WASHINGTON — China's navy has started construction on its next generation amphibious assault ship, the 075 Landing Helicopter Dock, according to the South China Morning Post.

The 075, far larger than any previous amphibious assault ships in the China People's Liberation Army Navy's arsenal, is being built by Shanghai-based Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding. The ship would be able to carry various helicopters capable of attacking enemy ships, ground forces and submarines, the South China Morning Post reports.

The construction of the 075 comes amid a growing military presence from China in the South China Sea relating to territorial disputes in the region. Additionally, the PLA has also increased naval patrols near Taiwan, amid what the South China Morning Post calls "strained ties with the independence-leaning government of the island." Beijing considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province of China.

Previous, smaller amphibious assault ships in the PLA Navy's fleet have been deployed to the South China Sea to Fiery Cross Reef and other man-made islands in which China has claimed territory. This includes the 20,000 ton 071 vessel built by the China State Shipbuilding Corporation, the parent company to Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding.

China's navy commander, Vice-Admiral Shen Jinlong, visited the Hudong Zhonghua Shipbuilding Company on Sunday to inspect the construction project, the South China Morning Post reports.

The 075 is believed to hold at least 30 armed helicopters, with four helicopter elevators on the flight deck. The nearly 800-foot vessel has a top speed of 23 knots and a displacement of 40,000 tons.

For comparison, the U.S. Navy's new 855-foot America-class amphibious assault ship displaces 43,745 long tons full load, or 44,449 metric tons. It can carry several types of armed helicopters, as well as the Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. It can travel at speeds in excess of 20 knots, according to the U.S. Navy.

Macau-based military observer Anthony Wong Dong compared the 075 with the capabilities of the U.S. Navy's previous class of amphibious assault ships, the Wasp-class.

"China has so many giant warships, including four Type 071 amphibious vessels and two aircraft carriers, but its vertical landing capability is still limited due to a lack of the largest helicopter dock vessels," Wong told the South China Morning Post. "The launch of Type 075 will let the navy become the world's No 2 powerful navy after the US."

China also has plans to increase the size of the PLA Navy's Marine Corps from 20,000 to 100,000, the South China Morning Post reported in March. This increase in size fits the narrative of China seeking to expand its overall naval presence and capabilities.

China is also due to launch its first home-built aircraft carrier on April 23. The 65,000 ton Type 001A aircraft carrier will launch on the 68th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army Navy and President Xi Jinping is believed to be on the launch ceremony's guest list.  

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