New Delhi: Satellite images sourced by NDTV indicate that 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.
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.
China's Djibouti base "is built in a fortified way, with layers of defences which appear almost medieval, like a modern day colonial fort. It is clearly designed to withstand direct assault,'' says Naval Analyst HI Sutton of Covert Shores.
The Chinese Type-071 landing ship is the backbone of China's amphibious assault forces, used for logistics missions and transporting vital supplies. With inputs from Damien Symon (Satellite image 2020 Maxar Technologies) High-res here
Significantly, the images from imagery provider Maxar show a Chinese Yuzhao-class landing ship (Type 071) docked along a 320-metre-long berthing area located near an apron that supports helicopter operations.
"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. It is thought to have been accompanied by a frontline Chinese destroyer when it entered the waters of the Indian Ocean this year.