China launched on Tuesday two Type 055 guided-missile destroyers, widely considered Asia's biggest and mightiest such combat ship, according to witnesses outside a shipyard in Dalian, Liaoning province.
Weapons enthusiasts published photos taken near Dalian Shipbuilding Industry, which has built two aircraft carriers, on internet military forums. They also described what they saw of the two giant ships' launches.
When ships are moved into the water, their construction is basically finished. It is regarded as the most important step before sea trials. Water started to be pumped into dry docks where the vessels were built around 7 am, before the docks' gates were opened, witnesses said.
Photos showed that there was a small launch ceremony at the shipyard with hundreds of workers standing in formation in front of the two Type 055s, each decorated with a huge national flag and ceremonial banners.
Then the ships were pushed into open waters by several tugboats, the photos showed.
The next steps usually are for engineers to test and fine-tune equipment already mounted on the ships and continue installing other devices. Then they will conduct mooring tests and sea trials before the ships are commissioned in the People's Liberation Army Navy.
Four Type 055s have now been launched, but none are yet commissioned. The first of the class was launched in late June 2017 at Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, the second in late April at the same shipyard.
Type 055 is China's newest generation of guided-missile destroyers. It has a displacement greater than 10,000 metric tons and will be equipped with new types of air defense, missile defense and anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons, according to the Navy.
It has 112 vertical launching cells that can fire various kinds of missiles, including China's long-range land-attack cruise missile. Its firepower is thought to be twice that of the Type 052D, the largest and most powerful surface combatant commissioned in the PLA Navy.
While the Type 055 is classifed as a destroyer, outside China it would be considered a cruiser as its large size and heavy displacement are comparable to that of the United States' Ticonderoga class cruiser. Li Jie, a senior researcher for the PLA Navy, said the vessel displaces about 13,000 tons.
The latest version of the United States' Arleigh Burke class, the largest family of destroyers in the world, has a full displacement of 9,800 tons. South Korea's Sejong the Great class displaces 11,000 tons while Japan's Atago class displaces 10,000 tons.
Cao Weidong, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said that compared with other destroyers in the Navy, the Type 055 features stealth design, stronger strike prowess and higher information capacity and will tremendously boost the PLA Navy's long-range operational capability.
He also said such ships will greatly strengthen the country's carrier battle groups.