Blurry images have surfaced online of one of China’s Type 075 Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs) in development in Shanghai, and it is huge.
Since 2012, it's been reported that China had a class of LHDs in development, with the intention to bolster their amphibious capabilities.
The vessels would be used to give the Chinese Navy the ability to launch different types of rotorcraft to attack other naval vessels, submarines, or ground forces, as well as providing landing capabilities for ground forces.
The Type 075s will also support the People's Liberation Army Navy's (currently thin) aircraft carrier capabilities, with Beijing currently operating just one aircraft carrier, although that is expected to at least double next year following the launch of the Type 002 carrier that is currently undertaking sea trials.
By the looks of the Type 075 LHD in development within China State Shipbuilding Corporation’s Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard, the size of the vessel's welldecks is reportedly roughly comparable to the US Navy's Wasp Class LHDs, which are 81 metres long by 15 metres wide by 8.5 metres high.
The photos that have emerged online (scroll through the image gallery above for a look at the Type 075) show that the bridge structure has already been installed on the vessel's main hull, which experts speculate might mean the vessel is close to being launched.
Knowing China's ability to power through development and sea trials, it's expected for the LHD to be launched before 2020, with Hudong-Zhonghua especially building a reputation for being extremely efficient in its shipbuilding.
It is currently unconfirmed how many Type 075s are planned for China, however it's been heavily rumoured that the fleet will begin with three of the vessels
Reports also suggest that there are tentative plans by China to supplement the Type 075s with additional, larger LHDs, nicknamed the Type 075A, that could displace 40,000 tonnes or more.
China's current amphibious capabilities
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As it stands, the PLAN currently has 68 amphibious vessels in service across three different types of ship, which are:
- Amphibious transport docks (LPDs);
- Landing ship, tank (LSTs); and
- Landing ship, medium (LSMs).
China's LPDs, called the Type 071 or Yuzhao Class (under NATO designation), has the capability to carry four Z-8 Super Frelon helicopters, currently plugging PLAN's LHD needs, with the rest of its amphibious vessels ill-equipped for carrying more than one rotorcraft.
The first vessel of the class, Kunlun Shan, was commissioned in 2007, with four vessels following, and two more currently under construction.
The Type 071s feature a vehicle deck, well-deck, landing deck and a hangar, and can carry between 600-800 personnel, with the capability to operate as the flagship of a task force.
In addition to amphibious assaults, the Type 071 can conduct and support humanitarian, disaster relief and counter-piracy missions.
PLAN has four different classes of LST, Type 072 (Yukan), Type 072II (Yuting), Type 072III (Yuting II) and Type 072A (Yuting III).
The Type 072 has been in service for China since 1978, with all three vessels in the class currently still active.
Type 072II, the successor to the Yukan class vessels, were the first amphibious warfare ships to feature a flight deck for helicopter operations, and have been in service for PLAN since 1993, with four vessels in active service.
Following the same pattern, the follow-ups to the Type 072II are the Type 072III, which have a helicopter platform at stern (no hanger), and have been in service since the mid-'90s for China.
Ten Type 072IIIs are in service for the PLAN.
The newest LST vessel is the Type 072A, which were introduced into service for China in the early 2000s, with a total of 15 vessels in service.
The Type 072A is designed to accommodate air-cushioned landing craft with the incorporation of a deck well, and like the Type 072III, features a helipad without a hangar.
The Yuting II class is designed to carry carry 10 tanks, four landing craft, a medium helicopter and air cushioned vehicles, with a total of 250 armed troops.
All in all, China has 32 LSTs in service.
PLAN has 31 LSMs in active service as well, spread across five classes, the Type 073 (Yudao, Yudeng and Yunshu Class), the Type 74A (Yupei Class) and the Type 074 (Yuhai Class).
The Type 073 has seen several updates (the most recent being the Type 073A) since the beginning of the program in the 1960s, with the Type 073II, Type 073III and Type 073A still in service with the PLAN.
The landing ships have the capability to carry up to five medium tanks, 10 amphibious light tanks or up to 500 military personnel.
The first Type 074 was launched in the mid-1990s, following extensive testing of the vessels for decades earlier, and are capable of making oceanic voyages in moderate sea states, and are able to carry up to 100 tonnes of cargo, with the Type 074A being a stealthier version of its predecessor, with a catamaran hull design.