Pan Jingfu, a senior warship designer and academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, died in Shanghai on Sunday morning. He was 93.
Born to a family of business people in Huzhou, Zhejiang province, in January 1930, Pan was raised in a small ancient town called Nanxun until he was 7, when his family fled to Shanghai from wartime havoc during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).
Recalling the family’s journey to Shanghai, which has been frequently cited by Chinese media, Pan saw Japanese warships and the vessels of other nations on the Huangpu River and then asked his father, why weren’t Chinese ships there?
“He told me that China didn’t have its own warships, and that was why the Japanese could sail deep wantonly into our territories. I was 7 at that time, and I was thinking that we should build our own large warships,” Pan told China Central Television, the State broadcaster, in an earlier interview.
After a childhood and adolescence in wartime, the youngster was admitted to the Department of Electric Motor Engineering at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou in the autumn of 1948, one year ahead of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
In 1952, Pan graduated with a bachelor’s degree and was assigned to the former Huadong electric engineering bureau in Shanghai to start his career as an electrical systems designer. Three years later, he was transferred to the former shipbuilding industry bureau under the ministry of first machinery to begin taking part in the design of naval ships.
In the summer of 1961, the young designer became a founding member of the former Shanghai-based first institute of the Ministry of National Defense’s seventh academy, which was responsible for developing combat vessels for the Chinese navy and was the predecessor of the China Ship Development and Design Center in Wuhan, Hubei province.
In 1962, China started to develop its first gun frigate model, the Type 65 class. Tasked with designing its electrical systems, Pan decided to use the alternating-current mode on the type, making the ship better than its original design.
In the mid-1960s, he led the research and development of the Type 051, the nation’s first generation of guided missile destroyers. He organized a large group of designers and technicians from multiple institutes to resolve technical difficulties and built the most powerful warship in China by that time.
Construction began in 1968 on the first ship in this class, CNS Jinan, which was completed at the end of 1971 and delivered to the North Sea Fleet. Its deployment marked the first time for the Chinese navy to have a combat ship capable of carrying out long-distance operations.
In the 1970s, Pan was named chief designer of CNS Hefei, a Type 051Z-class destroyer capable of commanding a fleet. Hefei and several Type 051-class destroyers played an important role in China’s first intercontinental test of its DF-5 ballistic missile in 1980.
In the 1980s, the veteran designer headed the development of the Type 052 class, the second generation of Chinese guided missile destroyers.
Due to his contributions, Pan was called by many the “father of China’s guided missile destroyers.” He was elected in 1995 as an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.