China has launched two powerful naval destroyers, is building a massive pier at the Djibouti naval base in the Indian Ocean to dock its aircraft carriers, as the state media described 2019 the year of harvest for the Chinese military, which has acquired a whole range of modern weapons.
China has been adding new naval ships on a monthly basis.
China on Friday launched its sixth Type 055 and the 23rd Type 052D guided missile destroyers, the Global Times reported. The ships would be ready for operations in about two years. Since it rejigged the military doctrine in 2013, the military has reduced the size of the army by three lakh troops and resorted to massive expansion of navy to extend China's influence and global reach.
A late entrant to the operation of aircraft carriers, China on December 17 launched its second aircraft carrier, Shandong which is bigger than the first one called Liaoning, a refit of the Soviet era ship, commissioned in 2012.
Official reports said Shandong with a displacement of around 40,000-60,000 tonnes is bigger than Liaoning and could house 36 fighter jets compared to 24 by Liaoning, besides helicopters. China plans to acquire about five to six aircraft carriers in the coming years, according to state media reports.
Meanwhile, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman, Col Wu Qian, has confirmed reports that China is building a 400 metre-long pier at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa to dock its aircraft carriers there.
The construction of relevant facilities is progressing as planned,he said, answering a question whether it was meant for aircraft carriers.
The construction and use of the facilities is to better fulfil China's international obligations in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, such as escort missions and humanitarian assistance. It will help China make new and greater contributions to maintaining peace and stability in Africa and the world," he said.
China terms Djibouti base as a logistics base for its naval fleet taking part in the anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. Located in the Indian Ocean, it is Chinese navy's first base far from home. Later, China also acquired the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka in 2017 as debt swap, raising concerns in India.
According to official media reports, Liaoning is being used for training pilots and personnel while Shandong would be deployed in the disputed South China Sea where China's sovereignty claims are being challenged by Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan.
The next fleet of aircraft carriers was expected to be deployed in the Indian Ocean and elsewhere.