25 April 2015
A company-produced model of what could be China's first landing helicopter dock amphibious assault ship. (photo : CJDBY)
An apparent company-produced model of a landing helicopter dock (LHD) amphibious assault ship may offer an indication of the configuration and capabilities of such a ship that is expected to be produced for the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
An image of the model appeared on Chinese military web pages on 22 April. A subsequent online search found the same image on a model manufacturer's website with the designation Type 081.
Chinese defence manufacturers have long used models to preview their platforms, although the models' veracity is often complicated by a lack of supporting information. In addition, Chinese model companies seeking sales often put speculative designs on the market and this model does seem to mirror some recent Chinese "fan art".
However, for nearly a decade Chinese and other sources have projected that the PLAN would acquire an LHD, with up to six platforms in the class. These would complement an expected force of six Type 071 landing platform dock (LPD) amphibious assault ships, four of which have been launched.
The LHS has three sponsons featuring vertical launchers, possibly for SAM systems. (photo : CJDBY)
The model pictured fits the description of a future LHD by Admiral Yin Zhou during a November 2012 Chinese television interview, in which he stated that it would approach 40,000 tons displacement.
The model is shown with 14 helicopters embarked, including Change Z-18 and Kamov co-axial helicopters. While it is not possible from the model to determine the type of Kamov, reports from 2006 noted China's interest in "several dozen" of the Ka-29 armed assault version.
The LHD apparently employs a stern-mounted main aircraft elevator, similar to that employed by the French Mistral-class LHD, but positioned to the starboard to retain a longer "runway".
Below the elevator is a well-deck for disembarking and receiving amphibious assault forces. It is likely this size LHD could carry a mix of amphibious armoured assault vehicles or hovercraft for transporting wheeled or tracked vehicles.
China's LHD may also employ heavier integral missile armament than Western LHDs. In addition to two HHJ-10 point defence missile launchers, the model shows vertical launchers in three sponsons, two on the port and one on the starboard: a configuration similar to that used by the French Navy's carrier Charles de Gaulle for its Aster 15 SAMs.