China's Djibouti naval base now fully operational, supports warships deployed in Indian Ocean regiontext_fields
New Delhi: China's naval base in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, is now fully operational and supports Chinese warships deployed in the Indian Ocean region, as per satellite images sourced by NDTV.
China's base in Djibouti is its first overseas military base, built at a cost of $590 million, and has been under construction since 2016. It is located by the strategic Bab-El-Mandeb Strait which separates the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea and guards the approach to the Suez Canal, one of the most critical channels of international commerce.
As per Naval Analyst HI Sutton of Covert Shores, China's Djibouti base "is built in a fortified way, with layers of defences and is clearly designed to withstand direct assault."
The Chinese Type-071 landing ship is the backbone of China's amphibious assault forces, used for logistics missions and transporting vital supplies.
"The base appears fully operational though there is more construction work likely to take place," says Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha (retired). "They can positively dock ships on both sides of the breakwater. Though the width of the jetty is narrow, it is large enough to take on a Chinese helicopter carrier."
The ship, identified as the Changbai Shan, is a large 25,000-tonne vessel designed to embark up to 800 soldiers and a combination of vehicles, air-cushioned landing craft, and helicopters.
Yuzhao-class ships are designed to operate as flagships of a Chinese task force engaged in a range of operations from amphibious assaults to humanitarian support. The Chinese Navy has inducted five ships of this class with three more in various phases of fitting-out before they are commissioned.
Images of the fully operational base in Djibouti come at a time when China has docked the 25,000-tonne satellite and ballistic missile tracking ship Yuan Wang 5 in the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota. Sri Lanka belatedly allowed China to dock the ship for replenishment after initially asking Beijing to defer its arrival after concerns voiced by New Delhi.
"With a robust tracking, sensing and communication relay system the Yuan Wang 5 is certainly capable of detecting foreign satellites, aerial assets and missile systems. This allows the vessel to support Chinese military missions far from home," says Damien Symon, a senior researcher with The Intel Lab who has been tracking the movement of the ship as it entered the Indian Ocean.
"The presence of the vessel in the Indian Ocean region allows it to monitor space events located away from the Chinese mainland while possibly providing an extended real time communication network to its overseas bases and ground assets, such as deployments in Djibouti, peacekeeping forces in Africa and anti-piracy maritime missions."