China’s People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is inching closer to the commissioning of its future Type 075 landing ship dock (LHD), with the lead vessel seen departing from shipbuilder’s Shanghai-based Hudong-Zhonghua facility on 5 August for the first time to conduct at-sea testing.
Details of planned test activities have not been disclosed, although military analysts quoted by state media noted that the LHD’s main systems, such as its communication, navigation, and propulsion, are likely to be trialled.
The new Type 075 LHD, which is also known by its NATO reporting name of Yushen-class, displaces an estimated 36,000 tonnes and measures approximately 236 m in length with a 36-metre-wide flight deck. The vessel is believed to be capable of supporting up to 30 helicopters, with six landing spots on its deck dedicated to helicopter launch and recover operations when completed.
The lead ship was launched in September 2019, while the second was launched in April 2020. Satellite imagery has also captured what appears to be hull modules for the third vessel being assembled at the same shipyard.
The lead ship suffered an internal fire on 11 April during its fitout, although the extent of damage caused by the mishap is not known.
Recent imagery posted on Chinese social media revealed mock-ups of the Z-8 medium-lift helicopter alongside an unknown type of rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on the lead vessel’s flight deck, suggesting that it will likely embark both manned and unmanned aircraft.
Although the PLAN has yet to field attack helicopters, the PLA Ground Force has recently performed deck landings and sea crossings aboard a Type 071 amphibious ship using army aviation assets including the Z-10 attack helicopter during a cross-service integration exercise. According to state broadcaster CCTV, the drills took place off China’s south-eastern Fujian province.
by Jr Ng