075 Type’s 30,000 tons is enough, because China has two ‘outdated’ aircraft carriers
Updated: Jul 19, 2019
Jul 8, 2019
Fenghuang-online Military Affairs / Fenghuang-online Military Affairs Editorial
Subsequent to the recent appearance on military blogs of the Type 075 Amphibious Assault Ship [more commonly known as the Type 075 landing helicopter dock], much conjecture has again emerged in relation to the “small flat platform/deck” that is second in size only to that of an aircraft carrier. A relatively reliable recent estimate which has appeared online has been that the Type 075 will enter into operation late this year. Yet more information has emerged that the maximum displacement of the 075 will be about 30,000 tonnes, and in the opinion of many this is one of the lamentable things about Chinese amphibious assault ships, and perhaps even a drawback, because it means that it will be difficult for the Type 075 to carry vertical take-off/short take-off fighters. But perhaps 30,000 tonnes is the ideal tonnage for the Type 075, on account that China has two ‘outdated’ Liaoning class carriers.
Before we begin discussing this, we need to be clear about the significance of vertical take off/short take-off fighters. When England was forced to abandon its large airship carriers, it started to make small carriers the nucleus of its fleet. In order to outfit its 20,000 tonne ‘Invincible’ class ski jump deck type airship carriers with fixed wing fighters, it developed the Harrier Jump Jet. The ‘Harrier’ type was a landmark fighter because it made it possible for small carriers to carry fixed wing fighters. Subsequent to this, the Harrier type fighter became a standard feature for small carriers, and at the same time, caught the interest of the United States Marine Corps. The American produced version, the McDonnell Souglas AV-8B Harrier II, was assigned to the Tarawa and Wasp-class amphibious assault ships. The integration of vertical/short-take off fighters and amphibious assault ships not only gave amphibious assault forces an independent and powerful fire support capacity, but vertical/short-take off fighters became a standard feature on amphibious assault carriers, and this was the main reason that the tonnage of amphibious assault vehicles increased from 30,000 tonnes to 40,000 tonnes.
In view of the development of the navy of a great power, America’s decision to equip amphibious assault ship with vertical/short take off fighters could be viewed as a waste caused by jostling between different arms of the American military, while Great Britain’s development of small airship carriers could be viewed as a detour in the development process of a great power’s aircraft carriers. Yet it was exactly this waste and this detour that created the vertical/short-take off fighter, and the seemingly powerful combination of it and the amphibious assault ship. In view of the China’s capacity to deploy no more than 1000 troops from amphibious vessels, 30,000 tonne amphibious assault ships are already adequately endowed. In the future, If China needs to land more than 1000 personnel over an even larger theatre, 40,000 tonne or even larger amphibious ships will naturally follow. What we need to pay special attention to is this: the increase of the tonnage of Chinese amphibious assault ships is not simply in order to carry what appears to be technologically advanced equipment, but is a response to the ever-changing operational requirements of amphibious warfare.
The appearance and tonnage of a ship is the result of the combined effects of several key conditions such as tangible operational requirements and the standard of the core technologies etc. If needed, China can construct its Renhai class destroyer, and even skip conventional power and steam catapults and directly develop electromagnetic launch systems and nuclear powered aircraft carriers. Because of this, we don’t need to harbour doubts about China’s technological capabilities in the area of amphibious assault carriers - regardless of the performance data of the Type 075, they [have been designed in response to] China’s actual and future amphibious operational requirements. Beneath the exterior appearance of powerful and grandeur weapons and equipment you need the qualities of simplicity and practicality. Looking back over history, showy equipment often doesn’t end well.