China says its newest destroyer is capable of launching land-attack missiles.
That puts China in a select club. The Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile has been a favorite tool of U.S. foreign policy and warfighting for 30 years, fired at everything from military bases in Iraq and Syria, to a failed 1998 attempt to kill Osama Bin Laden at his Afghan lair. Russia also has used them: in 2015, Russia fired Kalibr cruise missiles at Syrian rebels from warships stationed a thousand miles away in the Caspian Sea, in a demonstration of the long arm of the Kremlin.
Now, China has the option of using them to flex its muscles. Chinese media offered few details about the Chinese missiles, other than to say that that the Type 055 class – the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s newest destroyers – are capable of launching them. The first Type 055, the Nanchang, was launched in January 2020.
“Introducing the vast and complicated arsenal at its disposal, the PLA Navy said on China's Twitter-like social platform Sina Weibo that the service operates not only vessels, but also submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles with strategic missile submarines and long-range land-attack cruise missiles with 10,000 ton-class guided missile destroyer,” said Chinese state media.
“Long-range land-attack cruise missiles will allow destroyers to launch more powerful precision strikes on land targets compared to main guns, which have a lower range and are less accurate,” a Chinese defense expert told Global Times.
The Type 055 is set to become something of a nautical bogeyman for Western and Asian navies. China calls them destroyers, but the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency’s 2019 report on Chinese military strength describes them as guided missile cruisers. At 10,000 to 12,000 tons, and 590 feet long, they are actually slightly bigger than American Ticonderoga-class cruisers.