China Decommissioned All Type 051 Destroyers

China reportedly launched its eighth Type 055 and 25th Type 052D destroyers on Sunday, only two days after the decommissioning of two Type 051 destroyers attached to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, which marked the retirement of China’s all first generation of indigenous destroyers. 

At a time when China has been launching new generation destroyers at a rapid pace, experts said Sunday that the PLA Navy’s development has entered a new stage, with third generation warships becoming the main battle equipment and fourth generation ones beginning to enter service.

Hong Kong-based media group Takung Wenwei reported on Sunday that the PLA Navy’s eighth Type 055 and 25th Type 052D destroyers were simultaneously launched in the Dalian Shipyard at Northeast China’s Liaoning Province on Sunday morning.

These new Chinese warships are comparable to world’s top destroyers, including the US’ Arleigh Burke-class and Zumwalt-class, analysts said.

The launch of the two new ships comes after a decommissioning ceremony for the two old warships, the Zhanjiang and the Zhuhai, was held at a naval base in Zhanjiang, South China’s Guangdong Province on Friday. The occasion marks that all China’s first generation of indigenous destroyers have been discharged from active service, China Central Television reported on Saturday.

Between the 1970s and 1990s, China built 17 Type 051s, which were the PLA Navy’s first modern destroyers with combat command capabilities. The vessels served as the Navy’s main surface combat ships, Shanghai-based news website reported on Saturday.

Having served in the PLA Navy for the past five decades, the Type 051 proved itself to be a powerful guardian of the country and a start to the country’s domestically developed destroyers, analysts said.

With older ships decommissioned, China has been launching and commissioning new destroyers in recent years. The Diplomat magazine reported in July that China currently fields about 20 modern, aegis-type destroyers, and in four to five years the number would increase to 39 to 40, including six Type 052Cs, 25 to 26 Type 052Ds and eight Type 055s.

Looking back at the PLA Navy’s development history, Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times on Sunday that China’s first-generation destroyers were imported from the Soviet Union (in the 1950s.) The second-generation ones are of the Type 051, which is the first generation domestically developed and which entered service in the 1970s.

With the older generation warships decommissioned, China’s main battle destroyers now consist of mainly third-generation vessels, including the Type 052Cs and the Type 052Ds, alongside the fourth-generation Type 055. The Chinese ships’ displacement, technology and combat capability are on the rise as they have gained comprehensive combat capability in air defense, anti-ship and anti-submarine operations, Zhang said.

China’s building of more and better warships is making up for the progress lost in the initial stage of reform and opening-up, when the country focused on economic development instead of national defense, Zhang said, noting that China now needs to boost national defense and military capability to safeguard its economic development.

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