China’s navy has more vessels than that of the United States, but the rate at which it is producing new ships has slipped.
Latest satellite images of one of China’s largest shipyards, Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company, indicate that the rate of ship-building has gone down substantially. Compared to 2019 when the new dry dock launched four major ships, this year has been extremely slow with only two ships launched. These two ships have taken a much longer keel-laying to launch of almost two years.
India Today OSINT team investigates with the help of latest satellite images.
Type 55 Cruisers
The Type 55 Renhai-class cruisers are stealth guided-missile destroyers comparable in role to the US Ticonderoga-class cruisers.
The recent China Military Power Report 2020 indicates that Type 55 with 10,000 tonnes of displacement can carry multiple loads of surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles and may also carry anti-ship ballistic missile when they become operational.
The Dalian shipbuilders have been launching at least two Type 55 every year since 2018. The last one launched in 2019 was the sixth Type 55 at Dalian. However, the construction of Type 55 was quite slow as compared to previous years and China could launch only one in 2020.
The only launch of this Renhai-class of ship that took place at Dalian in 2020 was on August 29, 2020 when the satellite images showed a flooded dock where the construction was taking place.
The latest satellite images show bulbous sonar being fitted on a Type 55 at Dalian on September 19, 2020.
The low-resolution satellite images of October 18, 2020 indicate some activity in the dry dock. The activity indicates beginning of construction of possibly four ships, however, it is difficult to assess the type at this resolution.
Type 52D Extended
The second major battleship launched by Dalian shipyard was the Type 52D Luyang III-class destroyer ship. It is one of the latest generations of guided-missile destroyer (DDG) of the Chinese navy.
The Type 52D is a larger variant of its predecessor Type 52C with a displacement of 7,500 tonnes and has canister type vertical launch system (VLS) rather than a revolving type. The Type 52D incorporates several improvements in terms of design and weapons fit.
The two main radars – Type 346 and Type 518 – provide support to the VLS, making it a system close to Aegis Combat System of the US Navy as claimed by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
The satellite images reveal that the PLAN has launched only one Type 52D extended from Dalian on August 29, 2020.
The latest satellite images indicating activity in the dry dock suggest that the Dalian shipbuilders may not be able to launch another major vessel from this shipyard in the next two months.
Similar slow rate of production is also observed at major construction shipyards of Huludao (submarines), Jiangnan Changxing and Guangzhou.
The decrease in productivity in 2020 will be hard to make up even for a country like China, known for its speed in naval constructions.