As China's first Assault Helicopter Carrier, or LHD for Landing Helicopters Dock, Type 075 has just made its maiden voyage on July 16, the publication of a tender by the Chinese Navy has stirred up the Sinophile defense sphere. Indeed, the PLA (People's Liberation Army) has started the preparatory work for the construction of a new class of assault aircraft carrier, or LHA for Landing Helicopter Assault, identified as the Type 076. And this ship risks strong to upset the balance of power already vacillating in the Indo-Pacific zone.
Let us recall in the preamble that, for the time being, the projection capacities of Chinese forces are relatively limited, with 6 Type 071 Landing Barges of 25.000 tonnes (plus 2 under construction), and the imminent arrival of first two LHD Type 075 of 40.000 tons (more 6 to 8 under construction and to be built). The naval air force is even more so, with only 2 aircraft carriers in service, Type 001 and 001A vessels of 50.000 tons with a springboard and stopper lines, carrying around thirty aircraft. In support of this, Beijing has the firm intention of playing on a par in this area with the US Navy and its 11 nuclear aircraft carriers, its 8 LHDs and its ten TCDs. For this, the Chinese authorities have undertaken to build a fleet of aircraft carriers, this time equipped with catapults, first of allthem conventionally propelled units identified as Type 003, followed by an undetermined number of aircraft carriers of nearly 100.000 tons propelled by nuclear power plants, equivalent to the American PAs of the Nimitz or Ford class. But obviously, the Chinese Navy has little intention of simply playing the equivalency by creating a fleet mirroring the US Navy. And the new class of LHA Type 076 may well represent this class of light aircraft carrier which, as we had already mentioned, is lacking today in the West, and in particular in the US Navy.
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