BEIJING, July 22 (UPI) -- China has launched its largest amphibious dock landing warship, the 19,000 metric ton Jinggangshan, in Shanghai.
The 689-foot-long warship can carry 1,000 soldiers, helicopters, armored fighting vehicles, boats and landing craft, a report in the China Daily said.
The vessel is the second Type 071 dock landing ship built by Shanghai's Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding.
The first Type 071 dock landing ship, Kunlunshan, which can carry up to four helicopters, was launched in December 2006 and commissioned into the Chinese navy in 2007.
By definition, the U.S. Navy says, an amphibious dock landing ship has a well deck and a ballast system that raises and lowers the vessel in the water. This allows small ships to move into the well and be dry-docked within the ship's well when the vessel is raised in the water.
Analysts said the introduction of both ships gives the Chinese navy a global reach that it hasn't had before. The ships can handle large troop accommodation as well as maintain smaller vessels in far off seas away from China's traditional closer-to-home waters.
In particular, a large helicopter flight deck at the stern of the Jinggangshan is enough to support the operation of two medium-size helicopters such as Z-8/AS-321 Super Frelon, analysts at GlobalSecurity.org said.
A vessel such as the Jinggangshan can be very useful in the South China Sea where China has been flexing its naval muscles this year over its territorial claims to the Spratly Island group.
The Spratly Islands -- the largest group -- lie off the southwestern coast of the Philippines as well as near the coasts of Brunei and Malaysia. China is one of the claimants, which include Vietnam and Taiwan. Philippines and Vietnam in recent months have complained of Chinese vessels encroaching upon their territorial waters near disputed islands.
The belief that the Jinggangshan might be used in the South China Sea is based on the fact that the home port of the first ship, the Kunlunshan, is at China's South Sea Fleet's headquarters at Zhanjiang Naval Base in Guangdong Province, GlobalSecurity.org said.
Analysts also have said the Jinggangshan looks similar to the U.S. San Antonio-class landing platform dock vessel. The Jinggangshan's cargo capacity is possibly as large of the U.S. Navy's Austin-class LPD.
"If this estimation was correct, the Type 071 LPD can carry a marine corps battalion, including 400-800 troops, 15-20 amphibious armored vehicles and their associated logistic supplies," GlobalSecurity.org said.
The consortium China State Shipbuilding and Trading Corp. reportedly has offered to build a modified version of the 071 LPD for the Malaysian navy.