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Video Above: China-Taiwan War

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

China’s Naval modernization continues to command large amounts of worldwide attention, given the country’s rapid progress building its own indigenous fleet of aircraft carriers and new classes of amphibious assault ships, destroyers and fast-attack vessels.

The PLA Navy already makes headlines for being larger than the US Navy, efforts fortified by its often discussed domestic industrial capacity for shipbuilding.

Sovremenny-class Destroyers

At the same time, China’s ambitious modernization campaign not only includes the addition of new platforms but also weapons systems and upgrades to existing platforms. For instance, the Chinese-government backed newspapers are talking about ongoing weapons and technology upgrades to its Soviet-built Sovremenny-class destroyers, one of the last imported platforms by the PLA Navy.

Modernization efforts of its Fuzhou, the second Sovremenny-class destroyer, now has 32-unit vertical launch missile systems for the HHQ-16 air defense missiles, the Chinese-backed Global Times newspapers said.

The paper says the ship is also being armed with eight YJ-12 supersonic anti-ship missiles that replaced the original eight P-270 anti-ship missiles.

Sovremenny-class guided missile destroyer Hangzhou (Hull 136) and Ningbo (Hull 139) attached to the PLA Eastern Theater Command Navy conduct exercises in early 2021. Photo: Screenshot from navy.81.cn

Sovremenny-class guided missile destroyer Hangzhou (Hull 136) and Ningbo (Hull 139) attached to the PLA Eastern Theater Command Navy conduct exercises in early 2021. Photo: Screenshot from navy.81.cn

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“The HHQ-16 is a type of mid-to-close-range air defense missile that can establish a dense anti-aircraft and anti-missile umbrella, and the YJ-12 can provide stronger long-range anti-ship firepower, Wei said, noting that with the modernization, the Sovremenny-class destroyer has become comprehensively stronger in both defensive and offensive capabilities,” the paper says.

Additional upgrades include electronic warfare suites, new computing and radar technologies. However, there is likely only so much an older warship of this kind can be upgraded. 

Nonetheless, continued platform and weapons upgrades are likely to concern the Pentagon, as explained to me in an interesting interview last year with Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va), a House Armed Services’ Committee member who supports a 500-ship fleet. Wittman explained that while there continues to be concern about the sheer “quantity” or size of the Chinese Navy, Wittman told me “they have quality now too.”

Video Above: Is Aggressive U.S. Deterrence Powerful Enough to Stop China from Invading Taiwan?

Sure enough, the US is upgrading even its older DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class Flight IIA Destroyers.

The largest area of potential concern for the Pentagon, arguably, might reside in the Chinese paper’s description of a new generation of command and control technologies. 

Should the larger Chinese Navy operate with any kind of a US Navy-like ability to network disaggregated maritime warfare formations? Should the Chinese Navy operate with dispersed, yet interconnected, multi-domain targeting ability, they might be positioned to present more serious threats to the US and its allies.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest and President of Warrior Maven - the Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization