Sino Teufel Hunden!!?
Yessir - Chian's PLA is gon upgrade their very own Marine Corps!
In recent years the PLAMC is not merely maintaining its readiness to mount an amphibious invasion across the Taiwan Strait (or conduct other operations in the context of the East and South China Sea disputes). Rather, it is bulking up in order to give the Chinese political leadership another flexible tool for responding to contingencies not just within China’s immediate East Asian region, but also beyond.
In particular, amphibious forces give China’s leadership the potential option of landing troops and equipment and conducting operations ashore, both near and far from China.
Notably, the future of the PLAMC will no longer be confined to just static defensive and offensive regional roles. One of the most obvious hints of Beijing’s interest in projecting the PLAMC further afield beyond its immediate region appeared back in August 2015, when it staged the first-ever joint amphibious landing exercise with Russia as part of the annual Exercise Joint Sea 2015 (II). This was the first time the PLA shipped armored vehicles and landed troops directly into an overseas exercise area following a long-distance voyage, according to a PLA official.
It involved landing more than 100 PLA marines in fourteen ZBD-05 amphibious infantry fighting vehicles—the Chinese equivalent to the USMC’s AAV-7—which were disembarked from the Type-071 landing platform dock Changbaishan more than one kilometer from the beach in Vladivostok. Another twenty-four PLA marines fast-roped by helicopter, whereas a smaller Type-072A landing ship tank Yunwushan disembarked six armored vehicles and twenty-six PLA marines directly onto the beach.
The PLAN already has a range of amphibious landing vessels. However, Beijing is long keen on building larger and more capable ones similar to those operated by the U.S. Navy, for example the newest America-class amphibious assault ships (LHAs). In April 2015, the Beijing-based magazine Maritime China revealed via its official Weibo account a model of the PLAN’s future LHA-type vessel. The ship appears to have landing spots on its flight deck for six to ten medium helicopters, though noteworthy is that besides having the internal well deck commonly found on such landing ships (except oddly enough, the lead ship USS America itself), it appears to have just one elevator astern, which risks paralyzing flight operations once rendered inoperable in combat.
Touted by Chinese and foreign sources as Type-075 (Kanwa Defense Review, for example, reported it as having the designation M1), the ship may measure no less than 200 meters in length and displace 40,000–50,000 tons. Like most of the America class, this Chinese LHA will be capable of launching vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) fighters, helicopters, air-cushion landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles.
These developments do point to the PLAMC’s quest towards forming, along with the PLAN, an analogue to the USN/USMC’s Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs) and Expeditionary Strike Groups (ESGs). This would be a technically and financially less ambitious enterprise compared to building a carrier strike group revolving around aircraft carriers with their more complicated technologies. Moreover, Beijing may leverage on its existing accumulated experience in building and operating amphibious landing vessels as well as associated helicopter, air-cushion landing craft and amphibious armor capabilities.
Looking not too far into the future, the PLA will possibly have multiple amphibious task forces organized and structured along the same lines as the USN/USMC ARGs and ESGs, allowing them to deploy throughout East Asia in the way that the Thirty-First Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) currently does. Moreover, it is not unthinkable a PLA ARG/ESG may routinely operate in the Indian Ocean as well—and, for that matter, even in the Mediterranean.