China-Philippines Tensions Skyrocket; PLA Deploys Type-075 Amphibious Assault Warship To Spratly Islands

China deployed its Type 075 amphibious assault ship to the Sabina Shoal in the disputed Spratly Islands for the first time recently, amid increasing tensions and regular clashes with the Filipino Coast Guard.

Chinese state media confirmed the ship’s maiden deployment to the Nansha Qundao (the Chinese name for the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea). The vessel was reportedly sighted by the Philippines close to Zhubi Reef or the Subi Reef, as reported by the Manila Times.

“China’s Type 075 LHD… was spotted near Zamora (Subi) Reef on June 14, marking its first deployment to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, just one day before the CCG’s (Chinese Coast Guard) new detention rule took effect,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Coast Guard said a Philippine ship and a Chinese vessel collided near the Second Thomas Shoal in the disputed South China Sea on Monday. The Shoal lies about 200 kilometers from the western Philippine island of Palawan and more than 1,000 kilometers from China’s nearest major landmass, Hainan Island.

The Chinese coast guard said in a statement Monday that a Philippine resupply ship in the area had “ignored many solemn warnings from the Chinese side.” It “approached the… Chinese vessel in an unprofessional way, resulting in a collision”, the statement said.

As per recent reports regarding the Type 075, the new deployment comes days after another amphibious assault vessel of the Chinese PLA Navy, the Type 071 amphibious landing ship, hosted hovercraft drills near Xianbin Reef (Sabina Shoal) in the Nansha Qundao (Spratly Islands) for the first time.

These deployments are significant as the region is a hotspot between the two sides. A Chinese military specialist, who wished to remain anonymous, told Global Times that it is legal for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to hold training drills on and near Chinese islands and reefs in the South China Sea.

The expert highlighted that deploying China’s main amphibious assault boats guarantees that potential emergencies will not escalate into more serious situations. The drills also improve the PLA Navy’s ability to defend China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights.

While China has confirmed the deployment, Chinese analysts have continued to assert that it pertains to ongoing Philippine provocations against the Chinese islands and reefs. The analysts stated that the Philippines was like a robber calling for help.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its sovereign territory and has recently raised the stakes with new deployment, drills, and arbitrary rules. For instance, China has released new regulations that have gone into effect from June 15. That will enforce 2021 legislation that allows its coastguard to use lethal force against foreign ships in its waters.

China had previously cautioned the Philippines about encroaching into what it refers to as its territorial waters. There is growing concern that with the new regulations, China’s Coast Guard may now hold suspected trespassers for up to 60 days without a trial.

The deployment of Type 075 is significant as it can undertake highly complex operations like landings. The Type 075 would provide amphibious power projection, sea control, and amphibious air support capability with a helicopter complement and command and control capabilities. It has a displacement of between 30,000 and 40,000 tons. Its floodable well-dock supports Russian and Chinese-designed landing craft air cushions (LCAC).

Type 075- Wikimedia Commons

The presence of Type 075 in the Spratly Islands is seen as yet another Chinese attempt to intimidate the Philippines in disputed waters and project power in the region, especially in the wake of increasing confrontations. Military analysts pointed out on social media that the deployment coinciding with the new regulations was merely a coincidence.

Meanwhile, in another and unrelated development, Beijing released a video of one of its vessels, known as the Type 074 amphibious landing ship, being attacked in a sinking exercise (SINKEX).

The PLA Navy Sinks Yuhai In A Rare Video

China has released a video commemorating the 70th anniversary of its submarine force showcasing what appears to be an assault on a Type 074 amphibious landing ship, also known as the Yuhai class, during a sinking exercise (SINKEX).

The video was first shared on the Chinese social media site Weibo and later published on X (previously Twitter) by Chinese Navy analyst Alex Luck. The 5-second video (see below) shows the point of impact and the resultant explosion of what is likely a wake-homing heavy torpedo fired from a PLAN submarine. The torpedo is seen lifting the ship which was sailing.

Built in the latter part of the 1990s, the Type 074s is an amphibious landing vessel. Twelve were built for the PLAN, and a couple more were produced for export.

In moderate sea conditions, landing ships of this class may go across the ocean. They have a cargo capacity of up to 100 tonnes and are employed for tactical beach lodgement. The ship can carry a maximum of 350 fully armed personnel, six light amphibious tanks, or two main combat tanks.

This vessel has three Type 61 dual-25mm antiaircraft artillery cannons or three Type 61 25mm AAA weapons. Type 81H 122mm multiple rocket launchers are also installed on certain units. However, the service lives of these vessels are coming to a close, and they are being gradually decommissioned, which may be why one was used as a target.

The PLAN did not disclose which submarine was used to fire the torpedo or where the exercise happened. However, it does offer a glimpse into China’s growing underwater offensive capabilities at a time when tensions remain high in the Indo-Pacific.