The Global Times reported that amid rising tensions across the Taiwan Straits with the US military’s increasingly frequent operations in the region, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy recently held drills in the East China Sea, with the latest, more powerful, anti-stealth aircraft-capable version of the Type 052D destroyer making its first public appearance. The training subjects included air and missile defenses, attacks on surface vessels, and joint anti-submarine operations. The drills featured the guided missile destroyer Zibo, which has the hull number 156, among several other warships. This is the first time the Zibo was seen in action according to a publicly available report.
Having entered military service on January 12, the Zibo is the PLA Navy’s first ship of the improved version of the Type 052D destroyer, which is dubbed the Type 052DL, reads an article on the website of the government of Zibo, the city in East China’s Shandong Province the destroyer is named after. Compared to the original Type 052D, the Type 052DL has a longer helicopter deck, and is equipped with a new, meter wave long-range radar on its after-mast, the article said, noting the improvements enable the destroyer to carry China’s most advanced Z-20 ship-born helicopter, and to better cope with hostile stealth warplanes.
The exercises came at a time when tensions are rising across the Taiwan Straits, as the US not only approved a new arms sale to Taiwan on Thursday, but also sent a destroyer to waters north of the island of Taiwan and conducted close-up reconnaissance on the Chinese mainland on Friday, according to the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI). The US frequently sent military aircraft and vessels to and near Taiwan since June, and Taiwan is also set to hold its annual Han Kuang exercise on Monday. PLA naval drills can serve as a deterrent to US reconnaissance operations, and also send a warning to Taiwan secessionists, noting the PLA is prepared for all options.
Type 052D destroyer has a full-load displacement of more than 7,000 tons and has 32 units of vertical launch system at the stern. This results in that Type 052D helicopter hangar space is very limited. It can only carry a Z-9 light anti-submarine helicopter, or Ka-27 helicopter. At present, there are 26 Type 052D destroyers in total including 24 launched. Starting from the 14th one, Type 052D has changed significantly, and they are called 052DL instead, which is an extended version based on Type 052D. The boarding of bigger helicopter means that a multi-purpose shipborne helicopter with a longer range, longer air time, and a larger bomb load has reached the same level as the mainstream models, making it an important part of the surface anti-submarine network of the surface ship.