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PLA's upgraded Type 052D destroyer sails for the first time amid rising tensions.

| 2020

Amid rising tensions across the Taiwan Straits with the US military's increasingly frequent operations in the region, Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy sailed a newer version of its 052D guided-missile destroyer equipped with new meter wave radar to detect stealth warplanes besides a longer helicopter deck to accommodate the ship-borne version of its Z-20 attack/utility helicopter.
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PLAs upgraded Type 052D destroyer sails for the first time amid rising tensions 925 001 Chinese Navy Type 052D guided-missile destroyer. (Picture source: Flickr)

In early July, a destroyer flotilla affiliated with the PLA Eastern Theater Command Navy conducted training exercises at an undisclosed location in the East China Sea. The training subjects included air and missile defenses, attacks on surface vessels, and joint anti-submarine operations, the PLA Daily reported on Sunday.

According to more details released in a statement and photos posted by the PLA East China Sea Fleet on Friday, the drills featured the guided-missile destroyer Zibo, which has the hull number 156, among several other warships. The Zibo is the PLA Navy's first ship of the improved version of the Type 052D destroyer.

Compared to the original Type 052D, the Type 052DL has a longer helicopter deck, and is equipped with a new, meter wave long-range radar on its after-mast, the article said, noting the improvements enable the destroyer to carry China's most advanced Z-20 ship-born helicopter, and to better cope with hostile stealth warplanes.

The exercises came at a time when tensions are rising across the Taiwan Straits, as the US not only approved a new arms sale to Taiwan on Thursday but also sent a destroyer to waters north of the island of Taiwan and conducted close-up reconnaissance on the Chinese mainland on Friday, according to the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a Beijing-based think tank.

PLAs upgraded Type 052D destroyer sails for the first time amid rising tensions 925 002The Luyang III/Type 052D guided-missile destroyer Hefei entered service in late 2015. (Picture source: Chinese MoD)

About the Type 052D:

The Type 052D incorporates improved design, as well as sensors and weapons fit. Its layout slightly differs from that of the earlier Type 052C class, as its superstructure inclines inward at a greater angle for reduced radar cross-section.

The Type 052D destroyer is mounted with a multi-purpose vertical launch system for firing CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles, HHQ-9 series long-range surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), HQ-16 and DK-10A medium-range SAMs, YJ-18/YJ-83 anti-ship missiles, as well as CY-5 series anti-submarine missiles.

These air-defense destroyers are fitted with the four-panel Type 346A multifunction phased-array radar system, which is combined with a 64-cell missile vertical launching system (VLS) to offer long-range area air-defense, modern anti-ship, and—potentially—land-attack cruise-missile capabilities.

The VLS launchers are fitted in two 32-cell sets, one forward of the helicopter hangar and a second aft of the 5.1-inch gun. Carried inside is a reported mix of HHQ-9 surface-to-air (SAM), YJ-18 anti-ship cruise (ASCM), and CY-5 antisubmarine missiles.

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