Naval Expansion Continues

PLAN’s first of the three Type 075 helicopter-carriers started her sea trial

Prasun K. Sengupta

The first of three Type 075 helicopter-carriers (LHD) of the People’s Liberation Army’s Navy (PLAN) built by the Shanghai-based Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding Co commenced her sea trial on August 4. This was four months after a serious fire broke out within its bilge-bay while the vessel was being fitted-out at the wet basin. The Type 075 LHD’s maiden voyage will likely test its principal on-board systems, including propulsion, navigation and communications suites. Sea-trials of this lead vessel will last for almost 18 months.

PLAN’s First Type-075 LHD in Sea-Trials

The 35,000-tonne Type 075 LHD’s design work began in 2011 under the state-owned China State Shipbuilding Corp (CSSC), and hull construction began in late 2018. It was launched on September 25 last year, following which it left the drydock within 24 hours and entered the wet-basin. The second Type 075 LHD’s hull was launched last April. Each such LHD will be able to host between 28 and 30 medium-lift Z-8J and Z-20 multi-role helicopters, plus up to eight vertical takeoff and landing unmanned aerial vehicles (VTOL-UAV).

In another development, the Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard launched the first of four Type 054A/P guided-missile frigate for the Pakistan Navy (IN) on August 22. It may be recalled that the PN on 1 June 2019 had inked a contract with CSTC for procuring two additional 4,000-tonne FFGs to add to the first two it had ordered exactly a year ago. The signing ceremony took place at Pakistan’s ministry of defence production in Rawalpindi in the presence of the PN’s deputy chief of naval staff (Operations), Rear Admiral Faisal Rasul Lodhi. All four FFGs will be delivered by mid-2021. Designed by the China International Shipbuilding Corp (CISC) Group’s 701 Institute, all four FFGs will be built by the same shipbuilder.

The 4,000-tonne FFG’s design is derived from that of the PLAN’s Type 054A FFG. It will have an endurance of 21 days, length of 135 metres, range of 4,000 nautical miles (when cruising at 18 Knots) and top speed of 26 Knots. It will have 32 vertical-launch system (VLS) cells containing the LY-80N surface-to-air missiles (SAM), one 76mm HPJ-26 main naval gun, two 30mm HPJ-17 30mm Type 1130 close-in guns, a 24-cell FL-3000N point-defence missile system (PDMS), twin ET-52C triple-tube torpedo  launchers, one mast-mounted SR-2410C S-band active phased-array radar developed by the China Educational Instrument & Equipment Corp (CEIEC), twin six-barrel Type 87 240mm anti-submarine rocket launchers (with 36 rockets), twin Type 726-4 18-tube decoy rocket launchers, and eight inclined launchers housing the Harba anti-ship cruise missile variant of the Babur land-attack cruise missile (which itself is a China-developed clone of the Ukraine-developed Korshun cruise missile). All four FFGs will be optimised for anti-submarine fleet control missions. Each FFG will be powered by four SEMT Pielstick 16 PA6 STC diesel engines.

PGM Developments

The state-owned China North Industries Corp (NORINCO) has unveiled a 500kg GPS-guided gliding precision-guided munition (PGM) equipped with manually extending and retracting small wings. The PGM is a derivative of the 60km-range Tianghe TL-500 gliding PGM and the 500km-range turbojet-powered GB-6A PGM—both of which are equipped with runway-penetrating cluster sub-munitions.

Pakistan Navy’s first type 054AP FFG being launched

The front-end of the GPS-guided gliding PGM features a sleek nose profile designed for low-observability, while the tail section houses six small fins. The body of the PGM includes a faceted configuration to reduce its radar signature, plus pop-out wings to increase its glide range. The dispersal area for the sub-munitions is claimed by NORINCO to be more than 6,000 square metres.

NORINCO also claims that this PGM has been designed perform high-altitude long-range launch, autonomous all-weather attacks, and high-precision hits. Flight-testing of this PGM is still underway, with service-entry estimated to take place next year.


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