MELBOURNE, Australia — A Chinese-built amphibious assault ship ordered by Thailand arrived at its homeport in the country’s south a week after it was officially handed over to its new owner at the Chinese shipyard.
The HTMS Chang, a Type 071E landing platform dock, arrived at Chuk Samet Pier by Sattahip Naval Base in Chonburi province, southern Thailand, on the afternoon of April 25.
The ship had left Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding’s facility in Shanghai on April 18, where it underwent construction by the state-owned business China State Shipbuilding Corp. It traveled to Thailand through the Taiwan Strait.
A ceremony to officially hand over the HTMS Chang to the Royal Thai Navy took place the day before it sailed home, with the service’s chief, Adm. Choengchai Chomchoengpaet, in attendance.
The Type 071E is an export variant of the Type 071, which is currently in service with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy. The design is 210 meters (230 yards) long, with a beam of 28 meters and a displacement of 25,000 tons when fully loaded.
The landing platform dock has a stern well can carry up to four air-cushioned landing craft for amphibious assaults, while hull-mounted davits can carry, launch and recover conventional landing craft. A vehicle deck has space for 60 armored fighting vehicles, and the ship can accommodate 800 troops.
There are also helicopter landing pads for two Z-18 heavy-lift transport helicopters, with hangar space available for four helicopters.
Years ago, Thai newspaper The Bangkok Post reported that the ship would cost $200.7 million, with construction to last three years. Before that, Thai media reports had said the Chinese design would cost $130 million.
Thailand is a U.S. treaty ally, although its military operates several types of Chinese-made platforms, including tanks, frigates and offshore patrol vessels. It has also signed a contract to buy Chinese-made S26T diesel-electric submarines, although the purchase is mired in controversy, primarily over the engines that will be used to power the three boats.
Thailand had originally sought engines by German firm MTU to power the submarines, but the European country has so far refused to supply them, citing an arms embargo on China. In the meantime, Beijing offered an indigenous engine design for the boats.
China’s naval force operates eight Type 071 ships split among its East and South Sea fleets. The latter is responsible for maritime operations in the disputed South China Sea. In the event China invades Taiwan, which Beijing considers a rogue province, both fleets would likely carry out amphibious operations against the island nation.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.