MELBOURNE, Australia — Taiwan has launched the first of a new class of multimission amphibious ships that can carry troops and equipment to its offshore and South China Sea islands. The vessels can also conduct surface warfare missions with anti-ship missiles.

The landing platform dock, named Yu Shan after Taiwan’s tallest mountain, was launched at the shipyard of the state-owned shipbuilder CSBC Corporation in the southern Taiwanese port city of Kaohsiung on Tuesday. The launch ceremony was attended by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng, among other senior civilian and military officials.

Speaking at the ceremony, Tsai called the launch of the Yu Shan a “milestone” for the self-governing East Asian island’s plans to bolster its shipbuilding capabilities, adding that the ship “will strengthen the Navy’s ability to fulfil its mission and further solidify our defenses.”

Previously released specifications for the LPD indicate that the ship displaces 10,600 tons when fully loaded and measures 152 meters, or about 500 feet, with a hull draught of 20 feet. Top speed of the LPD is said to be 21 knots with a range of 7,000 miles.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said the Yu Shan can accommodate up to 673 troops and its vehicle deck can carry AAV7 tracked amphibious vehicles, among other land platforms. The ship also has a twin hangar sized for Sikorsky Seahawk and Black Hawk helicopters as well as a single flight deck spot to conduct helicopter operations. A well dock is incorporated in the design to stow, launch and recover landing craft.

Unusually for an LPD, the Yu Shan is fitted with a pair of missile launchers believed to be capable of holding eight indigenous Hsiung Feng II anti-ship or 16 Hai Chien naval surface-to-air missiles, giving the ship a combat capability.

The ship is also equipped with a single 76mm multipurpose gun and a pair of Phalanx close-in weapon systems; the latter is for defense against missile threats.

The Yu Shan is scheduled to enter service with Taiwan’s Navy in 2022 following final construction and sea trials with the builder. Taiwan has a requirement for four LPDs to replace the Navy’s current amphibious fleet, which is made up of two Newport-class landing ship tanks and a single Anchorage-class landing ship dock, all of which are former U.S. Navy hulls.

Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.

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