Friday, June 19, 2015

Chinese Amphibious Assault Ships

We took a cursory look at Chinese surface combatants but what about Chinese amphibious assault ships?

China operates several types of amphibious assault vessels ranging from true LPDs to LSTs and LSMs.  Here is a brief summary of some of the recent amphibious ship classes.

Type 071  (Yuzhao-class LPD) – 6
20 armor vehicles, 500-800 troops, 4 LCAC

Type 072A  (Yuting III-class LST) – 13
5 tanks, 250 troops, LCAC well deck

Type 072III  (Yuting II-class LST) – 10
10 tanks, 250 troops

Type 072II  (Yuting-class LST) – 4
10 tanks, 250 troops

Type 072  (Yukan-class LST) - 3
10 tanks, 200 troops

Type 073  (Yudao, Yudeng and Yunshu-class LSM/T) – 13
4-6 tanks, 40 troops

Type 074, 074A (Yuhai-class LSM) – 18
2 tanks, 250 troops

What jumps out from this examination is the emphasis being placed on local/regional assault.  The LSMs and LSTs are suitable for short range transport and assault as opposed to the US Navy/Marine Amphibious Ready Group extended deployment concept.  Clearly, China sees the possibility of local assaults against neighboring countries.

Type 071 LPD

The other noteworthy aspect is that China is beginning to move from local assault capability to blue water, long range assaults. The Type 071 is a thoroughly modern and capable LPD, analogous to the Navy’s LPD-17 class.  China is clearly looking further afield and looking to operate amphibious forces on an extended deployment basis.

Further, China is reportedly designing and building an LPH/LHA type vessel.  This will cement China’s ability to conduct long range assaults and extended deployments.

ComNavOps is not a land combat expert by any means but China’s growing amphibious assault capability combined with their heavy armor emphasis in an assault means that someone is going to be facing a formidable assault force down the road, unlike the Marines who are heading down the path of light assault forces.

The US and regional countries need to keep a close eye on Chinese amphibious assault capabilities and ask themselves where they will be used.


  1. A while back, I read an account for retried Colonel Douglas MacGregor thinks that the US has become something like a Colonial army, like the European armies in the interwar period between WWI and WWII, focused more on facing developing world opponents and insurgencies rather than full nation states. The end result he argues was that for the first couple of years, it was disaster for the British.

  2. Here was the link:

    I think he wrote several other articles about it.

    Some say that had he not been so outspoken, he might have become a general by now.

    1. Alt, an excellent and timely reminder for us. Good article. Thanks for the link!

  3. It does make sense. It seems to my eye that our Navy at least has some real gaps when it comes to facing a peer.

    I think that's the biggest thing between now and the cold war: In the cold war the Navy was trying to prepare to fight a full Soviet threat that included (some) surface and a TON of subsurface threats. Now...

  4. Maybe I'm way wrong, but every time I see an amphib I can't help but think that these are ships for a mainly passive environment. ASCM's and submarines really can make these things have a bad day. And they don't have the freedom of room a CVN does, theoretically.

    I mean, even Vietnam has some new Kilo's. Taipei has some nice AShM's.

    It does tip the hand of the Chinese, but I think it will be awhile before these things could be used in a real threat environment where they can protect them.

    1. To be honest, I'm even more pessimistic about the American amphibious landing plans. There is a very heavy reliance on helicopters - and in particular the V-22.

      I think that having a heavily armored and PD armed amphibious craft is the way to go. Basically a modern LST.

      That's how the Russians seem to be going. They also have their seaplanes (ekranoplans) and large hovercraft (Zubr class), a few of which they've made a deal with China with.

    2. I suppose I'm equally pessimistic about both. The torpedo's and ASCM's don't really care if you are landing ships with connectors or helicopters.

      And while I have a healthy respect for Russian/Chinese capabilities... I also think there is the assumption that there stuff always works and ours won't. They've fallen down many of the same technological rabbit holes we have.

      Their ascm's? Tons of respect. Their aircraft the same way. Even if they only work 75% as planned they have alot of them. Their Frigates/Destroyers/'phibs... I think they have many of the same issues we do. (Will anti air work? What about ASW? land based peer quality defenders?...)

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. There will be failures on both sides of equipment.

      Hovercraft though won't be stopped by mines and torpedoes - fixed landing craft might though.

      It's also much harder to kill hovercraft and seaplanes than it would be for helicopters.

      Actually truth be told, I think attempting an amphibious landing at a well defended area these days would be suicide either way. You need surprise to do it.

      The other issue that nobody seems to discuss is keeping the forces that do land supplied - and for that you need the cargo capacity.

    5. "The other issue that nobody seems to discuss is keeping the forces that do land supplied - and for that you need the cargo capacity."

      We've discussed it at great length, you'll recall !

    6. True we have.

      But the issue is that whoever makes the big decisions in the procurement has not - nor for example have they made anti-submarine, anti-mine, and ship survivability a priority.

      Perhaps the DOT&E and arguably the GAO are the only 2 organizations that have made serious efforts at addressing these shortcomings.

    7. "Perhaps the DOT&E and arguably the GAO are the only 2 organizations that have made serious efforts at addressing these shortcomings."

      Alt, what a great comment! That's post-worthy. Outstanding!

    8. It's scary because without these 2 other organizations, in the case of the US Navy, it has very little other fact checking.

      I know that the military often holds the civilian leadership in contempt, but often the critics do have a point.

      This is an example:

      There are other organizations that sometimes do good work. POGO is one. Here's an example of their latest work:

      POGO consists of the old defense reformers - some of which were actually responsible for advocating for what became the DOT&E in the 1980s.

      But the scary thing is that there is little emphasis on the realities of wars.

  5. 071 has a large well deck able to hold 4 LCACs, and also a vehicle deck able to carry another 20 or so AAVs -- however it's worth noting that the PLA have not given their LPDs many LCACs, and we see more photos of the large well deck filled with AAVs more than anything. If an 071 carries only AAVs, it can carry 65 of them.

    Also worth mentioning, is that 071 can supposedly carry up to six 13 ton class helicopters (Z-8 pattern), based on a display sign they had up at a Chinese navy visit to Portsmouth. In that same sign we see that 071 has a full displacement of what is interpreted as slightly over 29,000 short tons, AKA 25,000 long tons, the same as a San Antonio class LPD

    A translation can be seen here:

  6. I have heard mixed things about Colonel Douglas MacGregor. Some say he is arrogant, but everyone agrees that he's not afraid to speak his mind.

    He had quite a few ideas for more major military reform and was one of the advocates for defense reform.

    The book, Breaking the Phalanx is worth a read. It's his ideas basically.

    Anyways, here is his blog (it's kind of like a version of you in some ways for the Army, although he doesn't allow comments):

    On the current dispute with Russia:

    On China:

    On the US Marine Corps:

    Read them and let me know what you think.


Comments will be moderated for posts older than 7 days in order to reduce spam.