The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Type 055 Renhai-class guided-missile cruisers are among the most formidable warships afloat. They represent the culmination of China’s efforts to build powerful long-range surface combatants to project power and escort the PLAN’s growing fleet of aircraft carriers.
The Type 055 displaces 12,000–13,000 tons and traces its lineage back several decades through increasingly sophisticated classes of PLAN warships including the recent Luyang III (Type 052D) guided-missile destroyers. Construction on the first cruiser of the class, the Nanchang (pictured here), began in 2014. She was launched in 2017 and entered service in January 2020. Between 2017 and 2020, a total of eight Type 055 cruisers were built at two shipyards: Jiangnan Shipyard at Shanghai and Dalian Shipbuilding, Dalian. At least six were commissioned by 2022, and all eight Renhais—the Nanchang, Lhasa, Anshan, Wuxi, Dalian, Yanan, Xianyang, and an unnamed unit—are expected in service by 2023. Two more warships of the class are thought to be under construction, and additional units may be planned.
The Type 055 is armed with 112 universal vertical launch system (VLS) missile tubes, with 64 launchers fitted forward in an 8x8 configuration, and 48 launchers further aft in a 6x8 configuration. The universal launchers carry a mix of HHQ-9B surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), which have a range in excess of 100 nautical miles (nm), and YJ-18 antiship cruise missiles with a 290 nm range. Reports indicate the large VLS tubes also can accommodate antisubmarine missiles or potentially land-attack cruise missiles and antiship ballistic missiles in the future.
A single 130-mm gun and a 30-mm close-in weapon system (CIWS) are mounted forward of the bridge, and a 24-cell HHQ-10 point-defense SAM launcher is carried atop the helicopter hangar. Two triple 324-mm torpedo launchers are carried for short-range antisubmarine warfare, and the aircraft hangar is large enough to accommodate two maritime helicopters such as the Harbin Z-9 (based on the Eurocopter AS-365) or the newer Z-20F, which is similar to the Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk.
Multiple sensors, including the four-panel Type 346B active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, are housed in an integrated mast that enhances signature reduction. The Type 055s are fitted with a hull-mounted sonar forward and can employ variable-depth and towed-array sonars aft. The cruisers mount four gas turbines in combined-gas-and-gas configuration powering two controllable-pitch propellers. This provides a top speed of 30 knots and an estimated range of 5,000 nm cruising at 18 knots.
The Renhai cruisers measure 591 feet long with a 66-foot beam and a 22-foot draft. They are thought to carry a complement of more than 300 personnel.