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Shichang (Multirole Aviation Ship)

The PLA Navy training ship Shichang resembles a scaled-down version of the Royal Navy's RFA Argus aviation training ship. According to the 10 June 1998 issue of Jane's Defence Weekly, Shichang features a superstructure forward and large space aft for either 2 Harbin Zhi-9A helicopters. The aft flight deck, spanning two-thirds of ship's length, enables simultaneous operations of multiple helicopters. This facilitates training for shipboard helicopter operations, as well as amphibious assult training. Shichang is officially described as a training ship and as a "Multifunctional National Defense Mobilization Ship". Addition of medical treatment and hospital ward modules allows Shichang to serve as a "true 'at-sea mobile hospital,'" with dimensions similar to a land-based equivalent. With its transport container, it can become a larger transport ship. Shichang boasts 108 rooms and compartments.

The aft deck can also house containers for equipment required for various training missions, allowing rapid reconfiguration. The overall layout is similar to that of the Arapaho concept tested by the Royal Navy on RFA Reliant in the 1980s. With a displacement of 10,000 tons and a speed of 17 knots, it is one of the larger and faster ships in the PLAN inventory. This provides a training platform for large ship handling andr flight deck operations.

The Shichang is widely regarded as the prelude to the construction of a helicopter carrier or amphibious assult vessel, and provides a basis for perfecting fixed-wing aircraft carrier operational concepts.

In May 1998 the Australian Minister for Defence, Mr Ian McLachlan, welcomed the first goodwill visit to Australia by three naval ships from the People's Liberation Army - Navy (PLA-N). For the four day visit to Sydney, the three guided missile destroyers PERTH, HOBART and BRISBANE and their crews, have been appointed as 'host ships' to the lead Chinese ship QINGDAO, the training ship SHICHANG and the oiler NANCANG respectively.

China's largest deck aviation platform, the multirole aviation training ship Shichang, has a hospital module, and has supported domestic flood relief efforts. It has also deployed as far away as New Zealand. With a priority on cross-sea operations and island seizures during 2000-01 training, the use of civilian marine vessels was also tested. In some cases, maritime exercises were conducted with a mix of civilian vessels that have been integrated into war planning. Civilian vessels and personnel even participated in antisubmarine exercises-showing that the use of civilian assets by the PLA is not limited by either imagination or legal restrictions.

In July 2000, the Navy held a 17-day, 4,000 nautical miles wartime shipping drill across the Bohai, Yellow, East China, and South China Seas, using the National Defense Mobilization Ship, Shichang. The exercise was the first successful drill of "wartime emergency mobilization and drafting of civilian personnel vessels." The exercise was jointly organized by the State National Defense Mobilization Committee and the PLA Navy. Dozens of military and civilians participated from the State Planning Commission, Finance Ministry, Communications Ministry, Chinese Academy of Engineering, General Staff Department, and General Logistics Department. The exercise tested and enhanced the efficiency of drafting civilian vessels into service in an emergency.

China's first militia maritime medical aid team staged a medical aid exercise on 13 July 2006 in a trans-waters mock battlefield spanning the Huanghai Sea and the Bohai Sea for the first time, indicating that China has built an improved coast-sea-air three-dimensional army-civilian medical aid system. This medical aid exercise in the trans-waters mock battlefield was organized by the state maritime medical mobilization center and participated by the "Shichang"-ship, which is a national defense mobilization ship, and medical aid vessels all belong to the PLA Navy. The exercise covered such maritime battlefield medical aid subjects as saving people fallen into the sea, transferring wounded people and providing first aid to badly injured people.

The militia maritime medical aid team that took part in this medical exercise in the trans-waters mock battlefield came into being in August 2005 and is the first militia maritime medical aid team in China. Its 50 members come from 18 medical units respectively in Shahekou District of Dalian City, Liaoning Province, and they are the top-notches in profession with high political consciousness and are strictly chosen from thousands of medical workers. Their professions cover thermal burn, bone injury, cardiovascular disease, anesthesia, nursing and medical appliance maintenance, etc.

By 2006 the Maritime Training Management Department at the Maritime Practice Center of the Dalian Naval Academy, which had only one training ship in the early years, had become the first training ship unit of the PLA Navy with the capabilities for open sea, intermediate and coastal waters practice, teaching and support in an organic, scale and systematic way. As of 2006, this training ship unit owned the "Zhenghe" Ocean-Going Navigation Training Ship, the "Shichang" Multifunctional National Defense Mobilization Ship, and the "Siping" Helicopter Missile Frigate as well as many other supportive training ships, such as towboats, sailboats and sampans, and therefore, it has become a modern maritime practice training flotilla with all kinds of ships.

Two thirds of the Chinese naval vessel commanders have the experience of practicing and being steeled in this training unit. The officers and men of this unit have successively sailed their ships on foreign visits to the USA, Thailand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and other countries on separate occasions. It also helped to ferry the UN peacekeeping forces to Cambodia and provided support in terms of ships for the maritime surveys conducted by the military attachs from 16 countries to China. Based on this unit, the state organs, general headquarters/departments of the PLA and the Navy also set up the first national maritime medical mobilization center, organized the first maritime militia medical first-aid organization, and thereby, have developed a new way for the new type of maritime medical first-aid system combining the peacetime and wartime purposes and the army and civilian, and enlisting the support of the civilians for the troops.

The source of the name Shichang is obscure.

The ship is probably named after Deng Shichang (1855-1894). The Yellow Sea Naval Battle during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1894 (launched by Japanese imperialism to annex Korea and invade China) happened on the sea 10 sea miles off the coast of Chengshantou. The patriotic general of Beiyang Navy of the Qing Dynasty, Deng Shichang, died in this battle on 17 September 1894. One corrupt Chinese official had used ammunition funds for personal use. As a result, shells ran out for the some of the warships during battle such that one navy commander, Deng Shichang, resorted to ramming the enemy's ship. Deng, captain of the 2,300-ton cruiser Chih Yuan, and his crew's fate was sealed when their vessel was hit by a torpedo during the Battle of the Yellow Sea, the first full-scale confrontation between two national fleets of ironclads in modern times. The then emperor, Guang Xu, wrote a lament for him, and the tomb with the inscription are still in Shihuangdi Temple.

Rather less likely is X Shchang (Pinyin) (Chinese: - Hs Shih-ch'ang (Wade-Giles) (1855-1939) was a prominent figure of the Beiyang Army warlords and President of the Republic of China (Beijing government) from 10 October 1918 to 02 June 1922. Coming from the Qing government, he was at one time the Viceroy of Manchuria.






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