China's Type 055 Destroyer Could Be a Big Threat to the U.S. Navy

Type 055 Destroyer from China
April 2, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: ChinaType 055 DestroyerTypeChinese NavyPLANNavyMilitaryDefense

China's Type 055 Destroyer Could Be a Big Threat to the U.S. Navy

With superior production capabilities and innovative designs, China's fleet, including eight Type 055 destroyers, signifies a shift in global naval power dynamics, mirroring historical transitions.

Summary: The article challenges the misconception that the U.S. would indefinitely maintain its post-Cold War superiority in military, economic, and technological fields against China. Highlighting China's advancements in biotechnology, quantum computing, and hypersonic weapons, it specifically focuses on the Type 055 Renhai-class guided-missile destroyer as a symbol of China's growing naval prowess. With superior production capabilities and innovative designs, China's fleet, including eight Type 055 destroyers, signifies a shift in global naval power dynamics, mirroring historical transitions. This development questions America's ability to keep pace with China's expanding and technologically advancing navy.

Type 055: A New Destroyer for China Is Here 

For far too long Americans, notably those running U.S. national security policy in Washington, D.C., have deluded themselves into thinking the country’s post-Cold War dominance would last forever. Foreign policy elites long insisted that no one, especially the People’s Republic of China, could truly threaten American military might. Whatever wealth Beijijng accrued thanks to globalization, the Chinese were seen merely as imitators of America’s dominant technology. 

Like so many post-Cold War assumptions the Americans made, their assumption that the United States could afford to expose itself to China’s aggressive trade practices and still retain economic, military, and technological leads over China indefinitely was wrong.

This tragic reality can be seen in a range of areas, from biotechnology to quantum computing to hypersonic weapons development. It can be viewed further in China’s development of their Type 055 Renhai-class guided-missile destroyer. 

The Type 055 Hits the High Seas

According to Eric Wertheim, the Type 055 “represent[s] the culmination of China’s efforts to build powerful long-range surface combatants to project power and escort the [People’s Liberation Army Navy] growing fleet of aircraft carriers.”

China’s PLAN launched their first Renhai-class vessel in 2014. 

These warships displace an astounding 12,000-13,000 tons. Some analysts, such as Maya Carlin, my colleague at The National Interest, have observed that the Type 055 seems more like a modern battleship than your typical destroyer. The U.S. Navy is trying to match China’s new designs with its own next-generation, Constellation-class guided-missile destroyer, which is also far larger than a traditional guided-missile destroyer. 

Of course, China beat the Americans to deployment by a decade. 

China’s Mass Production Trumps America’s

Thanks to China’s mass production capabilities – which they inherited from the United States during Wall Street’s destructive deindustrialization craze – the PLAN operates a total of eight Type 055 destroyers today, and they are building more. The gap between China’s fleet size and America’s is becoming reminiscent of the situation that arose during the Second World War between Britain’s Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy. 

Back then, the Royal Navy was the most powerful navy in the world. Yet by the end of the war, Britain’s industrial capacity had been obliterated and their economy had been laid low, whereas America’s industrial capacity was at an all-time high and its economy was only growing.

The fleet size shifted between the two allied powers. 

The British soothed their wounded egos by claiming that postwar Britain may have had the second-largest fleet, after America’s, but that America’s Navy was second-rate. That coping mechanism could only last so long. Britain’s domestic industry, especially after decolonization, could not match the power of the United States. Similarly, after deindustrialization, the United States cannot match the productive power of China’s defense manufacturing sector. 

Type 055: Not Merely a Knock-Off

The Type 055 guided-missile destroyer is not merely a knockoff. It is an innovation. The warships were designed by Chinese engineers to counter any threat a U.S. Navy warship might present to PLAN forces. The Type 055 possesses a highly advanced radar array that is essential for detecting threats to the warship, as well as 112 universal vertical launch systems (VLS) that can fire a variety of weapons. 

Technically, the US Navy’s Ticonderoga-class cruiser – which is being phased out over the next few years in favor of the aforementioned Constellation-class guided-missile destroyers – has 10 more VLS tubes than does the Type 055. But the Type 055 VLS tubes are deeper and wider. This implies that the Type 055 can fire powerful, longer-range weapons. 

The Type 055 has missiles for anti-submarine warfare, air defense, and anti-surface warfare. The Type 055 destroyers carry the Chinese HHQ-9 air defense missile, which is practically copied from the Russian S-300 air defense system. The Chinese warships have a 24-round HHQ-10 short range defensive system as well. 

Like their American rivals, the Chinese Type 055 has a Close-in Weapons System.

What’s more, the Type 055 is clearly meant to brawl rival warships. Great emphasis was placed on anti-surface warfare, along with anti-submarine capabilities. The Type 055 carries the Chinese Yu-8 anti-submarine missile, while the YJ-18 dominates their anti-surface warship arsenal. Analysts have indicated that the YJ-18 is roughly equivalent to the U.S. Navy’s powerful Harpoon missile, but the Type 055 carries significantly more YJ-18 missiles than the Harpoons their American counterparts carry. What’s more, the YJ-18 is a supersonic weapon that, some analysts worry, threatens the entire U.S. Navy warship fleet.

The Type 055 is meant to saturate and overwhelm any American warship it may encounter in combat.

The Type 055 is a Problem for U.S. Warships

Today, the Type 055 (at least on paper) can challenge the American warships currently deployed against it. Further, the Chinese Type 055 sails in greater numbers. The warships have more sophisticated radar cross-section-reducing capacities than the Ticonderoga-class cruisers they will face off against if war erupts between the U.S. and China soon. 

For at least 20 years, the Americans rested on their laurels while the Chinese dutifully enhanced their capabilities and expanded their fleet. 

China’s Type 055 destroyer is another example of how badly the Americans let their overwhelming advantages at the end of the Cold War slip away. It remains to be seen whether this will be a temporary shift, or if it will become permanent as China’s industrial base continues to serve as the arsenal of autocracy.

About the Author

Brandon J. Weichert, a National Interest national security analyst, is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, the Asia Times, and The-Pipeline. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower, Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life, and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy. His next book, A Disaster of Our Own Making: How the West Lost Ukraine, is due October 22 from Encounter Books. Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.