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LIMA 2017: China proposes light LHD

21st March 2017 - 12:30 by Gordon Arthur in Langkawi

LIMA 2017: China proposes light LHD

The China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Company (CSOC) showed a large scale model of a landing helicopter dock (LHD) vessel at the LIMA 2017 exhibition in Langkawi, Malaysia.

Although labelled a landing platform dock (LPD) the ship model had a flat-top deck suitable for landing up to four helicopters. The model interestingly showed an embarked V-22 Osprey and MH-60 Seahawk while a spokesperson said the ship could embark ten helicopters in total.

This new design was an interesting addition to the potpourri of ship designs that CSOC exhibited especially considering the fact that the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) is not in the market for such a large-displacement vessel.

While the RMN has long had a desire to obtain LPDs it has been stymied in its quest by budgetary restrictions. Certainly it has no declared desire for an LHD.

Indeed, the most likely candidate to meet Malaysia's LPD requirement is the Multi-Role Support Ship (MRSS) from PT PAL being offered in conjunction with local partner Boustead Naval Shipyard. The MRSS is 163m long and displaces 12,000t.

A spokesperson from CSOC said the LHD model on display at LIMA 2017 had a displacement of approximately 20,000t. He confirmed it was not designed for the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) but that it had been proposed to several overseas customers.

Nevertheless there were similarities between the 20,000t LHD and the much larger Type 075 LHD that the PLAN appears destined to obtain. The shape of the island superstructure, for example, matched that of the Type 075 seen in unofficial artist's renditions.

Some sources within China previously stated that steel cutting on the first-of-class would take place in the first quarter of 2017.

The China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) has apparently been awarded the construction contract for the Type 075 that will have an estimated displacement of 36,000t. This size would make it marginally smaller than a 40,500t Wasp-class LHD of the US Navy.

The Type 075 will have landing deck spaces for six helicopters and should be able to accommodate up to 30 helicopters. In the case of the PLAN this would probably include types such as the Z-8, Z-9, Z-18, Ka-28 and Ka-31. A main elevator is located at the stern.

On the Type 75 each corner of the hull features self-defensive weapons, including two H/PJ-11 11-barrelled 30mm close-in weapon system and two HQ-10 short-range surface-to-air missiles.

With the size of the PLAN Marine Corps set to rise from its current 20,000 troops to somewhere close to 100,000, China's navy will have an urgent need for LHDs.

The PLAN's largest amphibious support vessels at the moment are four Type 071 LPDs, although a fifth is under construction and a sixth is expected. Beijing had previously offered Malaysia this class of ship.

Interestingly, CSOC also showed a model of the Type 001 Liaoning aircraft carrier at LIMA 2017 as well, further underscoring China's efforts to make carrier acquisitions as routine and acceptable as possible.

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