PLAN followers such as myself are always excited to see new class of ship to come out and to speculate on new classes. In a recent blog entry, I wrote about the 052C program and afterwards. I speculated that the destroyers under construction in the docks are are 052D. It turned out that my speculations were correct and one of them was launched this past week. We have been seeing a steady stream of photos coming out as people are getting a closer look at the changes on 052D. The first thing we saw was that 052D has relatively the same hull as 052C, which is understandable, since they are using the same propulsion technology. The question has always been what kind of different weapon systems they will fit on this new class. The first set of photos we saw showed new Phased Array radar panels installed on 052D. It's the same type of radar we recently saw installed on the test ship. From the third picture, you can see that it's quite a bit larger than the ones on 052C. The sides of the bridge (especially the ones holding the radar panels) are slightly to noticeably more sloped for possible signature reduction. A new 130 mm main gun is installed in the front replacing the older 100 mm main gun. The CIWS up front remains as Type 730. We see a FCR installed on the foremast for the main gun. However, the rest of the foremast looks to be quite different than 052C. We no longer see the OTH targeting radar commonly found on 054A and 052B/C ships. Then, we got a set of photos showing over the top view of this ship compared to 052C. The second picture shows 052D holding a new type of VLS structure up at front that's more similar to MK-41 and the HHQ-16 VLS than the circular ones on 052C. This is possibly the multi-missile VLS that was reported to have been under development. Compared to 052C, we are seeing a modified funnel design that buries funnels for signature reduction. The base that holds the Type 517M radar is moved forward compared to 052C. We will have to wait to see what's around that. The hangar was moved from the left side to the center. It seems like Type 730 will not be installed here, since it requires deck penetration and the hangar for 052C had to move off center because They placed the aft VLS installations and Type 730 along center. Rather, the non-deck penetrating version of HQ-10 will probably be installed here. I suppose the targeting radar for HQ-10 will either be installed alongside it or next to the Type 517M. The area that used to hold the YJ-62 launchers and the multipurpose rocket launchers have been replaced with the aft VLS installations. The rocket launchers have been moved to the two sides of the platform on top of the hangar. I'm not sure where the anti-ship missiles will be installed. So, we do see quite dramatic changes to the weapon systems employed on 052D. The hull is similar but appears to have some modifications to fit the weapon systems and have reduction in signature. The beam of the ship appears to greater than 052C from the comparisons, but that's probably just based on the angle of the shot. A more powerful multi-functional radar has been installed, which could only point toward greater AAW potential. The biggest question on most people's mind are the number of VLS cells. From people that have been there, the word is that the front VLS installation and aft VLS installation are both holding 32 VLS cells. That's compared to 36 and 12 on 052C. Another question has been whether these cells can quad pack or dual pack one of the shorter ranged missiles. The other question is whether they can hold LACMs or AShM or ASW missiles. We will find out in the coming months and years, but that's still a mystery at this point. Either way, it's a definite improvement over the combat capabilities of 052C. While holding 64 VLS cells may not satisfy some PLAN fans (compared to 96 MK-41 on Flights II Arleigh Burke class), one has to remember that this ship is most likely around 7000 to 8000 ton in displacement fully loaded. Until the next generation of AAW warship comes out with greater propulsion, there is a limitation to how much 052 series of ships can hold.