Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Up Against China, Taiwan Joins Elite Club Of Countries With Amphibious Assault Ship; Commissions ‘Yu Shan’

In what could be a demonstration of its indigenous shipbuilding capability and strengthening of defense posture against Chinese belligerence, Taiwan has finally commissioned its long-awaited amphibious assault ship named ‘Yu Shan.’

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The Republic of China (ROC) Navy inducted a brand-new amphibious combat ship on September 30. This vessel can be used to deploy troops and strengthen supply lines to critical islands. It has been developed as part of President Tsai Ing-wen’s drive for defense self-reliance.

Besides the US Navy, amphibious assault ships are also operated by the Navies of Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Italy, South Korea, and Spain.

The 10,600-ton Yu Shan, which bears the name of Taiwan’s tallest mountain, is the most recent advancement in Tsai’s ambitious drive to update the armed forces in response to mounting pressure from China.

The induction comes a month after China conducted a spate of military drills surrounding Taiwan, stimulating an invasion.

Additionally, satellite images have revealed that the People’s Republic of China Navy (PLAN) had rehearsed an amphibious assault on Taiwan in late August using a civilian ferry near a Taiwanese beach. Chinese warships often trespass into the Taiwanese waters, in a new normal state of affairs.

Yushan-class landing platform dock - Wikipedia
Yushan-class landing platform dock – Wikipedia

The lead ship of the Yu Shan class of landing platform dock (LPD) has similarities with the US San Antonio class ship. LPDs, in general, are instrumental for expeditionary warfare missions, transporting troops, and amphibious combat. Yu Shan would, thus, be a very significant addition to the beleaguered Taiwanese Navy.

The state-owned China Shipbuilding Corporation (CSBC) constructed the ship from scratch. The ship’s keel was laid in June 2020 and launched in April 2021, while the sea trials began only in July of this year.

With launchers for no fewer than 32 medium-range surface-to-air missiles, Yu Shan has significant anti-aircraft firepower. It is potentially the first assault ship of this kind to have such potent air defense capabilities. The induction of the vessel has essentially catapulted Taiwan into the elite club of countries that possess such a capability.

San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock - Wikipedia
San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock – Wikipedia

Yu Shan has already been said to bear some resemblance with the American San Antonio LPD because of features like enclosed sensor masts that help reduce radar cross-sections. The US Navy employs the San Antonio class to aid its Marine Corp Mobility Triad mission.

Yu Shan has some outward-looking similarities with the Chinese Type 071 amphibious warfare ship, which gained operational capabilities in troops delivery, air defense, anti-ship, and land attack after entering service with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in late 2020 and is said to form a powerful partnership with Type 075 amphibious assault ship of the PLAN.

That being said, the Taiwanese LPD, similar in appearance to the American and Chinese amphibious assault ships, is slightly smaller than both. These ships would be perfect for preserving supply routes to Taiwan’s farther-flung islands near the Chinese coast that are particularly exposed to attack from the mainland.

Yu Shan Amphibious Assault Ship

The ship is 153 meters long overall, 23 meters wide, six meters deep at the hull, and has a displacement of 10,600 tons. It has a top speed of 21.5 knots and a range of 7,000 miles. LPD Yu-Shan has two Phalanx CIWS, a 76mm cannon, and 32 TC-2N (48) medium-range air defense missiles.

The vessel can transport landing boats, Hummer vehicles, amphibious assault vehicles AAV-7, and 673 soldiers. In addition to the Yushan’s commissioning, the Taiwanese Navy received five new landing craft mechanized (LCM). The vessel’s hangar has space for two UH-60-sized helicopters, which can operate from a single flight deck.

The 76mm gun and Phalanx CIWS were mounted on the ship’s bow. (via Twitter)

The vessel’s primary function will be amphibious operations, including acting as the focal point of an amphibious task force to execute amphibious combat missions or conduct recovery operations on Taiwan’s outer (offshore) islands, as well as acting as a mobile field hospital at sea. International humanitarian assistance and disaster relief are auxiliary functions.

These ships would also be best suited for preserving supply routes to Taiwan’s farther-flung islands near the Chinese coast. This becomes even more pertinent as China constantly pushes Taiwan’s maritime boundaries and crosses the median line.

Cheng Wen-lung, the head of the CSBC, stated that in addition to amphibious warfare, Yu Shan would take on the “main transport role” for Taiwan’s offshore islands near China as well as in the South China Sea, where several islands, atolls, and other areas are claimed by Taiwan, among other nations.

The development of the indigenous Landing Platform Dock (LPD) demonstrates Taiwan’s growing defense posture and its military modernization along the lines of its porcupine or asymmetrical warfare tactics. As has become clear from the Russia-Ukraine war, having supply lines in place is of primary importance for any latent war effort.

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