Expert: Changes to vessel's weapons systems improved combat capability
The People's Liberation Army Navy has upgraded the CNS Shenzhen guided missile destroyer, once the most powerful domestically made warship in the Navy, amid a massive modernization of the country's naval arsenal.
The only Type 051B Luhai-class ship, the 6,000-metric ton Shenzhen entered service with the South Sea Fleet in 1999 and was then the largest and most advanced domestically made warship of the Navy for about five years until the first Type 052B destroyer, CNS Guangzhou, was commissioned in 2004.
When the Shenzhen was commissioned, the Navy's destroyer fleet consisted of antiquated models, mostly 3,600-ton Type 051 guided missile destroyer vessels with older weapons and radars. Therefore, the Shenzhen was chosen as the command ship of the South Sea Fleet and has taken part in many overseas visits to show the best image of the Chinese Navy.
In 2014, the Shenzhen started a major upgrade of its weapons and electronics systems. It was recently spotted at a naval base of the South Sea Fleet with new weapons and a streamlined superstructure, indicating it has finished the modernization work, People's Daily reported.
A captain of a Navy guided missile destroyer who wished not to be named told China Daily that the overall capability of the refitted Shenzhen is at least double that before the upgrade. He said the ship's information capacity and firepower are much stronger than before.
Cao Weidong, a researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said that the biggest change to the Shenzhen is with its weapon systems.
"The HQ-7 short-range surface-to-air missile launcher has been replaced with a vertical launch system, which enables the ship to carry a larger number of missiles and to use more kinds of missiles," he said, explaining that the change will extensively improve the ship's combat capability.
In addition, its four 37-mm two-barrel anti-aircraft guns have been replaced with two close-in weapon systems, whose faster rate of fire increases the vessel's survivability against incoming missiles. The radars and sonar systems on the ship were also upgraded to enhance its capabilities in terms of reconnaissance, detection and monitoring, according to Cao.
Fang Bing, a weapon expert from PLA National Defense University, said the modifications on the Shenzhen's masts and superstructure would reduce its radar signature, thus give it stealth capability.
Before the Shenzhen, the Navy upgraded the CNS Guangzhou as well as the two Type 052 class destroyers - CNS Harbin and CNS Qingdao.
Currently, one of the four Russian-made Sovremennyy class destroyers deployed by the PLA Navy, CNS Hangzhou, is receiving an upgrade on its missile systems and electronic instruments, industry publication Modern Ships reported.
In 2016, the PLA Navy commissioned 18 ships, including a Type 052D guided missile destroyer, three Type 054A guided missile frigates as well as six Type 056 corvettes.
These ships have a total displacement of 150,000 tons, roughly half of the overall displacement of the Royal Navy.
In January alone, the Navy commissioned three ships - one destroyer, one electronic reconnaissance ship and one corvette.
Source: Navy upgrades missile destroyer
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