Taipei, Jan. 25 (CNA) Hong Kong's Ming Pao (明報) newspaper reported on Friday that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is building large amphibious assault ships to bolster gaps in its naval strategic doctrine.
Written by Liang Kuo-liang (梁國樑), the story said that the PLA Navy considers large amphibious assault ships to be the ideal vehicle to fill the void between its aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines.
According to the report, in 2004 the push towards the adoption of amphibious assault ships garnered consensus across China's military.
The report further said that the PLA's inabilities in maintaining regional security was exposed during recent flare-ups of civil war in South Sudan, where the state-run China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has tremendous investments, while its fleet of aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines were sidelined and unable to project military force.
The PLA quickly became aware of the many inadequacies of its Type 071 Kunlun Shan-class (崑崙山艦) amphibious transport dock during conflicts in Africa. Despite its ability to carry two Russian-designed Zubr-class air cushion landing crafts (LCAC), currently the largest military hovercraft of its kind, the Type 071 vessel is plagued by a lack of firepower and inability to fill command and air support roles in combat.
The same inadequacies in military humanitarian missions were repeated during the subsequent armed conflicts in Libya, which hastened the adoption of amphibious crafts by the PLA, the report said.
In addition, the report said that the PLA might be motivated to match the capabilities of the U.S. Navy's America amphibious class landing crafts.
In response, China's dockyards are scrambling to build its own home-grown amphibious assault craft, with a displacement of 50,000 long tons, said the report, and the Shanghai Jiangnan-Changxing Shipbuilding Company Limited (上海江南長興造船廠) has been commissioned to build at least four amphibious assault ships.
The report also implied that the PLA Air Force is developing a variant of the J-10 fighter jet, equipped with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities.
Of note, diagrams released by Xinhuanet (新華網) revealed a design for China's amphibious assault vessel that stands 265 meters in length and is capable of launching jet fighters, helicopters, and LCACs.
(By Stanley Cheung and Ted Chen) ENDITEM/ROBERT