China Rapidly Expanding Its Djibouti Base

  • The base has HESCO fencing.
  • The base houses ZBD-09 armored infantry vehicles.
  • The Chinese base is only 11 km away from the US base.

China officially opened a base in Djibouti in August 2017.  Djibouti is a strategic country bordered by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. On the approach-the entrance to the base, there is a sharp turn and exit from the road. There is an automated gate on the 90 degree turn. There are additional control points. It is almost impossible to scale the wall, as the perimeter has multi-level protection.

HESCO Fence.

First there is a high perimeter fence that separates the public road from the private perimeter road. Then there is another high fence made of barriers in the style of “Hesco” with barbed wire.

Hesco fences are wire frames filled with giant sandbags. They are usually used by Western forces in Afghanistan and Iraq as the main walls of fortified bases. Here they are simply called the outer wall. Inside the “Hesco wall” is the main concrete wall. It has battlements in the style of a medieval castle. There are even loopholes. The US Army and NATO has been using such fencing in every major conflict since the first Gulf War.

Satellite Image of the China Djibouti Base via Twitter.

The base houses ZBD-09 armored infantry vehicles and the ZTL-11, a wheeled armored assault vehicle in China’s active service with an 8X8 chassis equipped with a low-rear 105-line tank gun. It has a total weight of 23 tons, a length of 8 meters, a width of 3 meters and a height of 2.1 meters. The vehicle can float in the river, has good mobility and strong firepower. They are armed with a variety of automatic guns, anti-tank missiles and large-caliber guns.

China has no experience with base attacks so there is possible security weakness.

Wheeled armored assault vehicle ZTL-11.

The length of the pier erected in 2019 is such to accommodate largest Chinese ships, including aircraft carriers (with the length of the pier 330 meters, the length of the same aircraft carriers “Liaoning” is 304 meters), helicopter carriers and nuclear submarines.

If necessary, it can easily accommodate China’s four nuclear submarines. But this is still relatively limited, so it seems natural that China will seek to increase the piers. The new activity may point to a second embankment or pier near the first. Now Chinese destroyers and frigates passing to the Mediterranean sea and operating in the horn of Africa periodically stop there.

China recently unveiled their new Nanchang Destroyer.

One of the security concerns is the close proximity of the Chinese base to the US base. China already was responsible for injuring 2 US soldiers in 2018 by pointing lasers.

If in fact China would be foolish enough to escalate the conflict with the US, it is expected China would utilize its base in Djibouti.

This is the first major base for China. However, the concern is additional building activity that is taking place at present.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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