China’s Yuzhao-class (Type 071) amphibious transport docks (LPDs) began construction in the mid-2000s and have provided the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) with a solid foundation on which to build its rapidly improving amphibious warfare capabilities. The Type 071 represents a major boost in capabilities over the PLAN’s previous generation of amphibious warfare ships and was a springboard to the future big-deck Type 075 amphibious assault ships, the first of which was launched last year.
Displacing roughly 25,000 tons fully loaded, the 689-foot Yuzhao-class ships have a beam of 92 feet and a draft of 23 feet. They were built by the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard of Shanghai and are comparable in size and mission to the USS San Antonio (LPD-17) amphibious transport dock.
The Type 071 is able to transport and deploy a battalion of 800 PLAN marines plus their equipment and heavy vehicles—such as amphibious infantry fighting vehicles—on vehicle and well decks or side and stern ramps. The ship’s large well deck is capable of docking four Yuyi (Type 726) air-cushion landing craft (LCACs), which can each transport 60-ton payloads ashore and are similar to U.S. LCACs for fast, over-the-beach operations. The Type 071 design includes a helicopter flight deck with hangar facilities to house four Z-8 medium transport helicopters. Some Z-8s were built (as SA-321s) by Aerospatiale, while others were locally manufactured in China.
While the ships’ primary function remains expeditionary warfare and over-the-horizon amphibious assault, the Yuzhaos’ secondary missions can include logistics support, humanitarian assist-ance/disaster relief, and counterpiracy operations.
The Type 071s are powered by four diesel engines with two controllable pitch screws, enabling a top speed of 25 knots and a cruising range of 10,000 nautical miles at 18 knots. The LPDs operate the Type 360 and Type 364 radars for situational awareness, and they are fitted with a single 76-mm gun forward and four 30-mm, six-barrel rotary cannon close-in weapon systems for self-defense.
The Kunlunshan is the first ship in the class. She is thought to have been launched in 2006 and commissioned in 2008. The third unit, the Changbaishan (pictured), was launched in 2011 and joined the PLAN in 2012. By early 2020, a total of seven Type 071s had entered service. An eighth and likely final ship is expected to be operational in the near future. In 2019, Thailand became the first foreign customer for the class, signing a contract to acquire a single Type 071E export variant.