Black smoke has been seen billowing from China’s first assault carrier in Shanghai. The new Type-075 carrier, which is similar to the U.S. Navy’s America Class assault carriers, is designed to carry helicopters and hovercraft to support amphibious landings.
The smoke was reported on Chinese social media platforms earlier today. Images suggest that the fire took hold within the hull of the ship, possibly in the expansive aircraft hanger. Smoke came out of the open aircraft lift near the front of the island superstructure. Smoke also came out of the rear hangar opening. For a time a massive cloud of smoke rose high into the air, and would have been visible for miles around.
The fire was put out, but not before causing significant smoke damage to the hull. The extent of damage inside is not yet known. Black stains can now be seen from the ship’s large well deck in the stern, contrasting with the clean gray paint. The vessel was only launched on September 25 and is being fitted out before sea trials.
The incident is clearly bad news for China’s navy, known as the PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy). Yet although it will clearly set back the fitting out process for the ship, outward signs are that it was dealt with quickly. It is unlikely to prevent the completion of the ship.
And this is only the first of several Type-075 assault carriers. The second is being built just yards away at the Hudong–Zhonghua shipyard. Yesterday we reported that the it is likely to be floated into the river imminently. That may now be pushed back a few days while the first carrier is cleaned up, but overall I do not expect a major delay.
Satellite imagery shows that hull sections of the next ship to be constructed in the dry dock are already queued up. So the shipyard will want to get the carrier into the water as soon as possible, despite the incident with her sister-ship. The next vessel to use the dry dock appears to frigate, but more assault carriers are expected.
These assault carriers will be the backbone of China’s amphibious warfare capability. They will add to the already greatly expanded and modernized amphibious fleet. Currently the main ships are Type-071 landing platform docks (LPD). Those are equivalent to the U.S. Navy’s San Antonio class amphibious transport dock, whereas the new carriers will be more like the Wasp and America classes.