Thursday, November 30, 2023

People's Liberation Army perfects use of ferries for amphibious assault

If the War in Ukraine demonstrated one thing with certainty, it was that long-range missile and artillery strikes were not capable of significantly and lastingly altering the resistance capabilities of a prepared adversary, and that to carry out an assault against such forces, it is essential to have a massive force capable of imposing itself quickly and opening the breaches necessary for the maneuver. The situation is even more delicate when it comes to carrying out an amphibious assault, especially when facing a well-equipped and well-trained army like the Taiwanese forces. Knowing that it would be both very time consuming and very expensive to build a fleet of dedicated ships such as assault helicopter carriers and landing craft transports, the People's Liberation Army, for whom the capture of Taiwan represents clearly a major medium-term objective, has been experimenting for several years with the potential use of China's vast fleet of commercial ships to carry out such an assault.

Unlike a long-range assault, for which transport and assault ships must not only ensure force projection but also support the amphibious corps once engaged, an amphibious assault against Taiwan would only take place 400 km away. Chinese coasts, offering numerous opportunities to create a sufficient logistical flow once the beachhead is secured, both by naval and air means, whether civil or military. However, to obtain the mass necessary for the success of such an assault, the People's Liberation Army intends to take advantage of the large fleet of Ferries which circulate along the Chinese coast and beyond. In recent years, Beijing has even launched the construction of certain ships which, under the designation of ro-ro or RoRo, actually have advanced operational capabilities, with for example a vast helicopter platform which is of little interest. for this type of ship, outside of military use. This is particularly the case of the Bo Hai Heng Tong, a 15,000 ton ferry launched in 2020, which has more than 2 km of mobile loading capacity with a width of 3 meters on 3 decks, allowing it to accommodate 3 times more armored vehicles than the San Antonio class LPDs, the latest US Navy assault ships.

Roro China Defense Analysis | Amphibious assault | Assault Fleet
the Bo Hai Heng Tong after its launch in 2020. Note the huge helicopter platform

It is precisely this ship which was at the heart of an amphibious assault exercise observed by American satellites on August 31 near the Taiwan Pass. Supported by the LHD Type 71 Wuzhishan, as well as an unidentified LST, the Bo Hai Heng Tong thus demonstrated its ability to embark Type 05 armored amphibious assault vehicles (in the main illustration) from the beach, then to transport them put back into the sea so that they return to shore. The civilian ship was equipped with a special ramp to allow transfers to the sea. Based on satellite observations, the weather conditions were excellent during the exercise. According to Tom Shugart , an analyst specializing in this area, this exercise would be the largest in volume ever observed using a civilian ship. It was, without the slightest doubt, a matter of acquiring valuable experience in implementing this type of ship in the event of an assault against Taiwan, without however representing an exercise that could be described as massive, suggesting the imminence of such an assault. As explained in a previous article, the People's Liberation Army will not have a sufficient combat fleet to calmly undertake this offensive before 2030 or even 2035.

LOGO meta defense 70 Analyzes Defense | Amphibious assault | Assault Fleet

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Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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