Chinese Navy resumes port visits to Cape Town

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The 43rd Chinese naval escort taskforce of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) arrived in Cape Town on the morning of 24 July for a three-day goodwill visit.

Having wrapping up its escort mission in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, the naval escort taskforce proceeded to the West coast of Africa, making a number of calls, including the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The 43rd Chinese taskforce is composed of the guided-missile destroyer Nanning (162), the guided-missile frigate Sanya (54) and the supply ship Weishanhu (887). It set sail from a military port in Zhanjiang city, southeast China’s Guangdong province, on 10 January, accompanied by two ship-borne helicopters and more than 700 sailors. This is destroyer Nanning’s first escort mission.

Nanning briefly broke away from the taskforce to participate in multinational naval drills off Karachi, Pakistan, and in March she partook in a joint naval exercise with Iranian and Russian warships in the Gulf of Oman.

In April this year the destroyer Nanning and supply ship Weishanhu were despatched to Port Sudan to assist with the evacuation of 678 mostly Chinese people from Sudan, during the outbreak of the civil war in the African country.

This visit to Cape Town is not the first for a Chinese naval escort taskforce aiming to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries, as previous visits took place in 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Warships from Russia and China arrived in Cape Town in 2019 for the inaugural Exercise Mosi. After a Covid-19 induced break, three Chinese naval ships from the 42nd naval escort task force participated in the second iteration of Exercise Mosi off the KwaZulu-Natal coast earlier this year.

Vice Admiral Monde Lobese, Chief of the South African Navy, and Rear Admiral Bubele Mhlana, Chief of Staff at the Joint Operations Division, warmly welcomed the Chinese naval taskforce as dozens of locals of Chinese descent displayed Chinese flags and performed a Chinese dragon dance.

Although the Chinese taskforce will not conduct joint exercises at sea with the South African Navy, both sides will engage in discussions pertaining to cooperation in traditional and non-traditional security fields, as well as matters of a social nature.

The 7 500 ton Type 052D guided missile destroyer Nanning was commissioned in April 2021. Armament consists of a 130 mm gun, a HQ-10 short-range SAM 24-cell launcher, 64-cell Vertical Launch System (VLS) and an array of surface-to-surface, surface-to-air and anti-submarine warfare missiles. A Harbin Z-20 helicopter is carried aboard.

The older 4 053 tonnes Type 054A frigate Sanya was commissioned on 30 November 2012. Her main gun is a 76 mm dual-purpose weapon supported by two 7-barrel 30 mm CIWS guns for close-in threats. She carries two torpedo launchers and two anti-submarine rocket launchers. The missile capability consists of HQ-16 medium-range air defence missiles and anti-submarine missiles in a vertical launch system. The frigate should be carrying either a Harbin Z-9C or Kamov Ka-28 helicopter.

The 20 500 tonnes Type 903 replenishment ship Weishanhu was commissioned in 2004. Although an integrated supply ship, she is still equipped with four H/PJ76F twin 37 mm guns.

There are a number of international visitors to South Africa at present. A Tupolev Tu-204-300 operated by the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) landed at Lanseria on Saturday and then proceeded to Cape Town International Airport on Sunday for activities to various joint Roscosmos/South African National Space Agency (SANSA) projects.

Meanwhile, a Russian government Ilyushin Il-96 arrived at Waterkloof on Monday morning in connection with a BRICS national security advisors and BRICS Plus meeting, in addition to several other foreign aircraft, including an Iranian government Airbus A340, a Brazilian military Embraer 135, and a Chinese government Boeing 737 Boeing Business Jet.