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China amphibious assault ship held live-fire drills in South China Sea

China’s largest Type 075-class amphibious assault ship Hainan has conducted combat training and live fire drills in the South China Sea, Chinese media reported.

The exercise took place on April 22 but news about it only emerged this week on an online Chinese military network.  The Hainan is the second- largest type of vessel in the Chinese Navy, after its two aircraft carriers.

The latest photos show People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) personnel carrying out coordinated training, supply maneuvres and ammunition firing at an unspecified location in the South China Sea.

Helicopters were seen rehearsing taking off and landing on the ship’s dock.

The drills were said to aim at “consolidating the basic skills of officers and soldiers, optimizing the ship deployment and command process, and effectively improving the comprehensive combat capability.”

The Hainan, named after the Chinese island in the South China Sea, is China’s first Type 075 amphibious assault ship, commissioned into service only a year ago.

It was built in Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai and listed under the Southern Theater Command which is responsible for the South China Sea.

It has a total displacement of 40,000 tons. The Hainan’s deck layout is similar to that of China’s Liaoning and Shandong aircraft carriers.

As tall as a 15-storey building, it can carry a number of helicopters, amphibious hovercrafts, tanks and armored vehicles. The vessel is equipped with weapon systems including missiles and ship guns but its main task is transporting helicopters and amphibious vehicles to conduct amphibious operations.

Type 075 vessels

A day before the Hainan’s exercise, on April 21, the PLAN also announced the commissioning of its second Type 075 amphibious assault ship, the Guangxi.

The Chinese Navy only officially started development work on the Type 075 in 2011 but has already launched three ships, two of which are fully operational and the third is on sea trials. A total of eight vessels are said to be on order for the PLAN, reported the Naval News portal.

Chinese state media said the Type 075 “will play vital roles in possible operations on the island of Taiwan, as well as islands and reefs in the South China Sea.”

Experts said that the commissioning of the three ships will place China in the second rank in terms of global amphibious capabilities, second only to the United States.

A U.S. Defense Department report released last November said China has the biggest maritime force on the globe with 355 vessels. The number is projected to increase to 420 ships within the next four years and 460 by 2030.

The state media report about the live-fire drill with the Hainan emerged days after a Chinese navy flotilla led by the Liaoning aircraft carrier was spotted sailing from the East China Sea towards the Pacific Ocean. Both the Japanese and Taiwanese militaries said they were monitoring the flotilla.