China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy has commissioned three major warships in a move that is yet to be seen anywhere else.
The ceremony on Friday saw the first Type 075 amphibious assault ship (also known as a landing helicopter dock LHD), a Renhai-class (Type 055) destroyer, and a Type 094 ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) enter service.
The ceremony took place at the naval base in Sanya, on Hainan island, on April 23, and was attended by Chinese president Xi Jinping.
The first LHD to enter Chinese Navy service was named Hainan and received the pennant number 31. The destroyer was named Dalian with pennant number 105, while the SSBN was named Changzheng-18.
China’s indigenously designed- and built Type 075 LHDs displace between 35,000 and 40,000 tons, according to analysts and measure some 235 meters in length, which makes them slightly smaller than US Navy’s Wasp- and America-class big deck ships. Hainan entered the water in September 2020, but its commissioning was slightly delayed by a smaller fire outbreak in April 2020.
China’s LHDs will be able to carry 30 helicopters, and will have enough space for the simultaneous operation of up to six helicopters, according to reports. A more substantial difference between the LHD ships operated by the US and PLA Navy is the ability to launch short takeoff and vertical landing fighter aircraft, which are already operational on a number of US Navy ships.
China does not have a STOVL capability. However, it has a breakneck shipbuilding speed, as the Friday’s triple commissioning ceremony shows. It is worth noting that China launched three Type 075 LHDs in just 17 months.
A Pentagon report from September 2020 said that China already had the largest navy in the world, with an overall battle force of approximately 350 ships and submarines including over 130 major surface combatants.
The Type 055 destroyer that was commissioned on Friday belongs to a new class of “super destroyers” displacing some 13,000 tons and carrying 112-cell vertical launch systems. For comparison, US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers displace a little over 9,000 tons with the most modern units carrying 96-cell vertical launch systems.
Dalian is the third overall unit in its class and the second to enter service this year.
While China’s official military site did not specify, the Changzheng-18 Type 09IV submarine that was commissioned alongside the destroyer and the landing helicopter dock ship is the sixth or seventh unit its class.
The Type 094 is the second generation China’s Yin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, which started entering service in 2007, according to estimates. The boats measure 135 meters in length and carry 12 JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles. China is also working on its next generation of SSBNs, which will be known as Type 096.