Let's face it, while Russia and the United States are potential adversaries, they're not very likely to fight it out on the high seas. This is mostly because the Russian Navy is a bit of a basket case. But there is a more likely opponent on the high seas for the United States Navy: Communist China's People's Liberation Army Navy.
Communist China has been pursuing a rapid naval modernization over the last 15 years. As a result, we've seen a number of modern guided-missile destroyers emerge as the backbone of the People's Liberation Army Navy. While Communist China calls the three major iterations the Type 52B/C/D, NATO calls them the Luyang I/II/III.
So, how would one of the most modern Chinese Communist destroyers fare in a one-on-one fight with a Zumwalt-class destroyer?
The lead Luyang III-class destroyer, CNS Kunming, dockside. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Haiphong Pioneer)
The Luyang III is a formidable opponent. It has two 32-cell vertical-launch systems for the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile (a Chinese copy of the Russian SA-10/SA-N-6 Grumble surface-to-air missile), YJ-18 anti-ship missiles, a 130mm gun, a 30mm close-in weapon system, torpedo tubes, and a launcher with 24 HHQ-10 missiles. It displaces 8,000 tons and has a top speed in excess of 30 knots. The YJ-18s will be the Luyang III's primary weapon against a Zumwalt. These missiles have a range of 290 nautical miles and can hit a speed of Mach 3 on their final approach.
The Zumwalt, though, carries its own heavy firepower – two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems and 20 four-cell Mk 57 vertical launch systems capable of carrying Tomahawk cruise missiles or RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. Its stealth technology also makes it hard to see.
Ultimately, as was the case when we pitted the Zumwalt against a Kirov-class battlecruiser, it will come down to which ship sees the other first. The big difference is that the YJ-18 doesn't have the oomph of the SS-N-19 Shipwrecks aboard the Kirov. With a number of options for her 155mm guns, like Vulcano rounds or Copperhead laser-guided shells, the Zumwalt could do some serious damage to the Luyang III.
This photo shows a bow-on view of USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000). The two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems offer a variety of shells, including Vulcano and copperhead, that can make quick work of a Chinese destroyer. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics / Bath Iron Works)
When the fight is over, the Zumwalt will likely make its way to a friendly port to repair damages, but the Chinese ship could very well be on the bottom of the South China Sea.
The winner of this naval skirmish would likely be the American vessel.