The Type 726 is a standard Landing Craft, Air-Cushioned (LCAC) vehicle uses by the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). The service currently has about six in action with an additional five under construction (2018). The first units were identified as early as 2007 with commissioning believed to have taken place from 2010 onward. The craft have been build at the Jiangnan Shipyard of Shanghai, China.
The purpose of LCACs in modern warfare is to directly support amphibious-minded "ship-to-shore" landing actions, providing an avenue in getting combat-ready troops, armored vehicles or supplies to shore in as little time as possible (often times under heavy fire). This requires a robust platform capable of operating in shallow draft areas consistent with shorelines and the establishing of beachheads is critical to a military campaign originating from the sea as it provides a vital entry point to future inland actions. The Type 726 fulfills this role in the inventory of the PLAN and all major military powers of the world utilize some version of the LCAC concept in modern naval doctrine.
Under normal loads, the Type 726 displaces 150 tons and this increases to 160 tons under full loads. The vehicle can carry up to seventy armed troopers (typically marine-type elements) and 2 x Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) or a single Main Battle Tank (MBT). Structurally, the boat has a running length of 33 meters with a beam measuring 16.8 meters. 2 x Gas turbines (Ukrainian UGT-6000 or the local QC-70) are used for propulsion with speeds reaching an impressive 80 knots on water. The key ability is for the Type 726 to be able to continue moving about the shore even after making landfall, easily escaping back out to sea for resupply. The normal operating crew is five personnel.
Self-defense is through a machine gun arrangement consisting of 2 x 14.5mm Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) and 2 x 7.62mm Medium Machine Guns (MMGs).
This LCAC is arranged as most others are: the pilot house is offset to the forward-left of the vessel with a hull structure running to midships. The engines are fitted aft in the design and consist of the aforementioned gas turbines driving six-bladed ducted fans. Along the starboard side of the vessel is duplicated a hull superstructure and engine fit. This leaves the centerline of the boat free for cargo or infantry. Loading ramps are positioned at the bow and the stern for quick loading/reloading of the craft. The craft sits on a cushion of air generated by the engines and are covered in a thick resistant material.
Despite their size, LCACs are very agile and versatile and four can be carried by the Type 071 Yuzhao-class Landing Platform Dock (LPD). In this way, the single warship can unleash four LCACs each carrying an MBT, six total IFVs or 280 marines towards the battle lines.
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