China acquired two unfinished ex-Russian Navy Project 956 Sovremenny class destroyers in 1996 and received them in December 1999 and November 2000. These were followed the order for two newly-built Project 956EM destroyers in 2002, which were delivered in December 2005 and September 2006. At the time of their delivery, the Sovremenny class destroyers provided the PLA Navy with a capable platform that vastly exceeds the sizes and capabilities of Chinese domestic designs.
Type: Multirole missile destroyer (DDG). Designer: Severnaya Design Bureau. Builders: Zhdanov Shipyard. IOC: 1999. Number: 4
The Project 956 Sovremenny class missile destroyer was introduced by the Soviet Navy in the late 1970s to counter the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier battle groups and surface combatants such as the Spruance class destroyers. The first-of-class Sovremenny was launched in 1978 and commissioned by the Soviet Navy in 1980. All hulls were constructed at the Zhdanov Shipyard (North Shipyard) in St. Petersburg. The Soviet (and later Russian) Navy received 17 hulls in total between 1980 and 1993. However, the construction of the final two hulls was suspended in 1995 due to lack of funds.
In September 1996, China signed an agreement with Russia to purchase the two unfinished Project 956A destroyers worth US$800 million. They were hull #18, ex-Soviet Navy Vazhny and later renamed as Yekaterinbugr (698) by the Russian Navy, with two-thirds of building complete, and hull #19, ex-Russian Navy Alexandr Nevsky with only one-third complete. Both ships were laid down in the late 1980s by the Zhdanov Shipyard in the Project 956A variant, capable of firing the improved 3M80M anti-ship missile. The first hull, renamed Hangzhou (136), was delivered to China in December 1999, followed by the second hull renamed Fuzhou (137) in December 2000.
Satisfied with the destroyer’s performance, the PLA Navy signed a contract with Russia in 2002 to purchase two more Sovremenny class destroyers worth US$1.4 billion. These would be newly-built hulls in the modified Project 956EM variant, with features specifically required by the PLA Navy including a permanent helicopter hangar in place of the stern main gun, and enhanced air defence weapon systems. The first hull, Taizhou (138), was launched in April 2004 and delivered on 28 December 2005. The second hull, Ningbo (139) was launched in July 2004 and delivered in September 2006.
The Sovremenny class is a typical Cold War-era Soviet design, with a large amount of weapon systems and sensors, as well as sophisticated electronic warfare and countermeasures (EW/ECM) equipment. The ship has a tall, large profile with all weapon systems and sensors exposed externally, increasing the ship’s radar cross section significantly. The destroyer has no infrared signature reduction measures. Early variant of the Sovremenny class in service with the Russian navy often produced heavy black smoke from its funnel, but this has been improved on later ships possibly due to the replacement of improved steam turbines.
As well as providing a capable multirole surface platform with considerable anti-surface, anti-submarine, and air-defence firepower, the Sovremenny class also gave the PLA Navy the opportunity to study and copy a range of Russian naval technologies, including the MGK-335 (‘Bull Horn’) sonar, the Fregate M2EM (‘Top Plate’) 3D air-search radar, Mineral ME (‘Bandstand’) AShM fire-control radar, and the MR90 (‘Front Dome’) target-illuminating radar for the SA-N-7 Rif-M Shtil/HQ-16 surface-to-air missile.1 These systems later appeared on Chinese domestic designs such as the Type 052B ‘Luyang’ class missile destroyers and Type 054A ‘Jiangkai-II’ class missile frigates. Later the PLA Navy also introduced the H/PJ-38 130 mm naval gun, which also appears to have been developed from the Sovremenny class technology.
All four hulls of the Sovremenny class destroyers have been operated by the PLA Navy East Sea Fleet based at Ningbo naval base in Zhejiang Province. Since mid-2014, these ships have been undergoing a modernisation refit, with the original Russian-made weapon systems and sensors removed and replaced by their Chinese equivalences, including the HQ-16 surface-to-air missile, YJ-12 anti-ship missile, H/PJ-38 130 mm guns, etc.
Command & Control
The ship’s helicopter pad accommodates one Ka-28 (NATO code name ‘Helix’) anti-submarine warfare helicopter. The helicopter is supplied by the Kamov JSC of Lyubertsy, Moscow and Kimertau Research and Production Association, Bashkartastan. It can operate in conditions up to sea state 5 and up to 200 km from the host ship. The helicopter is equipped with radar, sonar antisubmarine torpedoes, antisubmarine missiles, depth charge rockets and depth charges. The aviation fuel stock onboard the host ship is 5 tonnes.
Main propulsion includes four KVG-3 high-pressure steam boilers, 50,000hp TV-12-4 steam turbines, driving two fixed pitch propellers. Electric power is supplied by two 1,000kW steam turbo-generators and four 600kW diesel generators. The ship has a maximum speed of 32 knots and an economic speed of 18 knots.
Displacement (t): 6,600 standard, 8,480 full load. Length (m): 156. Beam (m): 17.3. Draft (m): 6.5. Propulsion: Steam turbines. Speed (kn): 33. Range (km): 7,260 at 18 kn. Complement: 350.
Name No. Builder Fleet Launched Commissioned ----------------------------------------------------------------- Hangzhou 136 North ESF 1981-04 1999-12 Fuzhou 137 North ESF 1982 2000-12 Taizhou 138 North ESF 2004-04-27 2005-12-28 Ningbo 139 North ESF 2004-07-23 2006-09 North..North Shipyard ESF....East Sea Fleet
- SIGNAL Magazine. 2008. China Copies Russian Ship Technology For Use and Profit. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.afcea.org/content/china-copies-russian-ship-technology-use-and-profit. [Accessed 31 August 2017].