The Buzz

Could China's New Type 55 Destroyer Beat the U.S. Navy in Battle?

So what does this mean for the United States and its Pacific allies? While the Type 055 definitely represents a great step forward in capability for the PLAN, especially in its ability to build large ships, the United States and it’s regional partners still possess a qualitative and quantitative advantage over the PLAN when it comes to high end destroyers. Both Japanese and South Korean destroyers use the mature AEGIS radar system, integrated with advanced ship to ship missiles of regional design (the Type 90 SSM for the Japanese and Haesong SSM for the South Koreans). The Japanese and Americans also have a proven short-to-medium range VLS launched missile in the ESSM, a capability that the Type 055 lacks at the moment. In numbers, currently three South Korean Sejong the Great­-class destroyers and two Japanese Atago-class destroyers are active. Only one Type 055 has been completed. While the Type 052D destroyers are more numerous, with only 64 VLS cells and limited systems they are not on the same class as a modern AEGIS destroyer.

What is uncertain though is if the United States, South Korea, and Japan can keep up with the Chinese shipbuilding industry. Four more Type 055s are currently being built, which would bring the number of Type 055s up to five. With the Type 055, China has proven that it can build ships that are nearly up to the Western standard. With the resources at its disposal, China could very well field a technically mature fleet in a short period of time. Combined with the completion of their first carrier, the PLAN appears to be modernizing very rapidly. While the Type 055 itself is no wonder ship, it heralds a new era of advanced Chinese shipbuilding, nearly on par with Western powers.

Charlie Gao studied political and computer science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national-security issues.

Image: Wikimedia Commons