China launched its second Type 075 amphibious assault ship, or helicopter carrier, on Wednesday in Shanghai, seven months after the first one.
Celebrations marred by fire damage to sister ship two weeks earlier during fitting out at same shipyard in Shanghai.
It is unknown whether incident will delay scheduled sea trials and delivery to Chinese navy.
A video clip showed smoke extending a few hundred metres from the vessel. It is unknown what effect the fire will have on the scheduled sea trials and eventual delivery to the PLA Navy. The damaged ship, which appeared to have been repainted, could be seen in a video released on Wednesday of the new Type 075 as it was towed to the dock alongside it
The fire, which broke out on April 11, was extinguished quickly, the report said, but gave no information about the cause of the incident or the extent of the damage. Photographs circulated on social media showed heavy black smoke covering the ship’s superstructure and emerging through the stern gate.
With relations between Taipei and Beijing worsening, and lingering disputes over islands in the South China Sea, the PLA Navy has also ordered a number of other landing helicopter docks (LHDs) in recent years. Five Type 071 25,000 tonne amphibious landing dock ships have been launched since 2016, of which three have been commissioned and two are on sea trials
The vessel, decorated with small coloured flags, was towed by tugboats to its new berth at the state-owned Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard in the afternoon. It will now be fitted out, with equipment and weapons systems as well as crew quarters, which is expected to take some months.
The launch of the helicopter carrier was celebrated as a dedication to the 71st anniversary of the establishment of the PLA Navy, on April 26. It also came two weeks after its sister ship – the first Type 075 was launched last September and was fitted out in the same shipyard – caught fire, according to Global Times, a nationalist newspaper affiliated with People’s Daily.
The Type 075 is estimated to have a displacement of about 40,000 tonnes and is China’s largest – and the world’s third largest – amphibious assault ship, behind the US Wasp-class and America-class. It will be able to carry up to 30 helicopters, as well as a number of amphibious tanks, armoured vehicles, jet boats, and hundreds of marine troops for land attacks and follow-up ground operations.
The first batch of Type 075, believed to consist of three ships, lies at the centre of the PLA’s new amphibious force for small-scale overseas missions, as well as an upgrade of its capabilities in landing campaigns.
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