|Type 055 Class Destroyer.This drawing may be the most accurate of all depictions currently available|
Preliminary projected 055 class parameters:
-Dimensions: ~180 meters long, ~23 meters beam
-Displacement: ~13,500 tons full, ~12,000 tons standard, ~10,000 tons empty
-Production run: unknown, with estimates varying greatly between 8 ships, 12 ships, and 24 ships
-Propulsion: 4 x QC-280 gas turbines (28 MW output each), COGAG configuration for initial batch, possibly IEPS for later batches
-Armament: 112-128 CN VLS, 1 x PJ-38 130mm gun, 1 x PJ-11 11 barrel 30mm CIWS, 1 x 24 cell HQ-10 CIWS SAM, 2 x triple 324mm lightweight torpedo launchers, 4 x 18 barrel multirole decoy/flare/ASW rocket launchers [potential for fielding rail guns and laser weapons in future variants with IEPS]
-Primary radars: Type 346A S band APAR, X band APAR, long wave (possibly L band) APAR
-Additional sensors and arrays: ECM suite, ESM suite, EO/IR sensors, ASW suite (likely to include bow sonar, towed array sonar, variable depth sonar, as well as towed torpedo decoy)
-Crew size: unknown, will be dependent on degree of automation of ship
The mock up for the 055 class large destroyer lies in a facility at the southern boundaries of the city of Wuhan (coordinates, here: 30.420664, 114.262230). The 055 mock up sits atop a raised platform with a building underneath in a single large structure, and it shares the same facility with some other naval test rigs including a full sized flight deck and island mock up of the Liaoning carrier as well as an integrated mast suspected for the next generation frigate. Collectively, these mock ups are under the jurisdiction of the 701st Institute of the Chinese Shipbuilding Industry Corporation.
The mock up for the 055 class is part of a large Chinese Navy test facility, including a mock up of the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning and a separate integrated mast design, among others
Detail of the integrated mast design at the Wuhan test site. This integrated mast does not appear to be intended for the 055 class, and has been speculated to be for the next generation frigate
The role of the 055 mock up is likely to validate certain sensors and electronics aboard an integrated testbed, likely similar to other facilities around the world such as the US Navy’s “cruiser in a cornfield” or the Type 45 mock up.
The USN’s “USS Rancocas” also known as the “cruiser in a cornfield”. The 055 class mock up may fulfill a similar role
The Royal Navy had also developed a similar test site on land for their Type 45 destroyer programme
However, some additional features such as a fully accurate bridge and superstructure, and accurate depictions of the main gun and CIWS are also present, which are helpful for observers to gauge the potential weaponry of the 055 class and compare its size with other ships using a common metric, but seem unnecessary for a testbed whose function will mostly revolve around telemetry and signals assessment. Therefore some features may be purely cosmetic (despite being potentially accurate and representative of the final ship layout).
For observers, the usefulness of the 055 mock up is in providing a physical baseline to extrapolate potential dimensions, armament, sensors and other specifications of the final real ship.
Projection: China 055-class destroyer overview
In early 2013, rumours in the Chinese military watching community began to speak of a new large surface combatant under development for the Chinese Navy, with a tentative designation of 055. General descriptions flitted to and fro, describing a ship with over a hundred VLS with a displacement over 10,000 tons. However such rumours were initially treated with substantial caution if not outright disdain by some individuals in Chinese military watching circles. After all, the 052D class destroyer had only just arrived on the scene, and the lead ship had yet to enter service. A new cruiser sized ship seemed like fantasy.
However, in late 2013 more rumours from more reliable sources began to trickle in, with greater detail that looked plausible. Then in early 2014, pictures emerged of a mock up under construction, for what was clearly a large surface combatant, and Chinese state and military media began acknowledging the existence of a new surface combatant and even the 055 designation.
Construction of a distinctive mockup at the Chinese Navy test facility at Wuhan was discovered in early 2014
The “055 class” as a designation was once proposed by the Chinese Navy in the 1970s for an ocean going large surface combatant capable of air defence missions, however the technological foundations and industrial capabilities of the time, as well as the lack of economic funding meant a competitive warship of the intended capabilities simply could not be realistically developed. Later studies of the 055 envisioned use of some British subsystems in propulsion and weapons, when China’s relationship with western nations warmed, however transfer of the technology could not be realized, and the project was cancelled in the early 1980s.
The modern “055 class” large destroyer reuses the older “055 class” designation, and may also fulfil similar roles to what the original ship was envisioned for, however the modern ship likely has no direct relationship to the subsystems, design or capabilities intended in the 1970s-era 055 class.
Around 2013, several CGIs and renditions emerged online at the Chinese military watching sphere, driven by initial rumours of the 055 class. However, many of these were speculative and not based on reliable rumours and despite the artistic merit in these drawings, the actual accuracy was likely quite far from what the real 055 class would look like.
One of the earliest fan made CGIs of the 055 class. CGIs of the 055 were present on the internet, prior to the establishment of firm rumours and well before the mock up began construction. This CGI turned out to be quite different to the characteristics of the mock up
Another CGI of the 055 class prior to the mock up, where many features visible are based on the artist’s own speculation
Emergence of the 055 class mock up at Wuhan drove another series of CGIs, some of which would likely turn out somewhat similar to what the final ship will appear as, but small inaccuracies and some inconsistent assumptions about sensor arrangement, armament, and overall ship configuration means observers should exercise great caution when viewing online CGIs of the 055 class destroyer.
A more accurate CGI, produced sometime shortly after pictures of the mock up emerged
Completion of the 055 class mock up at Wuhan provided many interesting details to predict what the final ship would look like
The physical configuration of the mock up shows the ship’s deckhouse/main superstructure will share a configuration not dissimilar to that of the 052D or Burke class destroyers featuring four expected large radar arrays mounted on the “cheeks”. However, the ship also appears to field a small integrated mast atop the deckhouse, a feature not present on earlier generations of Chinese Navy ships.
A feature also not seen on earlier Chinese Navy ships, is the presence of the ship’s smoke stack fully integrated to the forward superstructure, which would likely help to reduce radar cross section and provide greater internal volume around the exhausts for reducing infrared signatures.
The aft of the mock up includes the top half of the ship’s helicopter hangar structure. The hangar structure also appears to feature the base of a mast which is expected to host a radar system, however as of yet no radar has been fitted on the location.
Near completion, the 055 class mock up shows the key characteristics of the final, actual ship. However, note the lower part of the mock up painted in white, as well as the superior portion of the aft mast painted in white — the different paint may signify “mock up exclusive” structures which may not be present on the real ship and may possibly be replaced by additional structures or subsystems
The hull of the ship is expected to be a conventional flared hull, rather than the stealthier (but also riskier) tumblehome hull of the USN’s Zumwalt class, however the 055 class is expected to incorporate significant signature reduction in radar cross section and infrared measures as well.
Measurement using open source satellite imagery indicates the mock up at Wuhan is slightly over 141 meters long (including the “incomplete” helipad), and nearly 20 meters wide, accounting for a degree of error.
Satellite imagery (here using Google Earth) has allowed an estimate for the minimum dimensions of the 055 class based on the mock up
It goes without saying that the final ship will likely be substantially longer than the mock up, given the mock up does not include most of the bow of the ship, and the aft of the ship is also truncated due to the reduced length helipad. Considering the position of the ship’s main gun and the truncated aft, the actual ship may be anywhere between 30 to 40 meters longer than the mock up.
However, the final ship will also likely be somewhat wider (i.e.: have a greater beam) than the mock up as well, because the mock up sits atop a raised platform which is almost certainly not representative of the height of the actual ship’s main deck. In reality, the actual ship will likely feature a lower main deck (indicated on the mock up by the incomplete helipad structure), which would thus allow the sides of the ship’s superstructure and hull to both further flare outwards, increasing beam, thus the beam of the ship may be anywhere up to 3 meters greater than what the mock up currently represents.
A simple drawing depicting the ship’s actual main deck to be “lower” than the platform of the mock up. This configuration of deck and hull is standard for all recent major Chinese Navy surface combatants, and thus the 055 may have meaningfully greater maximum beam compared to the mock up’s width. Essentially, the mock up “cuts off” the maximum width of the actual ship
Therefore, the overall dimensions of the ship may reach somewhere in the ballpark of 180 meters in length and 23 meters in beam.
Satellite imagery comparison made by Chinese military watchers. 052D is compared with the speculated completed dimensions of the 055, scaled commonly using the main gun. Note the aft VLS arrangement on 055, which is speculative
Rumours of 055’s displacement seem to have settled on a ship with 12,000 ton standard displacement, with a 10,000 ton empty displacement and a full displacement in excess of 13,500 tons. The projected dimensions of 180 meters by 23 meters (or lower) could quite comfortably attain such a displacement.
It is worth noting that Chinese state and military media have even gone to lengths to pour cold water regarding the capability of the 055 class, even going to publish that the ship will “merely” have a displacement of 10,000 tons. However, this information may not be reliable, as it has been suspected that Chinese state and military media may have understated the displacement of some Chinese Navy ship classes in the past, and it would fit their high operational security nature to deliberately and vaguely understate the true full displacement of a new warship, especially one as potentially influential as the 055 class large destroyer.