Chinese Navy Unveils New Utility Landing Craft Near Taiwan
The vessel would likely be used in any potential amphibious assault in the region.
The Chinese Navy is accelerating its naval modernization efforts with the addition of a new “utility landing craft” capable of transporting armed vehicles, troops, and supplies to support amphibious attacks.
Pentagon officials tracking Chinese military modernization have likely focused on the vessel following its recently completed landing drills in the East China Sea. Moreover, this development comes amid ongoing Chinese amphibious warfare preparation exercises off the shores of Taiwan. These kinds of amphibious vessels, similar in concept to the U.S. Navy’s Landing Craft Utility boats, can bring large amounts of combat assets ashore to reinforce beach landings and penetrate into enemy-held territory.
The drills with the new craft, according to the Chinese government-backed Global Times newspaper, “put the small landing craft's realistic scenario combat capabilities to test by practicing multiple courses over a long distance and time.” The Global Times added that “this enhanced the force's ability to win battles.”
Unlike air-cushioned landing craft like the Navy’s new Ship-to-Shore Connector, these kinds of utility landing craft are often used to reinforce forces that have already established a beachhead. Air-cushioned landing craft are better equipped to traverse rough terrain and penetrate an initial perimeter of enemy defenses.
Regarding the question of Taiwan, the Global Times claimed that recent exercises near Taiwan “featur[ed] multiple military service branches and multiple waves of vessels and aircraft aim[ed] at hitting ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist forces' arrogance and secessionist actions.”
It is difficult to determine how realistic a Chinese amphibious assault on Taiwan would be. However, the United States and its allies are certainly paying attention to China’s intensified rhetoric about unification with Taiwan and the growing number of exercises, warship transits, and fighter jet incursions near the island.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.