Yesterday, China officially commissioned the lead ship in its new class of destroyers. From this article, you can see that this first Type 052D class ship is named after the city of Kunming and given the hull number 172. The ceremony was attended to by Chinese Navy commander Wu Shengli. Videos of the commissioning can be found on youtube.
I have covered Type 052D in numerous entries like this before. In some ways, it represents the final step in the modernization of China's surface combatant. Starting from the early 90s when Type 052 was launched until today, the Chinese naval destroyers have incrementally improved with Type 051B, Type 052B and Type 052C before finally reaching Type 052D. It is equipped with China's first universal VLS capable of launching HHQ-9 series of long range SAM, quad packed medium SAM, YJ-18 anti-ship missiles, LACM and Yu-8 (or similar ASROC). It is also carrying PJ-38 130 mm main gun, 24-cell version of HQ-10 CIWS and PJ-12 7-barreled 30 mm CIWS. A lot of the radar, ESM suite, communication antenna and other electronic installations look like the ones we have seen on 052C, but it is carrying a flat second generation multifunctional radar given the designation Type 346A and a new type of variable depth sonar at back. Whereas Type 052C placed heavy emphasis on AAW as China's first area air defense ship, Type 052D not only improves in that area, but should also become capable in ASW (with the long range anti submarine missile + improved sonar), ASuW, long range missile strikes and amphibious landing support. As the hull of 052D has already been "maxed" out, the next generation of Chinese destroyer would be larger and equipped with more advanced propulsion unit. Here are some of the photos.
The commissioning of No. 172 was surprising for many followers even after its hull number was recently painted. The last 2 052Cs, which were launched before No. 172 have yet to be commissioned. The recent batch of 052Cs have generally taken over 2 years to be commissioned after launching. It appears that the Chinese naval brass rushed No. 172 into service so that it can participate in its 65th anniversary celebration at Qingdao on April 23rd. Now that it has been commissioned into the South Sea Fleet, they can start the process of training and developing tactics for this new class of ships. At present, we have 3 052D launched with a 4th that looks to soon be launched. The production run is likely to reach 12 ships with JiangNan shipyard building 8 of them and Dalian shipyard building the remaining.