Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Looking at cruisers and Type 055

When I read Pop3’s comments that an initial estimate of the Type 055 design’s displacement was over 20,000 ton, the first thought that came to my mind was Kirov class cruiser. Since the retirement of Iowa class, Kirov has been by far the largest non-carrier surface combatant. There has been numerous estimate of Type 055 size based on the land simulator in Wuhan. I want to look over cruisers from around the world and comparing them to what Type 055 might look like.

The first one to look at is Kirov class cruiser, which was built around the P-700 Shipwreck AShM. It is estimated to be 252 m long, 28.5 m in beam and 9.1 m draft for full load displacement of 28,000 ton. In order to achieve 30+ knots in speed, it was installed with nuclear and steam turbine propulsion (CONAS). As one could imagine, the propulsion unit takes up a lot of space. In terms of missiles, Kirov is installed with 20 P-700 AShM, 96 S-300F long range SAM, 128 SA-N-9 short range SAM and 40 SA-N-4 point defense SAM. It is also installed with 8 AK-630 or 6 Kashtan CIWS for last-ditch defense. And finally, it has one AK-130 main gun, ASW rocket launchers and torpedo tube launched torpedoes. At 20 knots operating on nuclear power, it has unlimited range. This allows Kirov class to operate by itself far from home base. However, such design requires additional storage space that would not be expected out of a normal surface combatant.

At the same time that Kirov was being built, the smaller conventionally powered Slava class Cruiser was also being built around the P-500 Bazalt AShM. It is estimated to be 186 m long, 20.8 m in beam and 8.4 m draft for full load displacement of 12,500 ton. In terms of missiles, Slava class is installed with 16 P-500 P-500 AShM, 64 S-300F long range SA and 40 SA-N-4 point Short range SAM. It is also installed with 6 AK-630 CIWS and a AK-130 main gun.

Looking at Slava class, I think it’s quite obvious why China was not interested in purchasing the almost completed 4th unit (Ukrayina) when the Ukrainians offered it for S600 million. The much smaller 051C carries 48 S-300F missiles (using 1 Top Dome FCR instead of 2 on Slava) along with 2 PJ-12 CIWS for air defense. Having a pair of 051Cs probably offers stronger area air defense than 1 Slava class. More importantly, 052C/052D has become a major success compared to the slightly larger, but less powerful 051C class. The size of the S-300F VLS along with the large and bulky top dome FCR took away the option of installing a hangar on 051C.

Turning our eyes away from former Soviet cruisers, KDX-3 is another very powerful cruiser currently in service. It is 165 m long, 21.4 m in beam and 6.25 m in draft for full load displacement of 11,000 tons. It is installed with 4 LM-2500 gas turbines along with 2 shafts in COGAG configuration allowing for 30+ knots in speed. In terms of missiles, it has 80 cell MK-41 VLS and 48 cell K-VLS for Korean LACM and ASROC. It is also equipped with 1 Goalkeeper CIWS and 1 RAM CIWS for point defense. And finally, it has a MK-45 main fun and 2 triple barrel torpedoes.

The Arleigh Burke class has similar layout to KDX-3. Flight IIA is 155 m long, 20 m wide and 9.3 m in draft for full load of 10,000 ton. It is also installed with COGAG propulsion (4 LM-2500 turbine + 2 shafts) and capable of 30+ knots. In terms of armament, it’s installed with 96 cell MK-41 VLS, 1 MK-45 main gun, Phalanx CIWS and 2 triple barrel torpedoes. It also carries hangars for 2 MH-60 helicopters for ASW/SAR missions.

I think the 4 examples show that the Soviet system is bulkier. Similarly sized cruisers like Slava class does not carry anywhere near the firepower of Arleigh Burke class or KDX-3. The Cold launched S-300F has many advantages over hot launched MK-41 VLS, but also takes up more space and has less flexibility. The combined nuclear/gas turbine and steam turbine option on Soviet cruisers are likely to take up more space than the COGAG arrangements on Arleigh Burke class. Most of the electronics on older Soviet cruisers are heavier. The most visible proof of that can be seen in the FCR for S-300F, which takes up much more space than SPY-1D.

So I think it’s quite obvious that PLAN will go for something similar to KDX-3 than Kirov class. Type 055 should be a much stealthier design than that, since newer AAW destroyers like Type 045 have set blueprints on how to design really stealthy warships. As we spoke in previous blog entries, Type 055 will most likely be using 4 QC-280 gas turbines to generate power for an integrated electric propulsion system. It will use the universal VLS already found on 052D, since it will support both the cold launched and hot launched naval missiles in service with PLAN. Type 055 is probably going to hold 112 or 128 cell VLS with no additional launchers for LACM or AShM. In addition, I think it will carry 2 HQ-10 launchers along with 1 or 2 PJ-11 CIWS for point defense. For a large ship like Type 055, PLAN may also have helipad space and hangar space for 2 Z-15 or Z-20 sized helicopters. All of which would call for a ship that’s probably larger than Arleigh Burke class and probably also KDX-3 class. I would estimate it to be around 175 m long and 22 m wide with full load displacement of around 13000 ton.


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John Lee said...


How do you think the type 55 will compare to the Zumwalt class destroyers? Granted, only three were built.


Igor Shenderski said...

Slava also uses 1 FCR as type 051C.
But Slavas has older S-300F, while 051C - newer S-300FM(as last 1144, Peter the Great).
I.e. ammo capacity aside - 051C is better(well, she's 20 years younger).

Btw, it's worth remembering what they're among oldest relevant 1st rank combatants around. Slava herself(Moscow) is as old as leg launcher Ticos(long retired).

Feng said...

It's hard to say 055 vs Zumwalt, since you never really know China's air defense combat system vs Aegis. In terms of firepower, 055 should exceed that of the most recent arleigh burke class.

John Lee said...

After I did some more reading on the subject, it seems the two boats are built with different jobs in mind. the type 55 was built as either a task force flag ship or carrier escort. As such, stealth was secondary to a good radar and good fire power. The Zumwalt was built as a lone assassin, where radar and fire power is secondary and stealth is paramount. It is probably relying on other assets to do target acquisition. However, I wonder how successful the Zumwalt will be in the modern age of air-born radar networks and a network of "fishing boats" as pickets. It might be the reason they only built three.

Jack z said...

Another great article, Feng, can you do an article on Chinese navy's current submarine force and their ASW ability, and how it evolve over the years and how do you expect it to change in future?

And on the subject of Zumwalt, from what I have been reading, that ship is suffering a bit from cost over run and many subsystem are not working, noticeably the rail gun that is suppose to have 200km range, low cost accurate firing support for land forces.

And yeah, Zumwalt's design philosophy is totally different from Burks or 055, 055 is pretty much all around improvement Aegis, but Zumwalt is suppose to be stealthy fire support for land force and anti air ability is secondary, but problem with building only 3 very expensive ship has a lot of problem with doctrine.

No way will they are going to risk such expensive ship on a solo mission, so it has to operate in battle groups with regular non-stealthy ships, and when it does that, other ships in the group will get targeted by missiles because of higher radar cross section, so best case scenario, Zumwalt sneaks away while other ship get targeted, so unless the whole fleet is stealthy, 3 ship is not going to make much difference. That's why US Navy is going to be keep producing Burke with its Block 3 models with AESA radar and other improvements.