China is close to completing construction of its third Type 075 landing helicopter dock (LHDs) amphibious assault ship intended to transport close to a thousand men of the People's Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps (PLANMC) anywhere in the world. It's now begun work on a new successor warship class, the Type 076.
Commercial satellite images apparently taken July 25 and now making the rounds of Chinese social media sites show the third Type 075 at its berth at the Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai. Images show the new warship is being assembled in the same dry dock where her two sister ships were built.
These two LHDs are seen at anchor outside the dock. The lead ship of this class began her sea trials on August 5 accompanied by a tug boat.
Chinese military pundits now affirm the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has begun work on designing the Type 075's successor, the Type-076. This new class will carry more aircraft in its organic air wing, including unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs), or armed aerial drones.
The Type 075 is 470 meters long, with each weighing some 40,000 metric tons. Its air wing consists of 30 Z-9WA attack helicopters, and a number of Changhe Z-8 heavy lift helicopters and Kamov Ka-27/28 Helix anti-submarine helicopters. It also carries 12 amphibious fighting vehicles.
Like similar warships in the U.S. Navy, the Type 075 will land and support PLAN Marines during amphibious attacks in enemy territory. It will also be capable of conducting command and control operations.
The Type 075 will partner with the Type 071 amphibious transport dock ships on operations. The Type 071 is similar in concept to the U.S. Navy's San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks (LPDs). PLAN operates six Type 071s.
The Type 075 is roughly comparable to the U.S. Navy's Wasp-class LHD amphibious assault ships. The Wasp-class, which numbers eight warships, is the only one apart from Nimitz-class supercarriers capable of deploying Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II stealth strike-fighters.
A Wasp-class LHD, however, can transport some 1,700 U.S. Marines of a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) in landing craft or helicopters. The PLAN Type 075 can only carry some 900 Chinese Marines.
Apart from the F-35B, a Wasp-class LHD carries Boeing AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft. The lead ship of this class, the USS Wasp, was commissioned in July 1989.
The total fighting strength of the PLANMC comes to only 35,000 men. Its "teeth" consists of two brigades: 1st Marine Brigade and 164th Marine Brigade, each with 6,000 men.