China’s independently developed Type 052D destroyer has reportedly received an upgraded propulsion system, a move analysts said on Wednesday is a normal progression with the technological development and the continued production of ships of this class.

The 43rd escort task force of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy set out on Tuesday from a naval port in Zhanjiang, South China’s Guangdong Province for the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somali to succeed the mission of the 42nd escort task force, the PLA Navy said in a statement on the day.

The flotilla is composed of the Type 052D guided missile destroyer Nanning, the Type 054A guided missile frigate Sanya, and the Type 903 comprehensive supply ship Weishanhu, with two helicopters and dozens of special operation soldiers among a total of more than 700 sailors on board, according to the statement attached with photos.

It is the first time the Nanning will join an escort mission, the PLA Navy said.

The Nanning, a destroyer independently developed by China, received an upgraded propulsion system among many other modifications, the PLA Navy statement reads.

Since its commissioning, the Nanning has joined dozens of major exercise missions including far sea training and combat alert patrols, during which it conducted live-fire missile launches several times, the PLA Navy revealed.

The Nanning made its public debut in June 2021 in an exercise in the South China Sea, and judging from its appearance, it is an upgraded variation of the Type 052D destroyer with an extended helicopter flight deck to host the newly developed Z-20 utility helicopter and a new anti-stealth radar to counter stealth aircraft, media reported at the time.

As the PLA Navy’s main type of surface combatant, the Type 052D destroyer has been constructed and commissioned in large numbers, a Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Wednesday.

During the decade-long production of Type 052Ds, it is quite normal that new technologies are implemented in newer ships, the expert said. “The Type 052D will become more powerful with these new technologies and experiences previous ships have gathered.”

According to publicly available information and media reports, the first Type 052D, the Kunming, was commissioned in 2014, and 25 have been launched since. Additional hulls were spotted under construction in August 2022.

The Type 052D is very reliable and uses mature technologies, making it suitable for mass production, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times in a previous interview.