China's first Type 075 assault ship close to launch

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New photos appearing on Twitter show that the progress of the first Chinese Type 075 assault helicopter carrier suggests a launch in the coming months, before the end of 2019. Built by the Hudong shipyards -Zhonghua, near Shanghai, the first Type 075 should enter service with the Chinese naval forces at the beginning of 2021, and its two sister ships, also under construction, between 2022 and 2024. In all probability, between 6 and 9 copies will equip Beijing's fleet by 2030.

The LHD Type 075 is a very imposing ship, weighing between 35.000 and 40.000 tonnes according to estimates, for a length of 250 m. It will be capable of carrying around thirty helicopters of all types, as well as 4 Type 726 assault hovercraft, to land the equivalent of a battalion and its rolling equipment. This ship is part of the strengthening of the projection capacities of the People's Liberation Army, and in particular the increase from 2 to 7 brigades of "Marines", the numbers increasing from 10.000 to 40.000 men. They will be supported by the 8 Type 071 assault ships, 6 of which are in service today, weighing 21.000 tonnes and capable of landing 2 Marine Companies, i.e. 500 men, using Type 726 hovercraft or landing craft. In fact, in 2030, the Chinese Navy will have a naval air projection and assault capacity substantially comparable to that of the American Marine Corps, even if, for the moment, it has neither the know-how nor the equipment to put themselves on an equal footing with US forces.

type726 hovercraft Defense News | Amphibious assault | Military naval construction
China begins construction of a large fleet of Type 726 assault hovercraft

While the entry into service of the Type 075 will undoubtedly strengthen the overall force projection capabilities of the People's Liberation Army, it will not, however, lead to a substantial increase in threats for Taiwan. Indeed, even with 9 Type 075s, the PLA will only have a projection capacity of 40.000 men during a first wave of assault, including 15.000 airborne, an insufficient number to carry out a frontal assault on the Taiwanese beaches , which has 275.000 active military personnel and almost 3 million reservists. On the other hand, they would allow Beijing to quickly seize a significant number of islands surrounding Formosa, such as the Ishigaki Islands belonging to Japan in the northeast, or the Basco Island belonging to the southern Philippines, so as to continue a curtain defensive for the implementation of a naval and air blockade of the secessionist island, and thus reduce the reaction and nuisance capabilities of the US Navy and its allies. The experience acquired in the militarization of islands and atolls in the China Sea will, as such, be widely used by the Chinese General Staff to quickly strengthen the defensive and access denial capabilities of these islands.

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A hypothesis that should certainly not be neglected, given the determination of Beijing, and of President Xi Jinping, to bring Taiwan back under its domination.

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