One of the Type 055 guided-missile destroyers at the shipyard of Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Co., Ltd. in Dalian, Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, July 3, 2018 Photo: IC

Long anticipated by Chinese military enthusiasts, the Nanchang, China’s first Type 055 destroyer, painted with the hull number 101, was part of the destroyer group that was presented at the celebration of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s 70th anniversary in Qingdao on Tuesday.

Four ships of the Type 055 destroyer, a new icon representing the PLA Navy’s capability, have been launched for sea trials since 2017. The Type 055 destroyer represents the highest level of China’s destroyers in terms of both tonnage and firepower.

Gao Ke was recently introduced to the public as the captain of the first Type 055 destroyer when it made its debut. This legendary figure once led the Linyi warship on a mission to rescue Chinese nationals during the Yemeni Civil War, a scene which was later adapted into the blockbuster film Wolf Warrior 2.

The first Type 055 destroyer was launched on June 28, 2017, but had not undergone sea trials until last August. It represents China’s top-level surface vessel. Type 055 missile destroyers are equipped with more than 100 vertical launch missile cells capable of launching surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, land-attack cruise missiles and missile-launched anti-submarine torpedoes, according to Chinese and foreign military media reports.

It is a new type of destroyer that weighs over 10,000 tons and was independently developed in China. It is not only seen as the core ship of the future Chinese navy fleet, but also widely regarded as the destroyer with the strongest comprehensive combat capability in Asia.

Gao Ke, its first commander, has also drawn a lot of attention due to his past experience. He has worked on seven types of naval vessels, including aircraft carriers. He has also received professional aviation training and carried out more than 20 major missions, including China-Russia joint exercises and escort missions in the Gulf of Aden, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Inset: Gao Ke, the captain of the first Type 055 destroyer Photo: Capitalnews

Joining up

Gao’s father fought in the Korean War, and his heroic deeds have influenced him since he was a child.

At university, Gao sported a hippy look, keeping long hair, having a deep love of literature, arts and the Hong Kong rock band Beyond, Capitalnews, an official WeChat account affiliated  to the Beijing Daily, reported.

In the early summer of 1999, the young man received his second Officer of an ocean-going vessel certificate. Two months later, he graduated from Tianjin University of Technology and was set to become a merchant seaman. 

However, on June 16, 1999, Gao Ke was shocked by the news that the United States bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Less than a month later, with his father’s support, Gao decided to join the Chinese navy.

In July 2000, after one year’s study at Dalian Naval Academy, one of the top educational institutions of the PLA Navy, Gao was assigned to a destroyer detachment of the North Sea Fleet and served as the deputy chief of navigation of the Kaifeng warship. 

Thereafter, he successively served as the staff officer of the training section of the command detachment, then the section chief, deputy captain, captain trainee and other higher positions.

His outstanding strength and adaptability are reflected in his continuous rise up the ranks.

During his term as navigator, he taught himself to code and developed 15 professional software applications that could reduce navigation positioning time to one-tenth of the original.

After serving for five years, he was awarded the title of “excellent local college student cadre of the whole army.” During his time serving as the staff officer of the department of training, he drew up many training plans and was given a slew of honors, according to Capitalnews.

In November 2012, the Type 054A missile frigate Linyi was commissioned, and Gao was appointed its first commander. He treated the warship as his “girlfriend,” spending all his time with her except when he ate and slept.

Under his leadership, Linyi achieved remarkable results, including winning first place in the North Sea Fleet group competition in its first year of service. Gao himself has also been awarded many honors and earned multiple merits.

In March 2015, he led the Linyi warship in the successful rescue of Chinese nationals from Yemen.

Saving the day

At the time, the Yemeni government army and Houthi forces were at war in the country. On March 26, 2015, the Linyi warship, which was carrying out its 19th escort mission in the Gulf of Aden, was ordered to rescue overseas Chinese.

In just one day, the Linyi warship formulated seven special defense plans, and eight special situation disposal plans and deployed surface-to-air missiles, main and secondary guns, jamming bombs and other weapons to prepare for its tasks.

Even at the beginning of the war in Yemen, Gao Ke had begun to prepare for the possible evacuation of Chinese and foreign citizens. When the Linyi arrived at Aden port, he had already thoroughly studied the port’s terrain, water depth and berthing facilities.

He entered Yemen three times in nine days and led the Linyi warship to successfully escort 163 Chinese and 269 citizens from 13 other countries safely to the port of Djibouti. 

It was the first time the Chinese navy had rescued foreign citizens, boosting the navy’s image, fulfilling China’s responsibilities as a major country and winning widespread international acclaim.

Global Times