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Pics/Videos: China’s first helo assault carrier catches fire

China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) sailors stand before the first Type 075 class of amphibious assault ship, Sept. 25, 2019. (China's People's Liberation Army Navy/Released)
April 20, 2020

China’s first Type-075 amphibious assault carrier, designed for launching helicopters, caught fire last week while docked in Shanghai.

The fire broke out aboard the Chinese ship on April 11, Forbes reported. The blazing carrier was China’s first amphibious assault carrier and the ship was set to be sailed down a nearby waterway within days of when the fire broke out.

Photos and videos of the burning ship first circulated around Chinese social media, and eventually Twitter.

The fire appears to have spread within the hull of the ship and possibly in the ship’s aircraft hangar. Smoke could be seen billowing out of the ship’s aircraft lift elevators.

Forbes reported that the fires caused extensive smoke damage to the hull before they were eventually put out. Black smoke stains could be seen from the ship’s stern, though the full extent of the fire’s spread and ensuing damage are not known.

The Chinese assault carrier is similar in design to the U.S. Wasp- and America-class assault carriers, which are meant for launching helicopters and vertical takeoff aircraft in support of amphibious landing operations.

The vessel was officially launched on Sept. 25 and was undergoing preparations to begin sea trials. The launch of the ship is expected to be delayed as a result of the fire.

Several more Type-075 assault carriers are reportedly in the works and a second assault ship is being built at the Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai, mere yards away from the site of the fire.

Prior to the construction of its assault carriers, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has relied upon its Type 071 amphibious landing platform docks (LPD) for amphibious landings. Those ships are similar in design to the U.S. Navy’s San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships.

China has been pursuing a naval buildup in recent years and has rapidly expanded its shipbuilding capacity.

At one point in its ongoing military buildup, China had also set its sights on building six aircraft carriers, including four conventionally power ships and two nuclear-powered ones with electromagnetic catapults for launching planes. China’s Navy recently elected to cut the two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers from its plans and stick to only completing four conventionally powered aircraft carriers.