PLAN Type 052 Destroyer Historical Analysis


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It needs to be added that in the past, the Dalian and Jiangnan shipyards, or the mother SOEs behind them, CSSC for Jiangnan and CSIC for Dalian, has a competitive relationship much like Chengdu and Shenyang Aircraft Corporations in competing for military contracts. The 052 is the Jiangnan design and the Type 051B is the Dalian design. There is a bit of a northern bias in the Chinese military complex that has something to do with the capital being located in Beijing, and many industrial complex is in the north, like Norinco. Coming into this competition, Dalian is the top dog and Jiangnan is the upstart. Dalian has been building the Type 051 destroyers along with Zhonghua, which is now merged with Hudong, and Jiangnan had been building Type 053 frigates. This also gives Dalian the "senior" status with Jiangnan the "junior" status.

In a sense this parallels the Chengdu-Shenyang relationship, with Shenyang considered the "senior" for their work in the J-6, the development of the J-8 and J-8II fighter, and the one selected to manufacture the J-11. Chengdu is the upstart that came to prominence with the J-7 and pushed the J-10. When Chengdu won the 5th generation race with the J-20, the prestige went to Chengdu over Shenyang.

With Dalian the senior shipyard, it was looked upon that they would be creating the next generation of warships for the PLAN back in the 1990s. The 052 is taken as the experimental upstart alternative from the upstart Jiangnan company. The 051B was the prototype for the next generation of PLAN VLS equipped destroyers but somewhat incomplete for the lack of a proper VLS system, and this was fulfilled with the 051C. Back then there was a strong faction the PLA that were heavily favoring Russian arms acquisition to make up for the technological gap. The 051C would have been the heir apparent and the safe choice, whereas the 052C --- the 052B was another technology proof of concept after the troublesome 052 --- was the more ambitious and riskier choice. Two orders were made to Dalian for the 051C and two orders were made to Jiangnan for the 052C.

Dalian sticked to the tried and true steam turbine technology that it had always relied since the Type 051. Its own experience in dealing with steam propulsion is gave it the Liaoning refit contract. Jiangnan on the other hand, relied on a vision of using gas turbines. Now there are two factions here pushing two opposing technology. But it turns out that gas turbines were proving to be more reliable and efficient, but the question is how to obtain new gas turbine engines where as steam turbines can be locally produced. The gas turbines had to be procured from the Ukraine. Until the local production of gas turbines was solved, that Jiangnan won this race. I would probably think there was at one point, a Dalian proposal for a Type 051D ,which takes the steam turbine powered 051C hull and mated with the Type 346 radars, U-VLS and HQ-9 missiles, and probably a Jiangnan proposal for an 052 variant that used the Russian RIF-M as well as variants of both ships that used the HQ-16 and its hot launched VLS competition, which is the third leg of the SAM-VLS competition along with U-VLS and HQ-9, and the RIF-M system. There is another faction within the PLAN and the PLA that also favors Russian designs, but also prefers copying them for local self sufficiency rather than buying them, then give these copies Chinese characteristics. The output of this faction is the Type 054 and 054A, with their reliance of copied but with Chinese characteristics system.

Also at some point, when the 052C established its supremacy as the heir apparent for the PLAN destroyer line, it was also the end of the pro-Russian acquisition faction in the PLAN, and established the faction that relies on domestic technologies first as supreme. With that the Type 051X entered into a dead end. Jiangnan's supremacy is that its also given the 055 design contract, and eventually Dalian would be made to manufacture Jiangnan's designs. Some prestige was returned to Dalian when they did the Liaoning refit and the 002 carrier project, but Jiangnan takes the throne with the 003, which we can expect to be gas turbine powered, because Jiangnan has been the champion of that technology in China. While 002 is still a strong almost copy of a Russian design, Jiangnan's 003 would be a highly domestic design with more Western design cues.