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Type 071 Yuzhao class Amphibious Transport Dock (LPD)

The PLA Navy increased its amphibious force in 2012. Two YUZHAO-class amphibious transport docks (LPD) (Type 071) were accepted into service during the year bringing the total of YUZHAO LPDs to three. In late July 2011 China commissioned its second amphibious dock landing warship, the 19,000 ton Jinggangshan, which had been launched in launched in November 2010.

Built by Shanghai's Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding, the new vessel was the second Type 071 dock landing ship. The 689-foot-long warship can carry 1,000 soldiers, helicopters, armored fighting vehicles, boats and landing craft. The first Type 071 dock landing ship, named Kunlunshan, which had no helicopter capacity, was launched on 22 December 2006 and commissioned into the PLAN South Sea Fleet on 30 November 2007.

Christian Bedford wrote in Fall 2011 of "the Type-071 Yuzhao-class landing platform dock (LPD), of which the PLAN has built three and is preparing to launch a fourth by the end of 2011. These vessels would be extremely useful to Beijing in any future action against islands in the South China Sea..." On 23 January 2012, a fourth PLA Navy 20,000-ton long-range type-071 (Yuzhao-class) amphibious transport dock (LPD) was reportedly launched at Shanghai Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard, marking another milestone in China’s amphibious warfare buildup.

According to Chinese newspaper "Huantsyu shibao", Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai held a launch for the fourth Type 071 class LPD. The launch was timed to happen on the Chinese New Year, 23 January 2012. As of mid-2013, no further launches had been reported. The long gap between the first and second units of some four years had initially suggested a rather leisurely build rate, but subsequent construction suggests a build rate of one per year. One source reports that as many as 8 LHAs might be expected, and at least these many LPDs in service by 2020 would not be surprising.

Evidently the Yuzhao class ships are named after mountain ranges in China. The Kunlun Shan is a major mountain system of Asia, situated in China about halfway between the Himalaya and Tian Shan mountain ranges. The Jinggangshan range of mountains is located 180km (110 miles) from Nanchang, between Hunan and Jiangxi provinces. The name of the new ship recalls founding of the Communist Party of China, which spanned the decade from the May 4 Movement in 1919 to the establishment of the Jinggangshan Revolutionary Base in 1928. Jinggangshan is known as the birthplace of the Chinese Red Army (the People's Liberation Army of China) and the "cradle of the Chinese revolution". The signficance of the "Yuzhao" class name is a bit less clear. Yuzhao is pinyin for omen or prognosis (in medicine).

By the beginning of 2002, China had over two dozen amphibious landing ships and could transport a brigade of marines at one time, but could not carry enough supplies. China continued to build Landing Ship, Tank designs, although this type of ship had been largely abandoned by other countries. At that time, there was reportedly credible evidence of Chinese ambitions to construct a 12,300-ton displacement amphibious transport dock (LPD). This ship could be capable of carrying up to four landing craft air cushion (LCAC) and several helicopters. In this way, China's Navy will have acquired improved capabilities at transporting tanks and soldiers.

Chronologies for the first unit exhibit some peculiarities. By one account, the lead ship, pennant 998 Kunlun Shan [Kunlunshan], was reportedly laid down in Shanghai in June 2006. In September 2006 the Chinese Shanghai-based Hudong Shipyard confirmed that a new amphibious warfare ship, Type 071 (Yuzhao) was under construction. It is generally agreed that this first unit was launched on 21 or 22 December 2006, but this would suggest that the hull was on stocks for not more than six months, which is a rather short period of time. This ship was reported to have conducted sea trials in September 2007, and to have been commissioned by the PLAN South Sea Fleet on 30 November 2007 [other accounts report December 2007]. At that time, it was presumed that the Chinese intended to construct more of that class, although there had been no official word on the subject.

In 2011, an analysis published by the US Naval Institute noted that "local observers now expect China to build up to six Type 071s along with six flat-deck helicopter carriers."

The chronology for the fourth unit, 988 Yimeng Shan, exhibits a peculiarity. The first three units were placed into service about a year after being launched. This fourth unit was launched in 2012, but did not enter service until 2015. This pause in construction cadence is suggestive of a block change of some sort, but no detailed reporting of that nature has emerged. The next four units were laid down in rapid succession - one in 2017, two in 2018, and a fourth in 2019. Clearly, whatever issue had slowed the program with the fourth unit had been resolved. At that point, it seemed that the yard was done with this class, and had made room for the much larger Type 075 Amphibious Assault Ship (LHD).

But in September 2019 it was reported that Thailand had signed a contract to purchase a Type 071 Yuzhao LPD, with launch anticipated around the end of 2022. While this would imply skipping one year in the one per year construction cadence of recent years, the pause in work would be modest to that seen between the fourth and fifth units.

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Page last modified: 17-09-2019 19:02:39 ZULU