Frigate deployed part of PLA Navy’s Mission to become a blue water force: Observers

The Chinese Navy has joined its Russian and South African counterparts in a joint exercise near Cape Town, expanding its reach to the southern tip of Africa for the first time.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) sent the guided missile frigate Weifang to take part in the five-day drill, which started.

It is the first time the three countries have held such an exercise and comes just two years after a PLAN fleet crossed the equator into the Indian Ocean for the first time.

The drill, code-named Mosi, is meant to train “a multinational task force to react to and counter security threats at sea”, according to the South African military.

The Chinese contingent is headed by Liu Zongcheng, Assistant to the Chinese Naval Chief of Staff, who said the goal of the exercise was to “fully demonstrate our determination to work with partners to deal with maritime threats and challenges, safeguard world peace and maritime safety and build a marine community with a shared destiny”.

The exercise will focus on “the maritime economy, interoperability and mending relations between participating navies”

It is expected to include surface gunnery exercises, cross-deck helicopter landings, boarding operations, anti-piracy drills and disaster control exercises.

Rear Admiral Bubele Mhlana, flag officer of the South African Navy, said: “The ocean is too huge for one nation to dominate. We are coming together here as these three partner nations to work together, improve interoperability, despite the challenges of language.”

Beijing based Naval Expert Li Jie said that although the drill was not on a big scale, it was a major step in the Chinese navy’s efforts to become a blue-water force to protect China’s growing interests around the world.

“China’s Maritime interests and security needs have gone far beyond the near seas, especially with the Belt & Road Initiative. We will see more Chinese Naval activities in Southern Africa and in the Atlantic,” he said.

Fan Guanqing, the Political Commissar of the Weifang, as saying that the Chinese crew hoped to learn from the Russian & South African Navies to improve their operational skills in their drive “to become a first class navy”.

While the PLAN has sent one Vessel to the exercise, Russia has sent its Missile Cruiser Marshal Ustinov, a Sliva class rescue tug and a tanker and South Africa is deploying its frigate Amatola and Escort Survey Ship Protea.