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China Just Launched Its Huge And Incredibly Quickly Built Amphibious Assault Ship


Some five months after the first pictures emerged of its keel under construction, China has launched its first Type 075 landing helicopter dock amphibious assault ship, or LHD, at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai. This achievement comes just days before the country marks the 70th anniversary of Communist state's founding. The speed with which the Chinese have been able to execute its construction is as impressive as the ship's size. The vessel will significantly increase the People's Liberation Army Navy's amphibious warfare capabilities, and the China State Shipbuilding Corporation is already building a second example.


Dockworkers at Hudong-Zhonghua launched the still-unnamed Type 075 LHD after a ceremony on Sept. 25, 2019. Images began to emerge online of the ship's keel under construction between April and May 2019, though it is unclear when the China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) formally began work on the ship. Workers will now complete the final phases of construction with the vessel in the water. There is no word yet on when the Chinese expect it to head out for its first sea trials or actually enter service with the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).


The Type 075 is also bigger and more capable than the Type 071 amphibious transport docks, or LPDs, which are presently the PLAN's largest operational amphibious warfare ships. The Type 071, which displaces around 25,000 tons, has a smaller flight deck at the stern and hangar space for up to four Z-8 heavy transport helicopters.


By comparison, the new LHD will have a dedicated hangar deck below its flight deck and will reportedly be able to carry between 28 and 30 helicopters of various types, including the Z-8 and the smaller Z-9 utility and light attack helicopters. China does not have any short takeoff and vertical landing capable combat jets at present, but it is at least exploring this possibility and the Type 075 could already have design features to support fixed-wing operations in the future.


It is not clear how many Marines the Type 075 will be able to accommodate, but its full complement will likely be much larger than that of the Type 071, which can carry between 600 and 800 troops, as well as their ground vehicles and other equipment. The U.S. Navy's Wasp class, for example, can carry 1,650 Marines, along with their light armored and unarmored vehicles and other equipment. Similar to the American ships, China's new LHD also has a well deck that can hold multiple Type 726 air cushion landing craft – roughly analogous to the U.S. Navy's LCAC – in order to move personnel, vehicles, and other cargo ashore.


The exact armament fit on the Type 075, including systems for self-defense, is also unknown. Reports say that it will include at least two H/PJ-11 30mm close-in weapon systems (CIWS), also known as the Type 730, and a pair of FL-3000N point defense surface-to-air missile systems. Pictures of the ship at its launch ceremony, and in the days and weeks before, show what appears to be at least one FL-3000N in place at the stern and one forward of the ship's island superstructure. A Type 1130 CIWS is also seen amidships on its port side.


Regardless of how much the ship actually displaces and what its exact capabilities are, what may be most impressive about it is China's ability to proceed so fast with its construction. Chinese shipyards have already demonstrated their ability to produce large surface warships with relative rapidity, but work on the Type 075 has progressed at a particularly fast pace. For comparison, it took three years between keel-laying and launch to build the U.S. Navy's second in class USS Tripoli (LHA-7). Also, keep in mind that the U.S. has been building flattop amphibious assault ships for the better part of a century. This is China's first.


This could extend beyond traditional military operations. American amphibious warfare ships have historically been a go-to option for extracting U.S. citizens from countries experiencing sudden and violent upheaval and a vital tool for responding to natural disasters. PLAN amphibious warfare groups built around Type 075s could similarly help rescue Chinese nationals, who are working in ever-increasing numbers in potential hotspots around the world, or respond to humanitarian crisis at home and overseas. China already employs its Type 920 hospital ship as a valuable soft-power tool.


With the Type 075's construction proceeding so quickly, it is very possible that the ship will be ready for sea trials relatively soon. At the same time, we may begin to learn more about its exact features in the coming months now that the lead example of the class is in the water and will be getting fitted out.


No matter what, the Type 075's launch is simply another clear demonstration of China's desire and ability to increase the size and scope of its naval capabilities, with a clear eye toward operations further and further from Chinese shores.