MELBOURNE, Australia — China commissioned 60,000 tons worth of major vessels earlier this month, officially putting into service a new nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, a guided-missile cruiser and an amphibious helicopter carrier on the 72nd anniversary of its Navy.
The unprecedented triple commissioning was carried out in a ceremony held at the Yulin naval complex near the city of Sanya on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. Yulin is the main naval base of the South Sea Fleet of the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The fleet’s area of responsibility lies in the waters of the nearby South China Sea.
Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the ceremony, which saw the Type 075 (Yushen-class) amphibious helicopter carrier Hainan, the Type 055 (Renhai-class) guided-missile cruiser Dalian and the Type 094 (Jin-class) nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine Changzheng-18 join the PLAN.
The Hainan is the lead ship of a new class of amphibious assault ships being built for the PLAN as it continues to boost its naval capabilities. The helicopter carriers, which are estimated to displace between 35,000 to 40,000 tons, have an uninterrupted flight deck with seven deck spots for large transport helicopter operations, and a well dock for launching conventional or air-cushioned landing craft for amphibious landing operations
At least two more Type 075s are under construction at a shipyard in the major eastern city of Shanghai, and their introduction will significantly boost the PLAN’s ability to conduct large amphibious operations — a capability gap for China despite its massive military modernization program.
The Dalian is the second ship of the 10,000-ton Type 055 cruisers, which are seen as roughly analogous to the U.S. Navy’s Ticonderoga-class cruisers equipped with the Aegis combat system. Each Type 055 is fitted with a phased array radar similar to those found on the Aegis-equipped cruisers and destroyers, and is armed with a total of 112 vertical launching missile cells for surface-to-air, anti-ship or land-attack cruise missiles.
At least eight Type 055s are concurrently under construction at two shipyards in Shanghai and the northern Chinese port city of Dalian, with both facilities also building the smaller Type 052D destroyers in a demonstration of the scale of China’s remarkable naval shipbuilding program.
Meanwhile, the Changzheng-18 is one of two such submarines previously reported by Defense News as undergoing construction, bringing the PLAN’s fleet to six. The Type 094 can carry up to 12 CSS-N-14 (JL-2) submarine-launched, nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, which reportedly has a range of about 4,500 miles.
According to the U.S. Defense Department, China is planning a follow-on class of ballistic missile submarines dubbed the Type 096, which is expected to be armed with the JL-3 sub-launched ballistic missile.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.