A new Chinese amphibious assault ship caught fire

China's first big-deck amphibious assault ship, a huge vessel that was built in a miraculously short amount of time, caught fire on Saturday, April 11th, 2020. Photos and video showing the ship billowing large clouds of black smoke hit Chinese social media earlier in the day
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A new Chinese amphibious assault ship caught fire
China’s first helicopter carrier burst into flames at the Hudong–Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai on April 11, 2020 (photo: nationalinterest)

The Forbes report wrote: 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.

Social media users first reported the fire aboard the Type 075 landing ship dock. Photos that circulated on-line depicted smoke billowing from the 778-feet-long assault ship, the first in a planned class of at least three such vessels.

The ship at the time was fitting out ahead of imminent trials prior to joining the front-line fleet. A sister vessel is under construction at the same shipyard. The Type 075 is similar in size and mission to the U.S. Navy’s 10 Wasp- and America-class assault ships and, with its helicopters and hovercraft, could land troops on hostile beaches.

The images that appeared online on April 11, 2020 suggested that the fire burned inside the Type 075’s hull, perhaps in the ship’s expansive below-deck hangar. “Smoke came out of the open aircraft lift near the front of the island superstructure,” naval expert H.I. Sutton wrote. “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 smoke was reported on Chinese social media platforms earlier that day. 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.

A new Chinese amphibious assault ship caught fire
(Photo: on Forbes)

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.

It was said on the nationalinterest that 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.

A new Chinese amphibious assault ship caught fire
(Photo: thedrive)

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

Firefighters raced to battle the blaze. No injuries were reported. “It seems as if the fire was quickly put out but how it will affect the ship's schedule is not clear now,” aviation expert Andreas Rupprecht noted.

The assault carrier' fire happened several days after China Coast Guard vessel had ‘rammed and sunk’ Vietnamese fishing boat

“Way too much uncorroborated [open-source intelligence] stuff gets passed around as fact and blindly retweeted,” Rogoway added.

Shipyard fires are a major problem, and not just in China. Fires have damaged American warships in recent years. Most notoriously, in December 2019 a blaze broke out aboard Russia’s sole aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov after diesel fuel ignited on a lower deck.

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