Chinese PLA Southern Theater Command Type 726 LCAC Conduct Beach Landing Training
Chinese PLA Southern Theater Command Type 726 LCAC Conduct Beach Landing Training

Chinese PLA Southern Theater Command Type 726 LCAC Conduct Beach Landing Training

The Type 726 Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCACs) attached to a naval landing ship flotilla under the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Theater Command approach the coast during a beach landing training exercise on January 6, 2022. The Southern Theater Command Navy or the South Sea Fleet is one of the three fleets of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, operating in the South China Sea under the Southern Theater Command. It is headquartered in Zhanjiang, Guangdong Province. Most of the fleet’s surface ships are located at Zhanjiang naval base, while all of the fleet’s submarines are at Yulin Naval Base, on Hainan Island.

The Type 726 LCAC (NATO reporting name Yuyi class) is a class of air-cushioned landing craft used by the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Six Yuyi-class LCACs are believed to be in service with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), with the first one (3320) being seen at the end of 2007. It is thought that the vessels were delivered in two batches, with the first three LCACs reportedly powered by Ukrainian UGT 6000 engines, while the remaining three are believed to use the indigenous QC-70 gas turbines. Up to four Yuyi-class LCACs can be carried in the well deck of the 210 m-long Yuzhao-class landing platform dock (LPD). The LCAC are launched by flooding of the docking area.

An air-cushioned landing craft attached to a naval landing ship flotilla under the PLA Southern Theater Command arrives on shore during a beach landing training exercise in mid-August, 2022. (Photo by Chinamil/Photo by Zhang Xueyan)

The Type 726 LCAC is greater in size than the US LCACs in service, but smaller than the Zubr-class LCAC and can carry only one main battle tank or four armored vehicles. The early variant, the Type 726, have encountered a number of technical problems that temporarily halted production of the class. This forced the four Type 071 LPDs to limit their projection capabilities to landing craft, amphibious IFVs and helicopters exclusively. Chinese aeronautical group AVIC had a role in the new design of the Type 726 / Type 726A. For example, the assembly of the propeller fairing is made by the CAC (Chengdu Aircraft Corporation), a subsidiary of AVIC.

Recent commercial satellite imagery of China’s Jiangnan Shipyard near Shanghai shows that the country is producing additional Yuyi-class LCACs. Eight Type 726s were seen at a Chinese at Damiao Naval Base on Nansan Island on 26 September 2020. Eight Type 726As that appeared to be nearly completed could be seen at the yard on 14 October 2020. In terms of the number of LCACs to be delivered to the PLAN, no official figures have been released yet, but there are now at least four Type 726 in service and four Type 726A under construction. Knowing that each Type 071 LPD can accommodate two LCACs in their well deck, the final number of these Chinese LCAC is likely tol increase.

An armored vehicle rolls out of an air cushioned landing craft during a beach landing training exercise conducted by a naval landing ship flotilla under the PLA Southern Theater Command in mid-August, 2022. (Photo by Chinamil/Photo by Zhang Xueyan)