The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) staged its first-ever live-fire drills at its only foreign logistics base in Djibouti, in a move designed to ‘explore a new training model for the garrison’.
The live-fire drills at the national gendamerie training range last week involved armoured personnel carriers (APCs) as well as troop carrier manoeuvres and the use of machineguns, rifles, sniper rifles and pistols to hit targets at various ranges and positions.
PLA Djibouti base commander Liang Yang said the drill was meant to test troop capacity to handle a range of weapons and execute tasks in conditions of extreme heat, humidity and salinity.
“This is the first time our soldiers in Djibouti have left the camp to conduct combat training. The live-fire training will help explore a new training model for the [Chinese] overseas garrison,” Commander Yang said.
The Chinese base was opened on August 1 for the re-supply of naval vessels deployed to anti-piracy missions off the Indian Ocean coasts of Yemen and Somalia. At full strength it will host up to 10,000 Chinese soldiers in Djibouti until 2026.
Apart from China, Japan, the US and France also have large multi-task military bases in Djibouti, strategically located at southern point of the Red Sea across the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which sits between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa.
The strait acts as a strategic link between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal and has been the target of numerous pirate attacks since 2011.
Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post has reported that China intends to build a pier at its Djibouti base so Chinese navy vessels can dock there. Work will only begin after construction of accommodation for Chinese military pesonnel has been completed at the base. The pier will be able to dock four ships at once, including China’s new generation Type 901 supply ships.