New Chinese assault aircraft carrier catches fire

Black smoke was seen billowing from the first Chinese assault aircraft carrier in Shanghai. The new Type-075 aircraft carrier, which is similar to the US Navy’s America-class assault aircraft carriers, is designed to carry helicopters and hovercraft to support amphibious landings.

The smoke was reported on Chinese social media platforms earlier today. The footage suggests that the fire spread through the hull of the ship, possibly in the plane’s large hangar. Smoke billowed from the open elevator near the front of the island’s superstructure. Smoke was also billowing from the opening of the rear hangar. For a while, a huge cloud of smoke rose into the air and was reportedly visible for miles around.

The fire was extinguished, but not before causing extensive smoke damage to the hull. The extent of the damage inside is not yet known. Black spots are now visible from the large deck of the ship aft, contrasting with the clean gray paint. The ship was only launched on September 25 and is being fitted out before sea trials.

The incident is clearly bad news for the Chinese Navy, known as the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Yet while this will clearly delay the process of fitting out the ship, the external signs show that it has been dealt with quickly. It is unlikely that this will prevent the completion of the vessel.

And this is only the first of several Type-075 assault aircraft carriers. The second is being built a few meters away at the Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard. Yesterday we reported that it is likely to be floated in the river imminently. This can now be pushed back for a few days while the first transporter is cleaned up, but overall I don’t expect a major delay.

Satellite imagery shows that the hull sections of the next ship to be built in the dry dock are already on hold. The shipyard will therefore want to put the aircraft carrier back in the water as quickly as possible, despite the incident with its sister ship. The next ship to use the dry dock appears to be a frigate, but more assault aircraft carriers are expected.

These assault aircraft carriers will be the backbone of China’s amphibious warfare capability. They will be added to the amphibious fleet already greatly expanded and modernized. Currently, the main vessels are type-071 landing platform (LPD) docks. These are equivalent to the US Navy’s San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, while the new aircraft carriers will look more like the Wasp and America-class.

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