Monday, July 20, 2015

Update on Chinese Navy: MLP and Zubr

Most recently, a new amphibious type of ship entered service with Chinese navy that looks to be similar to US’s Mobile Landing Platform. You can see it from the picture below.


As shown int he pictures, the most obvious usage of this ship (Given the number 868) has already been shown in photos where a Zubr class hovercraft boarded it. Based on the current photos, only one Zubr class hovercraft can fit in the platform area although it could also possibly also hold a Type 726 hovercraft (Chinese version of LCAC). PLAN had previously signed contract to purchase 4 Zubrs from Ukraine with 2 produced in Ukraine and the other 2 in China. The 2 from Ukraine were both delivered prior to Russia’s takeover of Crimea, but future dealings for Zubrs will most likely be with the Russians. At the time of purchase, it looked like they could be used in any Taiwan conflict scenarios or any amphibious operations in South China Sea. More blue water amphibious marine expeditions required the Type 071 class. The induction of No. 868 certainly allows more expanded operational scenario for Zubr, but the scale of its usage is really limited by the number of such MLPs that PLAN will likely induct in the future.

This looks to be a vote of confidence for Zubr class in China. I think that China will be building more Zubr with Russian help (especially on propulsions) after the first batch of 4 joins service. This huge commitment for Zubr comes after PLAN had already inducted the smaller Type 726 into service. That would indicate Zubr is bringing some unique capabilities that Type 726 launched from Type 071 simply cannot provide. As with No. 868, we will have to wait to see its other usage cases, since PLAN is unlikely to have ordered such a ship just to carry 1 Zubr around.

12 comments:

jw said...

I really do not like people comparing this new ship to the U.S. MLP. The fact is this ship is a semi-submersible transport ship which China had been building and using for a long time way before the U.S. MLP concept took shape. I even believe China is operating one of the biggest ships of this kind. Furthermore, I believe the way the Chinese navy going to operate this new ship type is to transport the LCAC and FAC to and from the South China Sea. While this days, a lot of people are arguing that the 022 type FAC is useless in the Chinese navy, I think that it will be ideal for defense of the SCS inlands. But the 022 sure would need a transport for deployment in these offshore bases.

LKK said...

Maybe you are too young, the US did use such concept years ago, from the old attack transports which got landing craft on deck lowered by derrick, to LPDs carrying one or more LCACs. Other heavy-lift like the Project Azorian are being used for some specific tasks also. For MLP type vessel Mighty Servant 2 brought back the USS Samuel B. Roberts from the Middle East to US in 1988, and the famous Blue Marlin bringing back the USS Cole in 2000.

Blue Marlin weight 76000 tons, Mighty Servant 2 weights 40190 tons, while the 868 weights 30000 tons.

jw said...

What I meant is that neither the US MLP nor the new Chinese semi-submersible was a new concept. They are both using this ship type which is commonly used in commercial shipping industries for different military applications. While the US is using it as a landing platform in an attack role, the Chinese; as I believe; will use it as a transport to ferry the shorter range crafts to support off shore bases at longer distance from the main land. Furthermore, if you check the website of COSCO, you will find that the Chinese actually operates a sizable fleet of these semi-submersible for heavy transport purpose. Therefore, saying the newly shown Chinese ship is modelled off the US MLP has no valid meaning.

LKK said...

JW, did you notice what you typed regarding China's and US's way of using the vessels are the same? :) Both are platforms for short-range landing crafts to launch attack to their targets.

Also, please note that while the China got a bunch of heavy lift ships, using it with hovercraft/landing craft is their first time. Also, it was well known that China Marines were impressed by the MLP concepts and made dozens of journals regarding on developing a Chinese version MLP. Some of these can be found in China's naval military magazine starting from 2010.

LKK said...

If you want to learn more about heavy lift vessels and semi-submersible vessels, please read the following two links to learn more

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy-lift_ship
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semi-submersible

jw said...

I disagree. As I indicated the US MLP is intended as a direct attack landing platform, the Chinese application is mainly as a transport. You might have noted that when China acquired her Kilo, those boats were delivered to China utilizing semi-submersibles. that is way before US came up with the MLP concept. I am not say these are not the same or similar ship types. It is just that both countries found their own military applications from a commercial ship type. It has nothing to do with one modelled off the other.

jw said...

Note that a landing craft is not the same as a troop transport. Although the purpose of both are to carry troops, application is different.

LKK said...

MLP is basically an upgrade to the semi-submersible vessel concepts. However judging from photos and videos of Zubr, they are using the 868 in the attack role rather than pure transport.


And do you know the US Navy MCMs and PCs travel to the Middle East during and after the Desert Storm? They travel to there by semi-submersibles also, also way before MLP concept appear.

jw said...

Judged by the sizes of the 868 and the Zubr, I doubted the 868 will be deployed as an attacked platform. The 868 can carry only one Zubr and that seems quite insufficient to project the necessary force for direct attack. Also observed from the orientation of the Zubr as it was carried by the 868, launching of the Zubr was too slow for attack operation. However, with the newly reclaimed land and islands in the SCS, certain amount of navy asset must be stationed in these islands. Since I doubted there will be adequate naval maintenance and service factilities on these islands, the 868 will be ideal in rotating the shorter range Zubr and 022's to and forth between the islands and the shipyards in the main land. As noted, the US MLP is much bigger to deploy more force at one time and the orthogonal arrangement of the asset being carried allows for faster launching. These differences between the 868 and the MLP convinced me that other than the similarity in structure, they will be utilized quite differently.

LKK said...

While I agree the 868 is a bit small to carry much units, the SCS islands fits 868/Zubr combination on being a mini-MLP, Zubr carrying small units from 868 confront small island in SCS which got small units also. That's also the main reason why it's deployed in the South Sea Fleet.

Sure the launching of the Zubr is currently slow, but it takes time for them to practice to make it faster. And if the 868 carry Type 726 instead the transition will be much faster.

Feng said...

we don't know all the roles of this ship until later. Let's wait and see.

willytan1 said...

Rosoboronexport is currently negotiating with the Chinese on how to supply additional units of the Zubr class Lcac. This is the case as the Russians have taken over the "Moyre" shipyard in Feodosia, Crimea which built the Zubyrs.

The Russians were not very pleased with the Ukrainians for selling China its version of the Zubr at a cheaper price and also for selling to the Chinese the rights to licence produce the Zubr. The Ukrainian Zubr is powered by the Ukrainian UGT6000 or MR70 Naval Gas Turbine which produces 10,000shp. The Russian Zubr is powered by the nk-12 engine from the TU-95 bomber. China was negotiating to licence produce the M70 Gas Turbine not too long ago.

I am not sure if the Russians will allow China to continue license production of the Zubr. They were not happy with the license production arrangement.

In the case that the Russians do not allow further licence production, China can either purchase the Zubr from Russia obviously at a higher price or proceed to build a Chinese version of the Zubr based on the blueprints given by the Ukrainians.

This locally produced Chinese Zubr can be powered by imported Ukrainian M70 gas turbines or the licensed produced version of the M70. Alternatively AVIC can supply a gas turbine from its large range of locally produced naval gas turbines.

Either way, we can expect to see more Zubr LCAC's in PLAN service.