China has docked what looks to be a Type 071 Amphibious Transport Dock in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) at Woody Island, China’s main administrative center and military base in the South China Sea’s Paracel Islands. Satellite imagery seen by Radio Free Asia shows a ship fitting the profile of the Type 071 sitting in harbor at Woody Island as of June 27. The ship was not there on June 25. The ship will likely be used in in a large-scale naval exercise planned in the area this week. Woody Island is China’s biggest outpost and military base in the South China Sea, located in the Paracel (Xisha) archipelago in the region’s northern half.
Woody Island, also called Yongxing Island in People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Phu Lam Island in Vietnam, is the largest of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea (SCS), with an area of 2.1 square kilometres (0.81 sq mi). The island is disputed between Vietnam, China, and Taiwan, but occupied by China, which has built a settlement there and formally incorporated the artificial island into a local government district that covers the Paracel Islands and Macclesfield Bank. Woody Island is a frequent stop for the China Coast Guard (CCG) and infamous paramilitary fishing fleets on their way to other parts of the region to assert China’s claim but, big warships are rarely seen in Woody’s harbor.
The Type 071 (NATO reporting name: Yuzhao) is a 25,000 tons class of Chinese amphibious transport dock ships in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). The Type 071 may operate as the flagship of a naval task force. The Type 071 may also conduct and support humanitarian, disaster relief, and counterpiracy missions, in addition to amphibious assaults. It can carry a combination of marines, vehicles, landing craft and helicopters. The ship is armed with one 76 mm gun and four 30 mm close-in weapon systems. The amphibious warfare ship features a vehicle deck, well-deck, landing deck and a hangar. The Type 071 provides the PLAN with capabilities and flexibility not found in its previous landing ships.
The ship may embark 600 to 800 troops. The stern helicopter deck offers two landing spots for supporting the operations of two Z-8 (SA 321 Super Frelon) transport helicopters. The twin-door cantilever hangar can house up to four Z-8 helicopters. The well deck houses up to four Type 726 air-cushioned landing craft, which can transfer vehicles or marines to the shore at high speed. The LCAC are launched by flooding of the docking area. The vessel can also carry landing craft on port / starboard davits. The vehicle deck can house amphibious assault vehicles including the ZBD05 amphibious IFV and the ZTD-05 amphibious light tank. The stern ramp, two side doors and ramps allow rapid loading of the vehicles and equipment.