China deploying first helicopter peacekeeping unit


China is for the first time deploying a helicopter unit to take part in overseas peacekeeping operations.

The unit, part of the 81st Group Army of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), held a departure ceremony in Beijing on 19 May ahead of deployment to Darfur in Sudan.

The unit consists of four Mi-171 multirole helicopters and 140 troops, according to Xinhua, and will be deployed in batches. Once in Sudan the unit will conduct aerial patrols and transport cargo and personnel as well as conduct medical evacuation missions with the UNAMID mission.

China deployed some 700 peacekeepers to South Sudan in December last year, and announced it would be sending 925 peacekeepers to Darfur and South Sudan, including 225 for Darfur.

Also in May, China sent 190 officers and soldiers to Mali to join the UN mission there. The team is part of China’s 395-strong fifth peacekeeping force to Mali, which consists of security personnel, military engineers, and medical staff.

Around 3 100 Chinese peacekeepers are serving in 10 regions around the world, including 2 400 in Africa in engineering, transport, police and medical roles.

In September 2015 China said it would create a peacekeeping standby force of 8 000 troops, set up a permanent peacekeeping police squad, and provide military aid of $100 million to the African Union.