Missile Loadouts: Chinese 052-series Destroyers (1994-2019)

The 052-series destroyers have represented the cutting edge of Chinese naval technology in the post-Cold War period. The original Type 052 destroyer joined the fleet in 1994 and, although its capabilities were limited, it is considered China’s first modern warship. The basic design proved solid and went through several variations, each dramatically improving its combat systems and missile armament. In its latest iteration as the Type 052D, it forms the backbone of the Chinese surface fleet and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Type 052

The original Type 052 was a basic 155 meter multipurpose destroyer with an emphasis on antisurface warfare. The two members of the class incorporated many foreign technologies and were more experimental platforms than serious warships. The offensive missile battery consisted of an impressive 16 YJ-83 antiship missiles in canister launchers amidship. With a range of 200 kilometers and a 420-pound warhead, these missiles gave the Type 052 a potent antisurface capability. But in comparison the defensive battery was quite limited and consisted of a single trainable 8-round HQ-7 launcher forward with 16 reloads. This missile was an unlicensed copy of the French Crotale and had semi-active radar homing and a range of slightly over 10 kilometers.

Type 052 in 1994: 16x YJ-83, 24x HQ-7

Type 052B

After the Type 052, Chinese destroyer construction took a detour with the Type 051 and the purchase of four Sovremenny-class destroyers from Russia. The improved Type 052B would not join the fleet until 2004, when both members of the class were commissioned. Although the Type 052B retained the 16 YJ-83 missiles of the Type 052, it replaced the HQ-7 point-defense system with the Russian SA-N-12 Grizzly medium-range surface-to-air missile - the same system used on the Sovremenny-class. Matching the Russian destroyers, this weapon was fired from a pair of single-arm launchers mounted fore and aft, each fed from a 24-missile magazine.

Type 052B in 2004: 16x YJ-83, 48x SA-N-12

Type 052C

The Type 052B was quickly followed by the Type 052C in 2005. This variant followed the same pattern as the Type 052 and Type 052B, with an initial batch of two ships. However, between 2013 and 2015 four more Type 052C destroyers were commissioned, making it the first of the series to be built in numbers. The missile battery of the Type 052C was entirely new and consisted of YJ-62 antiship missiles and HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles. The YJ-62 is a significantly larger weapon than the YJ-83, with a range of over 400 kilometers and a 660-pound warhead. While it was still mounted in canister launchers amidships, its larger size meant only four could be carried. Interestingly, while the YJ-62 has seen some success as a truck-mounted coast-defense weapon, the Type 052C is the only Chinese warship to carry it.

The HQ-9 is true area air defense weapon, with a mid-course datalink, active radar homing, and a range of 200 kilometers. On the Type 052C it is carried in 48 VLS cells (36 forward and 12 aft), making this the first Chinese ship to have a VLS. However, this VLS is a not a universal launcher like the American Mk 41 or the European Sylver and can only accomodate the HQ-9. The VLS appears to be an improved version of the Russian SA-N-20 launchers that were installed on the Type 051C destroyers, sharing the cold-launch method but losing the unnecessarily complicated revolver system. In another innovation, because a cold-launched missile will fall back down if the booster fails to ignite, the VLS cells are visibly angled outboard to prevent a falling missile from landing on the ship.

Type 052C in 2005: 8x YJ-62, 48x HQ-9

Type 052D

The final member of the 052-series is the Type 052D, which entered service in 2014. With 11 ships currently in commission and several more under construction, the Type 052D is one of the most successful destroyer designs in modern history and forms the core of the Chinese Navy. One of its most significant changes was the introduction of a universal VLS (32 cells forward and another 32 cells aft) and the abandonment of canister-launched antiship missiles. Currently the Type 052D is known to be equipped with the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile and the YJ-18 antiship missile. The YJ-18 appears to be derived from the Russian SS-N-27A Sizzler and combines a subsonic cruise stage with a Mach 2.5 terminal stage. Although it is claimed to have a 660 pound warhead and a range of up to 600 kilometers, those numbers appear questionable when compared to the 440 pound warhead and 240 kilometer range of the SS-N-27A. Although it is not confirmed, the Type 052D may also be capable of launching the CJ-10 land-attack missile, the Yu-8 antisubmarine rocket, and the HQ-16 medium-range surface-to-air missile. The VLS is supplemented by a 24-round trainable launcher aft for the HQ-10, an infrared homing surface-to-air missile with a range of 10 kilometers.

Although it is of course impossible to know the exact mix of missiles carried by a Type 052D, based on previous Chinese destroyers it is probable that the standard loadout will consist of 16 YJ-18 and 48 HQ-9. However, with the move to fewer antiship missiles on the Type 052C, it is also possible that the standard loadout consists of 8 YJ-18 and 56 HQ-9. Given the Type 052D's status as the primary Chinese air-defense ship, if land-attack or antisubmarine missiles are integrated, they will likely first replace YJ-18 cells.

Type 052D in 2014: 16x YJ-18, 48x HQ-9

Although the 052-series has served China well, it is beginning to reach its limits (the Type 052D has already been lengthened somewhat) and integrating additional weapons with the new universal VLS will add pressure for more cells. Thus, while there are rumors of a Type 052E, it is possible that the series will end with the Type 052D and be replaced by the new Type 055.

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