Chinese Navy Ship Seen At Important African Base For First Time
The Chinese Navy is extending its reach to the world's oceans. A Chinese Navy warship has been observed calling at the new base in Djibouti. This location is strategic, and has been years in the building, but until now Chinese warships had not docked there.
China's overseas ambitions have become more tangible with the establishment of a navy base at Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. The strategic location extends China's conventional naval reach in the Indian Ocean and Middle East.
Now new intelligence shows that a Chinese Navy (PLAN) warship has called at the new base. This is a significant first for the controversial base.
Escort Task Force
The warship seen is the Type-903A replenishment ship Luomahu (907). This has been supporting China's overseas detachment operating in the region. These detachments, known as the "Escort Task Force", have become a permanent feature.
They conducts anti-piracy missions but also shows the flag, and sometimes monitors Western warships in the area. So far the detachment is made up of destroyers and frigates but larger combatants may follow in the future. Large amphibious warships have also been deployed on occasion.
The current detachment, the 40th Escort Task Force, consists of three ships. The Type-052D class guided-missile destroyer Hohhot (161), the Type-054A class frigate Yueyang (575) and Luomahu (907).
The pier at the new base is large enough for China's aircraft carriers, although none have ventured into the Indian Ocean yet.
China's facility is just down the road from a major U.S. base. And near to port facilities used by many navies including EU and NATO countries, South Korea and Japan. So as well as being China's first overseas base, it is particularly significant.
The facilities are heavily defended, almost having the appearance of a medieval fortress. But with modern materials and weapons. There are guard towers, a moat and walls, as well as bunkers and a heliport. It is garrisoned by Chinese marines with armored vehicles.
If China was hoping not to appear imperialist they may have chosen the wrong architects. Behind the fences, 'Hesco' barriers, walls and guard towers are a full range of buildings. There are barracks, training complexes, an armored vehicle depot and helipads.
China's Expanding Global Presence
The move is significant in a number of ways. Damien Symon, an independent defense analyst who has been monitoring developments underlined the importance. "Djibouti broadens China's footprint in the Indian Ocean as well as the Gulf of Aden and even the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. It will mean that the Chinese Navy can be permanently deployed there. It could even act as a staging post for deployments to the Mediterrean."
Symon added that "The PLAN has a close ally in Pakistan. But plans to develop the Pakistan port of Gwadar into a Chinese naval base appear to have stalled, or at least are progressing slowly. So Djibouti is currently the only Chinese naval base in the region."
China has been investing in a string of port and naval facilities around the world. Djibouti was the first overtly military one, but it probably won't be the last. Facilities in Pakistan, Cambodia and Equatorial Guinea have all drawn attention, and there are more potential tie-ups. Most recently there have been reports that China may set up a base in the Solomon Islands.
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