China just deployed to its first overseas base | Popular Science

Eastern Arsenal

Monitoring China's growing military might—and what it means for the world. By Jeffrey Lin & Peter W. Singer

China just deployed to its first overseas base

A logistics hub for the Middle East and North Africa.

China overseas base Doraleh Djibouti

A Historic First

The joint military base will act as a logistics hub for the Middle East and North Africa.

Chinese Navy, via hmmvv at China Defense Forum

For the first time in modern Chinese history, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is setting up a joint military base on foreign soil. On July 11, 2017, the Chinese Navy dispatched two ships—the Jingangshan and the Donghaidao—to Doraleh, Djibouti.

Jingangshan Type 071 LPD 999 Djibouti Chinese Navy PLAN

Jingangshan

The Jingangshan (999), a Type 071 LPD, sets off from Guangdong province with a contingent of marines to man the new Chinese military base at Doraleh.

Chinese Navy, via hmmvv at China Defense Forum

Doraleh is the first overseas base for the PLA, making this the first deployment of China's military forces there. Djibouti is a pretty strategic location, too, given its placement on the Horn of Africa near the Indian Ocean entrance to the Red Sea.

The base—roughly half a square kilometer—is reported to be soon be staffed by about a battalion-size formation, or about 1,000 people.

As a logistics hub, it could support Chinese naval task forces making voyages to Europe through the Suez Canal, or supervise the evacuation of Chinese nationals from nearby countries. It is also likely to initially support Chinese anti-piracy operations and African peacekeeping missions,

Donghaidao Chinese Navy PLAN Djibouti

Donghaidao

The Donghaidao, a semi-submersible logistic/transport ship, will carry a large payload of containerized military equipment to the Djibouti base.

Chinese Navy, via hmmvv at China Defense Forum

The Jingangshan (pennant number 999) is a Type 071 amphibious warfare landing platform dock (LPD), and is likely carrying Chinese marines, other personnel and vehicles to the Djibouti base. Chinese marines are likely to provide base security, as well as carry out engineering work to put the finishing touches on the base.

The Donghaidao (pennant number 868) is a heavy-lift, semi-submersible logistics ship used to accommodate oversized cargo like non-seaworthy ships and infrastructure equipment. Vice Admiral Shen Jilong, commander of the PLAN, oversaw the task force's departure from the city of Zhangjian, Guangdong province.

PLANMC China Marines Djibouti

The PLANMC

This formation of Chinese marines will man much of the Doraleh base in its first years of operation.

Chinese Navy, via hmmvv at China Defense Forum

Notably, the Chinese base is in close proximity to Camp Lemonnier, a U.S. naval base used for staging aerial, drone, and Special Force missions in East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and Persian Gulf.

As Chinese global interests and expeditionary capabilities grow in an increasingly complex world, Doraleh is unlikely to remain the only Chinese overseas base.

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