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People's Liberation Army Navy

Sovremenny

Under a December 1996 agreement China purchased two Russian Sovremenny-class destroyers, each equipped with eight supersonic 3M-80E Moskit SS-N-22 SUNBURN (75/155nm range sea-skimming) and two SA-N-7 launchers. The Sovremenny class was constructed primarily for surface action operations, China will receive 50 Moskit missiles for the destroyers by mid-2000. The displacement of this class exceeds that of any other Chinese surface warship by roughly at least 50%, indicative of the overall improvement in combat potential. The steam turbine used in the main engine of this class is suitable for extended high-speed voyages, and this class has very high endurance, three times China's Luda class and twice the Luhu class.

Despite having less ASW capability than the Russian Udaloy-class, and less strike capability than the Slava-class, the Sovremenny-class provides China with a balanced platform that vastly exceeds the capabilities of domestic designs. The Luhu destroyer is the first Chinese naval system of indigenous design even approaching modern standards. But the decision to buy Sovremenny-class destroyers from Russia to accomplish the same functions is indicative of the problems confronting Chinese weapons designers.

Historically the biggest weakness of Chinese destroyers and frigates has been their inadequate of ship-to-air missiles. Each large destroyer of the Sovremenny-class has two ship-to-air missile launchers, equipped with 48 SA-N-7 "Gadfly" 9M38) or SA-N-17 "Grizzly" (9M38M2) semiactive radar-guidance intermediate-range air defense missiles. The SA-N-7 Gadfly is similar to the US Standard ship-to-air missiles and is considered one of the world's most effective intermediate-range ship-to-air missiles today. The SA-N-17 Grizzly air defense missile is an improved version of the SA-N-7 Gadfly with more advanced performance. On the other hand, these ship-to-air missiles with a firing range of 25 km only serve to protect the fleet from air raids and to provide air defense cover when landing on islands. There is no capability of screening in-depth landing operations, still less of penetrating the fighter/strike plane attack zones in the coastal waters of an adversary.

Although the ships are equipped with self-defense antisubmarine weapons such as torpedoes and helicopters, the design does not ppace much emphasis on its antisubmarine capability. They are not equipped with the large and expensive towed sonar array and antisubmarine missile system that are commonly found on US and Japanese warships.

Construction of these two ships for the Russian navy had been suspended in 1995, with the one ship about two-thirds complete, and the other about one-third complete. As of August 1999 the two Sovremenyy-class destroyers ordered by China had been launched and were expected to enter PLA-Navy service by 2002. The first Sovremenyy-class destroyer completed fitting out at Severnaya and sailed to China in early 2000, and was expected to enter commission at the end of 2000. A decision on a third unit has been delayed due to Russian unwillingness to include an additional Ka-28 helicopter in the purchase price originally offered. The PLA-N may also wish to put off deciding on acquiring further units of the class until it has had an opportunity to evaluate the ships in operational service.

The pair of Russian-built destroyers will enhance the PLAN's surface fleet endurance for extended operations within the region and around Taiwan. In March 1998 Taiwan announced its intention to acquire four Aegis-class frigates in reaction to Beijing's purchase of the Sovremenny -class ships. News reports in Taiwan suggest that a total of four Sovremenny destroyers will be purchased by China, although the source of two additional ships of this class is not apparent, as only additional unit remains under construction with delivery slated for the Russian navy.

Specifications

Builder
Propulsion Steam turbines, 4 boilers, 2 shafts
Length 156.4 meters / 513 feet
Beam 17.2 meters / 56.4 feet
Draft 7.85 meters / 25.7 feet
Displacement 8,480 tons full load
Endurance 14,000 miles
Speed 32.7 knots
Crew ~370
Armament
  • 8 3M-80/SS-N-22 Moskit/Sunburn SSM
  • 2 SA-N-7 Shtil SAM
  • 2 dual 130mm/54cal guns
  • 4 21 inch torpedo tubes
  • Construction

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