China’s most advanced destroyer the Nanchang formally enters service in ‘leap forward’ for navy

Minnie Chan

China officially commissioned its first Type 055 guided missile destroyer, the Nanchang, on Sunday in what it hailed as a “leap forward” for its naval modernisation programme.

A grand ceremony was held in Qingdao, a major naval base in the eastern province of Shandong, on Sunday morning, state news agency Xinhua reported.

The Nanchang was launched in June 2017 and made its public debut in a naval parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the PLA Navy in April last year.

However, military sources said that its outfitting had not been completed at the time of the parade.

China steps up warship building programme

“Nanchang made an appearance at the parade as part of the celebration but much of its equipment – including radars, communications and weapons systems and other works – had not actually been finished,” one PLA insider said.

Another military source said the Nanchang, which has a displacement of 12,000 tonnes, had been undergoing sea trials and weapon systems tests in the past eight months.

Xinhua said the commissioning of the Nanchang, which is equipped with air-defence, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons, represented a “generational leap” in the Chinese navy’s destroyers.

The warship appeared at the navy’s 70th anniversary parade last year, but insiders said its equipment had not been finished. Photo: Reuters

It is seen as one of the world’s most advanced ships of its type – behind only the US Navy’s Zumwalt class – and is Asia’s largest and strongest destroyer.

Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said the Nanchang and its five sisters ships would have a key role in China’s aircraft carrier strike groups.

“Both the design and the equipment of Nanchang have reached international standards. It will play the role of bodyguard for China’s fledgling aircraft carrier fleet in the future as Beijing plans to build at least four carrier strike groups,” Li said.

Chinese navy trains top guns

One PLA insider said that naval top brass had deliberately chosen to commission Nanchang a day after Taiwan’s elections to avoid antagonising the island.

The insider said January 11 was one of the military’s preferred dates for commissioning its new and advanced weapon systems, but added: “The PLA is well aware that if the commissioning was held on Saturday, which was also 11 January, then it might have an undesirable effect on the Taiwan elections. For the same reason the mainland side has scaled down activities such as air patrols near Taiwan over the past few months,” the insider said.

Taiwan authorities have often accused Beijing of sabre-rattling and have blamed activities such as military drills in the Taiwan Strait for poor relations between the two sides.

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