PLAN’s First Type-075 LHD launched
Prasun K. Sengupta
In a brief ceremony held on 25 September 2019, the China State Shipbuilding Corp’s (CSSC) Shanghai-based Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard launched the first of three Type-075 landing helicopter docks (LHD) that are on order from the PLA Navy. Displacing about 30,000 tonnes, the LHD has a length of 250 metres, 32-metre beam width, draught of 8.5 metres, a maximum cruising speed of 23 Knots, and the capacity to house up to eighteen 12-tonne helicopters both above- and below-deck. Design work on the Type-075 LHD began in 2011 and the keel of the first vessel was laid two years ago. The LHD is expected to carry 18 Z-18F ASW/utility helicopters and Z-18K AEW helicopters. CSSC has also been offering a smaller LPH variant of the Type-075 LHD for export.
Earlier, in a signing ceremony held in China’s capital Beijing on 9 September 2019 the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) signed a contract with China’s state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corp (CSIC) for procuring a Type-071E amphibious transport dock (LPD). CSIC subsidiary China State Shipbuilding Corp (CSSC) will build the LPD. CSSC’s General Manager, Yang Jincheng, and the RTN Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Luechai Ruddit, signed the contract. The Type-071E is an export variant of the Type-071, or Yuzhao-class LPD, currently in service with the People’s Liberation Army’s Navy (PLAN). The PLAN has six Type-071s in service, with one more being built at the company’s Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai. The RTN’s Type-071E LPD will cost USD200.7 million (Baht 6.1 billion), with delivery being made in 2022. Thailand previously ordered a single S-26T diesel electric submarine (SSK) from CSIC as part of a government-to-government contract signed in 2017. Steel-cutting for this submarine took place on 5 September 2019.
Thailand uses the carrying capacity of its amphibious ships for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions in response to natural disasters (mostly flooding as a result of annual monsoonal rains) in addition to more traditional military amphibious operations. The RTN currently operates the HTMS Angthong, a 462-feet Endurance-class LPD acquired from the Marine Division of Singapore’s ST Engineering in 2008. That ship was put into service in 2012. The RTN has also used its sole aircraft carrier HTMS Chakri Naruebet for disaster relief missions, acting as a helicopter carrier.
The PLAN’s 689-feet, 25,000-tonne Type-071s can each accommodate 600-800 troops depending on the mission, as well as two 150-tonne landing craft carried on davits mounted on its superstructure. The LPD has a stern well dock that can launch and recover up to four Type 726 Yuyi-class air-cushioned landing craft. It can also carry up to four 12-tonne helicopters in its hangars and has two helicopter landing spots. The LPD is fitted with one 76mm gun and four 30mm close-in weapon systems. Three vessels of this class were put in service between 2007 and 2012, all assigned to the PLAN’s South Sea Fleet. A second batch of five more Type-071s were added to the order book during the 12th five-year plan (2011-2015). Things have been moving fast since, with the commissioning of the 4th vessel in the class, Yimeng Shan (pennant number 988) in February 2016, Longhu Shan (980) in September 2018 and Wuzhi Shan (987) in January 2019. The 7th Type-071, Wudang Shan, as well as the 8th one (name yet to be revealed), are currently undergoing fitting out in Shanghai. The latter, launched at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard on 6 June 2019, is expected to be the last, at least for the second batch of orders.
The Type 726 hovercraft was developed by Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC) and are now being series-produced at China’s Jiangnan Changxing shipyard, located near Shanghai. The first four of them are equipped with the UGT-6000 gas-turbine engines, produced by the JSC ‘Sumy Frunze NPO’ of Ukraine. The following Type 726A hovercraft use locally-developed QC-70 gas-turbine engines (an alteration of the FWS-10A turbofan). The Type 726/726A is capable to carrying up to 60 tonnes of equipment. Its maximum range is 320km.