The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) recently held a series of naval exercises that featured two Sovremenny-class destroyers imported from Russia, one recently refitted and modernized by China, a move which will lead to enhanced combat capability. A naval flotilla attached to the PLA Eastern Theater Command Navy consisting of the Type 052D guided missile destroyer Taiyuan, Sovremenny-class guided missile destroyers Hangzhou and Ningbo recently held patrols and exercises in an undisclosed sea region. This is the first time the PLA Navy has displayed the newly installed YJ-12 supersonic anti-ship missile launchers on the Hangzhou.
Refitting the Sovremenny-class with China’s domestically developed advanced weapons and equipment significantly enhances the ship’s combat capability, as China’s related technologies nowadays have far surpassed that of Russia’s when the ships were delivered. It also enables the warship to better integrate into China’s new combat system. Eight YJ-12 anti-ship missiles replaced the original eight Russian-made Sunburn missiles, a 32-unit vertical launch missile system for the HQ-16 air defense missiles that replaced the original two sets of Shtil air defense missile systems, and the ship’s electronic systems were also comprehensively upgraded.
Hangzhou (136) and Ningbo (139) are modified Sovremenny-class (Type 956E) destroyer of the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Surface Force (PLAN) had two modified Sovremenny-class destroyers delivered in December 1999 and November 2000. In 2002, the PLAN ordered two improved versions designated 956-EM. The first vessel was launched in late 2005, while the second was launched in 2006. All four vessels were commissioned to the East Sea Fleet. Hangzhou was laid down on 4 November 1988 and launched on 27 May 1994 by Severnaya Verf in Saint Petersburg. She was commissioned on 25 December 1999.
All four Chinese Sovremenny-class destroyers are planned to undergo a midlife upgrade program. As of 2016, Hangzhou was reported to be undergoing refit with its original components replaced with domestic systems. In addition to replacement of electronics and sensors, armament upgrades include replacing 2×4 3M80E Moskit anti-ship missiles with 2×4 YJ-12A supersonic missiles, swapping two launchers for 48 SA-N-12 SAMs with 4 sets of 8-cell vertical launch systems totaling 32 cells for HQ-16C or Yu-8 anti-submarine missiles and adding a 24-cell FL-3000N short-range anti-air missiles. The YJ-12 is an air-launched missile that resembles a lengthened Kh-31 and is close in shape to the GQM-163 Coyote aerial target.