On Friday, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned three new warships, including a nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine, a guided-missile destroyer and a helicopter carrier.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping attended the commissioning ceremony in China’s southern Hainan province and the commissioning event was televised by Chinese media stations.
The addition of these three new ships on the same day comes as China has rapidly expanded its navy in recent years. In 2019, the Chinese PLAN overtook the U.S. Navy with the largest number of ships in service. The latest annual Pentagon report, released in September 2020 notes China has continued to grow its lead, with 350 active ships to 293 for the U.S., as of early 2020.
According to the state-run Global Times, the commissioning ceremony took place on the 72nd anniversary of the PLAN’s founding.
One of the new Chinese ships is the Type 075 Yushen-class amphibious assault ship, which features a deck design similar to an aircraft carrier, providing space to launch various types of helicopters that could attack enemy ships or support amphibious landing forces. The ship is similar in design to the U.S. Navy’s America and Wasp-class amphibious assault ships. The new helicopter carrier commissioned on Friday, named Hainan, is the first of its kind to enter service with the Chinese navy.
According to the South China Morning Post, the Type 075 can carry up to 30 helicopters. The Sun reported the ship can also carry about 1,200 troops for amphibious landings. By comparison, the newer America-class U.S. amphibious assault ships can carry a mix of helicopters and vertical or short takeoff fighter jets like the AV-8B Harrier or F-35 Lightning II and up to 1687 troops, with an additional 184 surge troop capacity.
According to Defense News, at least two more Type 075s are under construction at a shipyard in the Chinese port city of Shanghai. Defense News reported the new helicopter-carrying amphibious assault ships will significantly boost China’s ability to conduct large amphibious operations, which is a capability gap of the PLAN despite its large fleet size.
China’s new nuclear-powered submarine, a Type 094 Jin-class vessel known Changzheng 18, is the sixth of its kind to join the Chinese navy. The new submarine is believed to be able to carry up to 12 nuclear-armed Chinese JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), which have an estimated range of about 4,600 miles.
China’s new guided-missile destroyer, a Type 055 Renhai-class destroyer known as the Dalian, is the third of its kind to enter service with the Chinese navy. According to The Drive, the Chinese Type 055 destroyers serve a similar function to the U.S. Navy’s Ticonderoga class cruisers or Zumwalt class destroyers.