The Chinese Navy’s newest amphibious warfare asset, the Type 075 LHD (Landing Helicopter Dock) is setting sail for the first time, according to ship spotter reports.
The vessel, which was built in Shanghai, has been fitting out since it was floated on September 26, 2019. Candid photos surfacing on the Chinese language internet show it being fueled, and tugs readied.
The Type-075 represents a step-change in the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) amphibious warfare capabilities. It will enable better over-the-horizon landing capabilities and improve air cover. And there are already rumors of the follow-on Type-076 LHD which is expected to include EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System) for unmanned combat aerial vehicles or crewed aircraft. At this stage, these rumors should be treated with caution. But they do give an indication of the direction PLAN amphibious capabilities are going.
In addition to the well-deck for Type 726 hovercraft (generally equivalent to the U.S. Navy’s Landing Craft Air Cushion), the LHD will have a large rotor-wing component. This will include the Z-8 transport helicopter which is based on the French SA 321 Super Frelon. More modern types seen aboard, in mock-up form, include the naval variant of the Harbin Z-20 — an apparent copy of the Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk-Sea Hawk family.
There are also small rotor-wing UAVss including a Ka-27/28 HELIX anti-submarine warfare helicopter model aboard for deck tests.
Images in the public domain show a range of rotor-craft models aboard the Type 075. This is a common practice aboard Chinese warships and is a strong leading indicator of the operational air wing.
The ship suffered a fire on April 11, 2020. Although the fire was quickly put out and damage appeared minimal, smoke stains are still visible in the aft port-side near to the ramp.
The Hudong-Zhonghua yard in Shanghai where the lead Type 075 has been built has already launched a second ship. And analysis of commercial satellite imagery suggests that module for a third may be on its way. At the moment the yard is building the Type 054A frigate for the Pakistan Navy and, it appears, a Type 071 LPD for Thailand.
The PLAN began development of the Type 075 in 2011 as a helicopter carrier that would displace about 35,000 tons — smaller than the U.S. 45,000-ton Wasp and America-class big decks. The unnamed ship launched last year.
A version of this post originally appeared on Naval News. It’s been republished here with permission.