The Chinese People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the naval wing of the Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDFA) are carrying out a month-long joint naval training exercise off the Indian Ocean coast as the two countries extend their long-standing defence and military training partnership to the naval domain.
A statement posted on the Chinese Ministry of National Defence website and attributed to the PLAN said exercise “Beyond 2014” involves various aspects of naval training for maritime security operations in the high seas.
“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the Tanzanian People’s Defence Force navies began a one-month-long joint marine military training code-named “Beyond 2014” on October 16, 2014, in Dar es Salaam, capital of Tanzanian. This is the first joint training between the two militaries (navies) and more than 100 navy officers and seamen are participating in it.
“This joint training is aimed at enhancing mutual understanding and trust, promoting pragmatic exchanges and cooperation and improving the combat competency and the mutual collaboration capability of the two sides in carrying out diversified tasks including fighting piracy,” the statement said.
An opening ceremony took place on October 21 in Dar es Salaam. The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation said training would include areas such as marine tactics, ant-piracy and counter-terrorism operations.
Tanzanian has emerged as a key ally to the PLAN as it intensifies partnerships and operational deployments in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and conducts anti-piracy patrols in the area. In December last year the 15th Chinese naval task force charged with escorting ships and patrolling for pirates visited Dar es Salaam on its way back to China.
According to a naval capability assessment report submitted to the US Congress by the US Army last month, China’s naval operations assets in the IOR now include advanced nuclear submarines, destroyers and frigates. Last month China for the first time sent a submarine, a diesel-electric Type 039 Song class, to East Africa to patrol for pirates and escort ships.
The report also noted that the PLAN deployments in the IOR are or can be actively backed by long-range missiles, a new array of armed drones, helicopters, stealth fighter jets and ‘potent nuclear, space and cyber warfare capabilities.’
“China continues to expand its naval operational and deployment areas further into the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Its desire to expand its access to logistics in IOR and will likely establish several access points in countries in this (IOR) area in the next 10 years.
“These arrangements will take the form of agreements for refuelling, replenishment, crew rest and low-level maintenance. The PLA Navy’s goal over the coming decades is to become a stronger regional force that is able to project power across the greater Asia-Pacific region for long-term, high-intensity operations,” the Pentagon report says.
China has taken the lead in supplying arms to the Tanzanian military. Of late, it has sold the East African country 24 Type 63A light amphibious tanks, 12 Type 07PA 120 mm self-propelled mortars, FB-6A mobile short-range air defence systems and A100 300 mm multiple rocket launchers.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Tanzania has taken delivery of a variety of Chinese equipment over the last decade including two Y-8 transport aircraft in 2003, four ZFB-05 armoured personnel carriers in 2006/7, 30 Type-59G tanks in 2011/13, 14 F-7MG fighters in 2009/12, six K-8 jet trainers in 2011/12 and ten WZ-551 APCS in 2011/12.
The healthy nature of the diplomatic relationship between the two countries was emphasised by Chinese President Xi Jinping who visited Tanzania on his first visit to Africa. The Chinese premier signed 16 assorted trade and development deals including the construction of a deep-water port at the port of Bagamoyo, which military analysts say can be used a re-supply base as the resurgent Chinese Navy expands global operations.
The Chinese government also built the Tanzanian Military Academy (TMA) and the Shanghai Construction Group has been contracted by the Tanzanian Ministry of Defence and National Service to construct 12 000 housing units financed by a $550 million loan from the Exim Bank of China. The first 6 000 units will be built by 2016.