China's long-running coastline, coupled with its global military aspirations, requires it to keep a substantial naval force under the banner of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). This includes all manner of ship types, from aircraft carriers and helicopter support ships to destroyers, frigates, and submarines. Lost in the vastness of naval categories is the amphibious support vessel - embodied in the PLAN inventory by such designs as the "Type 071", known to the West as the "Yuzhai-class".
As of this writing (2022), the class consists of eight total hulls which entered construction in 2007 and is ongoing. Commissioned service of the lot began in 2007. The Royal Thai Navy has since become the first foreign operator of the design with its commitment to acquiring at least one hull (under the export-minded "Type 071E" designation).
All of the hulls have been constructed by the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding company.
In both form and function, the Type 071 is comparable to the American Navy's San Antonio-class (detailed elsewhere on this site), developed specifically to support ship-to-shore actions (including humanitarian endeavors) as they primarily relate to the all-important amphibious assault operation. The Chinese interpretation of this role is a ship displacing 25,000 tons under full load and measuring 689 feet from bow-to-stern with a beam of 91.9 feet and a draught down to 23 feet.
Aboard is an operational crew numbering over 300 that includes nearly 30 officer-level candidates and over 300 enlisted personnel to ensure proper function of the warship. An air arm is carried to support the four Z-8 class medium-lift navy helicopters which, in turn, vessel itself supports through the integrated helipad and full-service hangar bay (over the stern). This allows the craft to launch and retrieve multiple instances of the helicopter simultaneously. Beyond these aircraft, the ship is designed to carry up to 4 x Type 726 "Yuyi" class landing craft, at least 14 x Assault / combat vehicles, and up to 800 combat-ready personnel (mainly marines) - all designed to "hit the beach" and bring the fight to the enemy.
Onboard armament of the ship is purely defensive in its approach, headlined by a single 76mm AK-176 series turreted deck gun which is backed by a network of 4 x 30mm AK-630 Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWSs). Beyond this are 4 x 18-tube Type 726 decoy launchers and up to 4 x Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs). However, its strength of defense lies mostly in the accompanying fleet and airpower.
The vessel is powered by a quad arrangement of turbocharged marine diesels, these driving 2 x Shafts astern. This arrangement allows the ship to reach speeds of 25 knots in ideal conditions and range out beyond 10,000 nautical miles.
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