Amid escalating tensions over Taiwan, China’s second Type 055 large destroyer, the Lhasa, is reportedly holding its first far sea drills by entering the Sea of Japan.
The Type 055 is widely considered the most capable surface combatant class in the world, represented “a step change in PLAN abilities to mount independent long-range deployments or task-group operations,” and “may be the most capable multi-role surface combatant currently at sea.” Since the start of 2022, the ship the Lhasa has conducted multiple realistic combat scenario exercises in the Yellow Sea.
Displacing between 12,000 and 13,000 tons, the ships are prized for their large primary armaments comprised of 112 vertical launch cells, as well as their use of dual band radar systems similar to those the U.S. Navy had intended but failed to integrate onto the Zumwalt Class destroyer. This is thought to provide a situational awareness advantage over Western, Japanese and Russian ships which makes the Type 055 potentially ideal for both employing long range missiles and tracking those deployed by adversaries.
The ship class notably saw a new hypersonic ballistic missile tested from its vertical launch system in April, and has its four layered surface to air missile network supplemented by advanced stealth capabilities ahead of any other production destroyer in the world. This was the first time the Lhasa has embarked on a far sea voyage since its commissioning into the PLA Navy in March 2021. Since the start of 2022, the ship has conducted a number of realistic combat scenario exercises in the Yellow Sea, with experts saying then that it was preparing for more important operations soon to come.
The latest voyage indicates that the Lhasa has reached 100 percent operational capability, and it can carry out military missions in the far sea as the core of a flotilla. Navigating in formation, air defense and anti-submarine could be among training objectives in the drills, which will show that the PLA Navy can safeguard China’s strategic interests in the far sea.