China's first amphibious assault ship has finished an 18-day maiden sea trial and returned to its shipyard in Shanghai on Sunday, according to footage and photos published on Chinese websites.
Video clips and pictures posted on Chinese news portals and military-themed websites showed the colossal vessel sailing back on Sunday afternoon to a berth at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding, a major shipbuilder under State-owned defense conglomerate China State Shipbuilding Corp.
The top of its superstructure was blackened by smoke from the chimney, according to the posted materials.
The ship, the first in the Type 075 class, started its first sea trial from the shipyard on Aug 5.
The People's Liberation Army Navy and China State Shipbuilding Corp have yet to publish information about the sea trial.
The move indicated that construction of the amphibious vessel has basically finished. Next, engineers will fix problems exposed during the trial and prepare for further trials.
Wu Peixin, a military observer in Beijing who closely follows the PLA's hardware developments, said the fact that the maiden sea trial took as long as 18 days indicated that the first Type 075 ship must have carried out many tests and performed well in this voyage. Otherwise the trial would have ended much earlier.
Another good sign was that the vessel is able to conduct long-duration missions and can sustain itself in such operations, Wu said.
He speculated that it will not take long for the vessel to be delivered to the Navy.
The first Type 075 vessel was unveiled in September at Hudong-Zhonghua, followed by the second such ship in April.
Science and Technology Daily previously reported that the Type 075 is about 250 meters long, around 30 meters wide and will displace nearly 40,000 metric tons.
The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy and South Korea have also developed and built modern amphibious assault ships.
Cao Weidong, a retired researcher at the PLA Naval Research Academy, said the Type 075 will mainly be tasked with transporting and landing troops and weapons in hostile territory via landing craft or helicopters as well as providing air fire support.
Such ships can play a leading role in anti-ship, ground target strike and landing operations, strongly boosting the Navy's long-range amphibious capability, according to him.
Cui Yiliang, editor-in-chief of industry magazine Modern Ships, said that compared with the Navy's Type 071 amphibious transport dock ships that are capable of carrying only several helicopters, the Type 075 will be able to carry many more as well as a stronger force of landing craft, allowing the Navy to execute low-altitude, over-the-horizon fielding of a large quantity of troops.
Furthermore, military observers are speculating about the research and development of the Type 076, which they expect to be the PLA Navy's next-generation amphibious platform that will be equipped with an electromagnetic aircraft launch system and stealth drones.