We talk a lot about Chinese naval capabilities. Some view the Chinese navy as a significant threat perhaps already exceeding the combat power of the US Navy. Others view the Chinese navy as a paper tiger with numerically abundant forces but little high end combat power. With such divergent views it might be helpful to do a cursory review of their naval forces. This information is gathered from open source documentation and should be considered with a degree of skepticism.
Here are the modern destroyers, their numbers (active, building, and ordered), fittings, and a brief description.
Type 052D destroyer (Luyang III-class) – 12
-130mm gun, 64 VLS, AESA radar
-This is the most advanced surface combatant. It has an area defense AAW capability with a flat array, AESA radar/combat system whose capabilities are claimed to approach or be on par with Aegis. Reports claim the ability to detect stealth aircraft. The ship has data link capability, medium and close in AAW protection, hangar and flight deck, and torpedoes. What may be lacking is a capable ASW suite. This vessel is roughly equivalent to a USN Burke albeit with less VLS.
Type 052C destroyer (Luyang II-class) – 6
-100mm gun, 48 VLS, 8 ASuW missiles, Active Phased Array Type 348 radar
-This is an area AAW combatant with a radar system claimed to be able to detect stealth aircraft. The ship has a hull mounted sonar, medium and close in AAW protection, hangar and flight deck, and torpedoes. This vessel is roughly equivalent to something between a USN Burke and Spruance.
Type 052B destroyer (Luyang I-class) – 2
-100mm gun, 2x missile launchers (48 SA-N-12 missiles), 16 ASuW missiles, 3D radar
-This was the first ship with an area AAW capability. The ship has a stealth hull shape, close in AAW protection, hangar and flight deck, and torpedoes. This vessel is roughly equivalent to a USN Spruance.
Type 052 destroyer (Luhu-class) – 2
-These were among China’s initial attempts at a modern guided missile destroyer and are considered to be prototypes and technology demonstrators.
Sovremenny-class destroyer (Sovremenny-class) – 4
-2x2 130mm guns, 2 single arm launchers with 48 SA-N-12 AAW missiles, 8 ASuW missiles, 3D radar
-This is an anti-surface and local area AAW combatant with powerful, supersonic anti-ship missiles. The ship has a hull mounted sonar, medium and close in AAW protection, hangar and flight deck, and torpedoes. This vessel is roughly equivalent to an improved Spruance.
Type 051x destroyer (Luda/Luhai/Luzhou-class) - 9
-This class represents initial attempts at developing modern indigenous surface combatants with an area AAW capability and have been superseded by newer classes. This vessel is roughly equivalent to an early USN guided missile frigate.
We see, then, that the Chinese navy is still a long way from matching the US Navy in numbers of modern surface combatants. However, the current vessels being constructed are a fairly close match to the USN Burkes, at least on paper.
What’s most impressive is the speed of advancement of Chinese naval development. The Type 052 began in 1994 and since then has leaped ahead to near-Burke capabilities. In that same span, the USN surface combatants have made only modest advances. Further, the rate of construction is impressive and accelerating.
The Chinese surface navy is not on par with the USN but a comparison of the technology and production trends clearly favors China and should serve as a wakeup call for the US Navy.