The US DoD’s “2020 China Military Power Report to Congress” suggests that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN – Chinese Navy), may arm its new Type 055 RENHAI-class cruisers with anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM – the so-called ‘carrier-killers’ that have recently been much in the news) and with land attack cruise missiles (LACM), once they become more widely available.
Such an armament programme would arguably make the class the most heavily armed warships currently afloat. The report’s unclassified version does not offer the evidence for such an assertion – but ‘China watchers’ are broadly in agreement the move would be logical from a Chinese perspective.
The RENHAI-class – of which the eight was launched in August and the first commissioned in January this year – are over 10,000t in displacement and mount very large phased-array radars reminiscent of the US AEGIS system, which uses active electronically scanned array (AESA) technology, making it more ‘cutting-edge’ than its US equivalent. Its principal armament is a 112-cell vertical launch system (VLS).
MON understands there is considerable discussion in the intelligence community regarding the exact nature of capability these assets provide the PLAN with. Some argue they bring game-changing capability to the service and may perceptibly alter the regional balance of power: others believe the US DoD may be deliberately over-playing the threat, in similar fashion to its regular publication “Soviet Military Power” in the closing stages of the Cold War.