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.