are consistent with previous rumours and projections of the 055 class’ expected “appearance”. Furthermore, Chinese language military forums appear to be highly confident these modules are for the first 055 class destroyer, and the combination of the aforementioned factors strongly suggest these modules may be for the 055 class everyone has been waiting for.
This entry will take a close look at how the 055 class mock up at Wuhan may correspond to details that we are able to see on the suspected hull modules for the actual 055 class, but also examine the ways in which the mock up may differ.
The 055 class mock up at Wuhan has been previously described in the 055 class overview, however it is useful to systemically list some of the more nuanced details on the mock up which may not directly correspond to the real ship.
The “platform deck” of the Wuhan mock up may not reflect the 055 class’ freeboard deck level:
The structures at the Wuhan mock up sit atop a “platform deck,” and it may appear that this platform deck is indicative of the 055 class’ actual hull deck (or “freeboard level”), however upon close inspection it becomes obvious that the platform deck is actually significantly higher than what would be expected from the 055’s freeboard deck level or exposed deck level.
In all recent Chinese Navy major surface combatants, the freeboard deck level was at the same level as the helipad flight deck at the aft of the ship, and gradually “flares upwards” as it transitioned to the bow, whereupon the freeboard deck level eventually reaches the level of the main gun. On the 055 class this will likely be the case as well.
This theory is strongly supported and virtually confirmed by the addition of a small, subsized helipad flight deck at the aft of the Wuhan mock up, which sits a significant height below the rest of the mock up. The height of the partial flight deck also means the mock up’s hangar structure is more consistent with the size expected for a major surface combatant, especially considering the 055 will likely be intended to be capable of accommodating relatively tall helicopters like the Z-18 family or Ka-27 family.
The relative height and level of this helipad flight deck is therefore indicative of the true freeboard deck level that can be expected of the real eventual 055 class. Based on these indications, it is likely that the shape of the 055 class’ freeboard deck level will resemble something like this:
The “platform deck” of the Wuhan mock up may not reflect the 055 class’ upper deck level:
The platform deck of the Wuhan mock up presents another potential red herring for the 055 class, as the level of the deck has also led some to speculate that it is indicative of the 055 class’ uppermost deck level. The level of the platform deck would suggest the real ship may only have one level of “continuous” deck above the hull’s freeboard deck, which would be consistent with the previous classes of destroyer such as the 052C and 052D.
However, recent pictures of the suspected 055 class modules at Jiangnan Changxing explicitly depicts the “continuous” deck above the hull’s freeboard deck may be two deck levels instead of merely one level:
The question which arises, is whether the 055 mock up’s “platform deck” is actually indicative of the actual ship’s “upper deck level,” or whether the mock up’s platform deck bears no relationship to the actual ship’s upper deck level. It is in this author’s opinion that the Wuhan mock up’s platform deck is not indicative of the upper deck level, and the reasons for this will be elaborated upon in the next section.
It is likely not all structures on the Wuhan mock up will make it onto the real 055 class ship:
When one looks at the current Wuhan mock up, a rather obvious pattern is visible; certain parts of the mock up are painted naval grey, while others are painted stark white. Indeed, the “foundation” structures of the mock up are painted white, while the upper structures are painted grey. These white structures include a “step” like structure immediately aft of the smoke stack, which has caused many observers to wonder if the “step” would impede on the space for the aft VLS module especially if the mock up’s platform deck is meant to reflect the height of its upper deck level.
An additional white structure on the mock up is the small antennae on the aft mast structure atop the helicopter hangar, which differs to the persistent rumours that the 055 will feature a radar on the aft mast. The small white structure with the antennae is also very visibly undersized compared to the large base of the mast itself.
Given all this, it is likely that all the white painted structures on the mock up will not appear on the real ship, due to the illogical nature of the white structures which either impedes with the functioning of the . Therefore, the only “useful” part of the mock up is the gray painted parts of the mock up, as well as the relative positions and distances of those gray painted parts of the mock up, as well as the level of the flight deck which is indicative of the ship’s freeboard deck level. Everything else on the mockup should be ignored, as depicted below.
Furthermore, it is in this author’s opinion that the demarcation between the grey and white paint on the mock up is indicative of where the actual upper deck level on the actual 055 class will be, rather than the height of the mock up’s platform deck. Inspection of the height between the mock up’s helipad flight deck and the demarcation of the grey paint and white paint suggests that distance is very close to two deck levels, which is consistent with the two deck levels of the continuous deck levels that will be present on the real ship.
In other words, the mock up deck most likely does not correspond to the freeboard deck of the 055 class, nor the upper deck level, and is only useful for illustrating the height at which the 055’s main gun will sit relative to the other structures.
One highly circulated picture which compares an 052D to a speculative 055 is shown below, with a revised version produced by this author shown below it. My revised version includes a few small changes such as lengthening the 055’s flight deck slightly, increasing the length of the 055’s bow, as well as replacing the aft mast’s small antennae with a large phased array radar (depicted as a rudimentary black rectangle). However, the most significant change is the complete obliteration of the “step” structure aft of the smoke stack and the increase in height of the ship’s continuous upper deck levels from merely one deck level to two deck levels.
In the coming months we will likely have a greater grasp of the true configuration of the 055 and how accurately the real ship reflects the Wuhan mock up.
However, in this author’s opinion, the differences described in this entry will likely be identifiable once clear pictures of the 055 class begin to emerge. If I were a betting man I might place money on my predictions, however instead, I merely reserve the right to gloat if my predictions are shown to be right.