• The naval vessels are continually seen as a form of China's power display in the South China Sea region.

The naval vessels are continually seen as a form of China's power display in the South China Sea region. (Photo : wwww.wantchinatimes.com)

In April, China unveiled the model of its 40,000-ton amphibious assault ship, named the M1, during the Sixth International Offshore Engineering Technology & Equipment Exhibition in Beijing, to strengthen the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in its efforts to compete against other naval powers.

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According to the Kanwa Defense Review, a Canada-based Chinese-language military magazine, the planned amphibious assault ship is being constructed to compete with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's Izumo-class helicopter destroyers.

As an aircraft carrier, the total number of aircraft the M1 can hold remains a mystery, but is expected to compete with the 14-aircraft capacity of the 28,000-ton Izumo-class. It is already confirmed that the M1 has six helicopter landing-spots, while the Izumo-class has only five.

Previously, China has displayed the model of the 20,000-ton M2 amphibious assault ship at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition and the Latin America Aero and Defense (LAAD) and Security Exhibition.

China is expected to use the M1 to hold Russian built Ka-28 anti-submarine helicopters and Ka-27 rescue helicopters. While China has not yet acquired Ka-29 from Russia, models of the Ka-29 assault transports have been seen aboard the M1 model.

The model indicated that the PLAN will not use the M1 as an ordinary amphibious assault ship, but as a helicopter destroyer, similar to the Izumo-class.

The PLAN may also consider deploying attack helicopters, like the Z-8 or Z-10.

The M1 is part of China's plans to improve its Navy, including finishing its construction of the world's largest aircraft carrier dock and the speculated new aircraft carrier training facility in Chongming Island.

Currently, China operates a singleton aircraft carrier, a refitted Soviet-era ship. It is the only East Asian country to have an aircraft carrier, not counting U.S. aircraft carriers stationed in Japan, and Japan's three helicopter destroyers that are restricted to rotary wing aviation.