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WASHINGTON : The Chinese Navy may double its fleet of destroyers in the next five years, according to a report.

The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), which currently has 20 destroyers, is expected to operate 39 warships within five years, in a move which is expected to strengthen the attack reach of the force.

"As of mid-2020, the PLAN currently fields 20 modern aegis-type destroyers in its order of battle, supported by another 11 older, non-aegis-type destroyers. These 20 modern aegis-type destroyers are made up of six Type 052Cs, 13 Type 052Ds, and one lead Type 055," National Interest reported citing a report in The Diplomat.

The development has now raised concerns among the Pentagon leaders.

A recent Congressional report details China's ambitious aircraft carrier modernisation plan, which says that the Chinese Navy, which currently has 360 ships, has surpassed the US Navy's 297 ships in terms of sheer size, according to National Interest.

After launching the second carrier, Shangdong, the Chinese have embarked on the construction of a newer, far-more capable third aircraft carrier, says a May 2020 Congressional Research Service Report, "China Naval Modernisation: Implications for US Navy Capabilities."

Citing The Diplomat report, the Chinese Navy will likely have 400 vessels and three-to-four aircraft carriers by 2025.

The Chinese Navy has now embarked on a larger, flatter and more modern carrier platform with smooth and longer-range electromagnetic catapults similar to the US Ford-class.

An electromagnetic catapult generates a fluid, smooth launch, which is different than a steam-powered "shotgun" type take-off. Also, an electromagnetic catapult extends an attack envelope well beyond what China's existing ski jump launch makes possible, according to National Interest.

China's emerging Type 055 destroyer is also attracting eyeballs from US planners. Notably, the ship represents an apparent Chinese effort to construct a stealthy destroyer.

The ship has a smooth exterior and blended body-bow and few external deck-mounted weapons. The ship does appear to resemble some elements of the US Navy's stealthy USS Zumwalt destroyer.

The Nanchang has very similar-looking deck-mounted guns and a smooth, flat and roundly-curved deckhouse. But like the USS Zumwalt, "there is a decidedly linear, inwardly-angled hull-deckhouse connection".

"It has narrow command post windows and appears to mirror the hull deckhouse configuration of USS Zumwalt to some extent with radar panels blended into the sides of the ship," National Interest reported.

Few of the ships stealth features were mentioned in a 2018 story by The Diplomat, which describes the ship as having a "flared hull with distinctly stealthy features including an enclosed bow," and hidden mooring points and anchor chains.

Unlike the USS Zumwalt, which aligns VLS (Vertical Launch Systems) along the ship deck's periphery, The Diplomat, says the Type 055 destroyers have a "64 cell block of VLS." More concentrated VLS could leave the ship more vulnerable to a catastrophic attack if an incoming weapon hit the centralised group of VLS.

Having VLS on the periphery would help VLS to sustain functionality in the event that some were disabled or destroyed by enemy attacks. A closely stacked VLS would emit a larger heat signature if multiple missiles are launched simultaneously.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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