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China Building a 3rd Type 901 Large Replenishment Oiler for PLAN

Our partner East Pendulum is reporting that a 3rd Type 901 replenishment oiler has been spotted (via satellite imagery) at the Guangzhou Shipyard International Company Limited (GSI), Guangdong province in southern China.

Update 04/03/2018: According to Twitter user @rajfortyseven the vessel is actually a Type 903 replenishment vessel (less than 200 meters in length). This would be the 9th unit overall (2 Type 903 and 6 Type 903A currently in service with PLAN).

China Building a 3rd Type 901 Large Replenishment Oiler for PLAN 1Satellite image showing the third Type 901 for the PLAN at an advanced stage of construction at GSI shipyard. CNES/Airbus image via East Pendulum.

The imagery shows the vessel already at an advanced stage of construction with most of the hull already assembled and the forward block ready to be connected to the rest of the hull. This is the third Type 901, a 240 meters long, 48,000 tons replenishment oiler design to support the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN or Chinese Navy) future carrier strike groups (CSG).

The first one, named "Hulun Lake" (or Hulunhun in Chinese, with hull number 965) was commissioned in September last year.

A second Type 901 was launched last summer at the same shipyard (its construction started in late 2016 according to satellite images.

China Building a 3rd Type 901 Large Replenishment Oiler for PLAN 2Commissioning ceremony of "Hulun Lake", PLAN's first Type 901 Replenishment Oiler.

Existence of the Type 901 programme emerged in 2011, roughly one year before the commissioning of aircraft carrier Liaoning.

The key features of the Type 901 compared to the old-generation tankers in service in the Chinese Navy, such as the Type 903, Type 905 and Type 908, is the implementation of a sophisticated logistics support system. It allows to monitor and calculate in real time, via data links, the consumption and also the stock of all types of ships under its assignment. The system then automatically proposes optimized refueling plans according to the missions to be carried out and the conditions at sea.

China Building a 3rd Type 901 Large Replenishment Oiler for PLAN 3PLAN's first Type 901 Replenishment Oiler seen here conducting an UNREP with a Type 071 LPD.

Like the other Chinese tankers, the Type 901 is equipped with several medical stations to accommodate patients, although the Chinese navy has its own hospital ships. The spotter photos also show two hangars at the stern, the size of which is sufficient to accommodate 13-tonnes helicopters such as the Z-8S and Z-8JH for example.

In its initial configuration, the Type 901 was set to be fitted with several self-defense weapon system, such as the H/PJ-11 11-barrel CIWS, the HQ-10 missile-based CIWS and a complete electronic countermeasures and warfare suite. However the final configuration consists in a couple of H/PJ-13 (retro-engineered AK-630 and similar to the ones fitted on Type 22).

The construction of this new class of 40,000 tons supply vessel is not only proof that the PLAN is taking the rise of their CSGs very seriously. It also shows an intention to turn the PLAN into a "global" navy.

China Building a 3rd Type 901 Large Replenishment Oiler for PLAN 4Official specifications for Type 901 Hulun Lake (hull number 965):
Length overall : ~241m
Length at waterline: 225m
Width: 32m
moulded depth: 17.5m
Draught at full load: 10.8m
Full load displacement: ~48,000t
Normal displacement: ~46,000t