China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) decommissioned four Type 051 (Luda)-class destroyers in a ceremony held at the North Sea Fleet base in Lushun, formerly known as Port Arthur, on 16 May.
Named Kaifeng (with pennant number 109), Dalian (110), Zunyi (134), and Guilin (164), the ships had been assigned to the 10th destroyer flotilla, and been in service for more than 30 years.
The Type 051 destroyers were built in China but the class was heavily influenced by Russian designs, particularly the Kotlin-class destroyers. Seventeen ships were built between 1970 and 1990, although only two - Zhanjiang (165) and Zhuhai (166) - remain in service after the recent decommissioning.
The 3,250-ton displacement of the Type 051 class is only about half that of the Type 052D (Luyang III) class, of which the 19th and 20th were launched in Dalian on 10 May. Although the weapon systems on the Type 051 class had been updated, particularly on Kaifeng and Dalian, which were equipped with 16 YJ-83 anti-ship missiles, the class had very limited capabilities compared with the destroyers that are currently entering service with the PLAN.
The Type 051 ships are unlikely to be sold to another navy as their steam propulsion plant is manpower intensive, both to operate and to maintain. Several of the previously decommissioned ships have become floating museum exhibits.
The PLAN still operates a surprising number of steam-powered destroyers in addition to the two remaining Type 051s. Shenzhen (167) - which is the only Type 051B (Luhai)-class destroyer ever constructed - and the two Type 051C (Luzhou)-class destroyers - the second of which was commissioned as recently as 2007 - are steam powered, as are the four Sovremenny-class destroyers imported from Russia between 2000 and 2006.
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