An air-cushioned landing boat slides from a Type 071 amphibious ship during a drill. Photo: PLA Daily

The People’s Liberation Army Navy inaugurated another Type 071 landing ship last week, with military experts saying such ships could enhance China’s military advantages in potential island disputes.

The 210-meter-long, 28-meter-wide ship, the Longhushan, which has a maximum displacement of 29,000 tons, has been nicknamed the “mini aircraft carrier.” It is currently China’s largest homemade amphibious transport dock.

According to Xinhua, the ship, which can accommodate a crew of 600-800 personnel, features a large dock space with two landing spots for helicopters; a spacious, cantilever hangar to accommodate a combination of marines, vehicles, helicopters, amphibious light tanks and infantry fighting vehicles; and no less than four air-cushioned landing craft.

The ship can transfer vehicles or marines to shore at high speed. The Type 071 is on a par with the United States’ San Antonio class amphibious transport docks but comes at half the cost, according to the Hong Kong-based Kanwa Defence Review. The maximum endurance of the vessel is 60 days.

Longhushan, the fifth ship of the class, was named after a mountain in Yingtan, Jiangxi Province. Two more such ships are under construction in Shanghai.

Three air-cushioned landing boats approach an island. Photo: PLA Daily

“China is developing Type 071 ships to meet requirements of possible wars involved with islands in the future, which could help it gain advantages in solving disputes on islands like Taiwan, and smaller islets off the coast of the South China Sea,” military commentator Song Zhongping told the Global Times.

So far, he added, four such Type 071 landing ships have entered service. They can work in tandem with Type 075 amphibious assault ships and ensure sea superiority during landing and amphibious assaults to capture, “or recapture”, islands, Song said. “It could also deliver the navy and the army to the target island. The expanding number of this type of ship could greatly enhance the PLA Navy’s amphibious warfare capability.”

Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times on Wednesday that, aside from their use in landing operations, Type 071 ships have been involved in PLA Navy escort missions since 2008.