China's 'Mission Indian Ocean' Targets India, Satellite Images Reveal The Truth
According to satellite images obtained by the NDTV, China's naval base in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, is now fully functioning and facilitates Chinese warships deployed in the Indian Ocean.
China's base in Djibouti is the country's first overseas military base, costing $590 million and being built in 2016. It is situated by the strategic Bab-El-Mandeb Strait, which separates the Gulf of Aden from the Red Sea and protects the route to the Suez Canal, one of the most important international trade routes.
The Chinese base in Djibouti is "built in a fortified manner, with layers of defences that appear almost mediaeval, like a modern-day colonial fort." "It is evidently designed to withstand the direct assault," says Covert Shores Naval Analyst HI Sutton.
The images from Maxar show a Chinese Yuzhao-class landing ship (Type 071) docked along a 320-meter-long berthing area near an apron that supports helicopter operations.
"The base appears to be fully operational, though additional construction work is likely," says Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha (retired). "They can dock ships on both sides of the breakwater." Despite its narrow width, the jetty is large enough to accommodate a Chinese helicopter carrier."
According to HI Sutton, "the Type-071 landing ship is very huge and can carry many tanks, trucks, and even hovercraft." "A fleet of these ships serves as the backbone of China's amphibious assault forces, though larger ships are now joining the fleet. Because of its size and capability, it is also used for logistics missions, hauling vital supplies."
The Yuzhao-class ships are intended to serve as the flagships of a Chinese task force perpetrated in a variety of operations ranging from amphibious assaults to humanitarian assistance. The Chinese Navy has five ships of this class in service, with three more in various stages of completion before they are commissioned.
The images of the fully operational Djibouti base come as China docks the 25,000-tonne satellite and ballistic missile tracking ship Yuan Wang 5 in the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota. Sri Lanka finally permitted China to dock the ship for restocking after initially asking Beijing to postpone its arrival due to New Delhi's concerns.
"The Yuan Wang 5 is definitely skilled of detecting foreign satellites, aerial assets, and missile systems thanks to its robust tracking, sensing, and communication relay system. This enables the ship to assist Chinese military missions far from home "Damien Symon, a senior researcher with The Intel Lab who has been tracking the ship's movements as it entered the Indian Ocean, agrees.
"The existence of the vessel in the Indian Ocean region enables it to oversee space events located away from the Chinese mainland while potentially providing an extended real-time communication network to its foreign bases and ground assets, such as rollouts in Djibouti, African peacekeeping forces, and anti-piracy maritime missions."
Former Indian Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash believes New Delhi should be wary of China's maritime intentions and capabilities. "They've had a standing patrol off the Horn of Africa for 14 years now. There was initial scepticism about their capability to maintain a distant presence. They have, however, demonstrated that they are capable of doing so. They've had ships stationed for six to nine months."
China's presence in Djibouti is part of a comprehensive plan to establish its presence in the Indian Ocean, aimed not only at the US Navy, which has naval bases in the Persian Gulf but also at the Indian Navy, the region's second largest. Gwadar, Pakistan's port, will also be critical to any future expansion in the region.