Welcome to another headache for the Pentagon — it appears China has grasped accelerated shipbuilding technologies and related aircraft development as its march toward an imposing blue water navy continues unabated.
According to the Global Times, China is reportedly set to launch its second Type 075 amphibious assault ship soon following the launch of the first one in September.
An amphibious assault ship is a type of warship which military analysts believe could play a crucial role in reunifying the island of Taiwan by force, if it comes to that, and even more are needed, the report said.
The second Type 075 amphibious assault ship, being built in Hudong Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai, is about to be launched, as its construction, including the hull and flight deck, is already complete, Ordnance Industry Science Technology, a Xi’an-based periodical on the national defense industry.
The ship is still in dark red due to the anti-corrosive priming paint and is not yet painted with the standard naval gray, the report said.
It is only half a year since the first Type 075 was launched, which is much faster than usual, the Ordnance Industry Science Technology reported, noting that this means China has mastered the technology of building amphibious assault ships, the report said.
Another reason for the Type 075s’ fast production is that the aviation combat equipment to be used on them is seeing smooth progress, as the Navy already has the naval versions of Z-8 and Z-9 helicopters and mass production for the naval version of the Z-20 is also expected to start in a few years, the periodical said.
The modernization of the Chinese navy, also known as the PLA Navy, has been underway since the 1990s, and its fleet has greatly expanded, National Defense reported.
In its annual report on China published last year, the Defense Department stated that its Asian rival has more than 300 surface combatants, submarines, amphibious ships, patrol craft and other specialized vessels, the report said.
In 2019, China had a 335-ship fleet, about 55% larger than in 2005, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report titled, “China’s Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress.”
“There is no doubt that they’ve been investing hugely in this,” said Nick Childs, senior fellow for naval forces and maritime security at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“In recent years, they’ve been outbuilding everybody.”
To put it in perspective, during a recent four-year period the naval vessels that Chinese shipyards produced were roughly equivalent in tonnage to the entire U.K. Royal Navy or the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.
According to NextBigFuture.com, by 2030, China’s Navy will have over 530 ships while the US might have 300-330 ships.
The US will increase ships only if they lengthen the lives of older ships and get some additional budget for new shipbuilding and for more naval personnel.
China should have five to six carriers in service by 2030 and two to three could have the size, aircraft capacity and launch systems to compete with 11 US aircraft carriers, the report said.
Meanwhile, the jewel in the Chinese navy’s crown is under construction.
According to The Economist, the Jiangnan shipyard at the mouth of the Yangzi river has grown rapidly since it moved there from nearby Shanghai in 2009, churning out destroyers, icebreakers and landing craft for the Chinese navy.
China is saying little about it, but satellite imagery reveals a near-complete flight deck in a corner of the yard where, less than 15 years ago, there was only farmland.
For now, the vessel-to-be is blandly known to military analysts as the Type 003. It will be China’s second domestically built aircraft-carrier and the largest ship that has ever served in the Chinese fleet.
Experts at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank in Washington, have analyzed satellite pictures.
They conclude that the ship will be about as long as New York’s Chrysler Building is high: about 320 metres. She will mark another leap forward in China’s advance as a naval power.
“When the Type 003 eventually enters service, it will be a formidable addition to China’s navy and allow it to more effectively project power,” they wrote.