As the USS America (LHA-6) amphibious assault ship covers for the COVID-sidelined USS Theodore Roosevelt (CV-71) super aircraft carrier in the South China Sea, China is rapidly launching its own version of these impressive U.S. amphibious warships. In doing so, China intends to soon rival the U.S. in amphibious assault capability, and further threaten, and impose itself on Taiwan, and other neighbors.
The Chinese People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has just launched its second Type 075 Amphibious assault carrier in Shanghai, two days ago, reported Forbes, just yards from its sister ship which caught fire less than 2 weeks ago. China’s Type 075 is more like the USS Wasp class (LHD) amphibious assault ship than the America class, in that the Type-075 has a stern flooding well deck for launching hovercraft, while the America is an aviation only focused assault ship.
In addition to the first two ships China already launched, The Drive reported last August that the PLAN is building a third Type 075 vessel, though even more of these assault ships may be planned. These new Chinese flattops are expected to carry upwards of 30 helicopters of different types, several hundred infantry, and their vehicles, as well as two Type 726 Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft— basically a knockoff of the U.S. Navy’s LCAC.
While China does not yet have a vertical takeoff and landing aircraft similar to the U.S. Marine F-35C stealth fighters, to deploy on the Type 075, reports suggest they are working on producing some sort of VTOL aircraft.
These new PLAN capabilities nominally compare to US Marine Corps forces aboard its own amphibious ships, particularly the Wasp class LHDs. However, as The Drive explains, the PLAN amphibious assault mission would likely be focused primarily on credibly threatening Taiwan and dominating the South China Sea:
So, what we are seeing here is China investing heavily to build itself an amphibious capability that is second only to the United States. That is a very big deal considering the country’s controversial strategic and territorial aims. Beijing’s ability to realize an invasion of Taiwan, for instance, would be enhanced significantly by these ships. But the multitude of other disputes over territory, like the one regarding the Senkaku Islands and those over large swathes of the South China Sea, also play into the utility of such a high-end amphibious force.
Even China’s increasingly militarized man-made islands could be protected by these vessels and the shock troops and helicopters they hold. They could also be used to rapidly resupply these island outposts during a crisis or when their dock facilities have been destroyed. They also pose a real threat to the primary land holdings of regional competitors, like Japan, or countries that border the South China Sea, in a more traditional conflict.
China has also been increasingly focused on drilling to rapidly seize islands, sometimes alongside their Russian allies. These vessels will dramatically enhance their ability to realize such a military action and are ideal for fielding allied forces that could help in doing so.
While China has a much weaker naval and amphibious tradition than U.S. and European navies such as the United Kingdom, Netherlands, France and Italy, Forbes notes it has an unrivaled production capacity.
As such, China’s naval capabilities continue to grow at an incredible rate, vastly modernizing the world’s largest navy. Once the PLAN training and experience improves, the U.S. and the West will soon be facing a much more serious Chinese naval threat.