The Chinese Navy is busy building a string of overseas bases, and one of the largest is in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa.
The question is, why? Exactly who are they defending against? And why is it a modern-day “Fort Apache” walled fortress, featuring battlements similar to medieval castles, shooting ports and corner towers.
Think Gary Cooper and Beau Geste and you’ll get the picture.
According to a report in Forbes magazine, this strategically-located base appears ready to receive large warships, maybe even aircraft carriers.
One aspect of the base is particularly interesting: It is a modern-day “Great Wall of China” fortress built from scratch.
And it is not just castle aesthetics, the base really is designed to be highly defendable on a scale rarely seen, even in war zones. Construction of the walls started in early 2016, and was substantially complete by spring 2017, Forbes reported.
There appears to be many layers of defense, including; vehicle checkpoints, perimeter fencing with razor wire, last-ditch pop-up vehicle barriers and large concrete doors.
The “Hesco” style barrier features razor wire along the top. Hesco barriers are wire frames filled with giant sandbags. They are commonly used by Western forces in Afghanistan and Iraq as the main walls of fortified bases, Forbes reported.
Inside the Hesco wall is the main wall built out of sturdy concrete. It also has crenelations, meaning the up-and-down style battlements familiar from medieval castles. There are also gun loops, which are holes to fire weapons through and tall towers on the corners.
One could say it’s right out of a Hollywood period piece movie. All it needs is attackers with ladders and boiling oil being poured from the battlements.
Even approaching from the water side of the base would require negotiating a series of security fences and guard positions, Forbes reported.
Inside the base itself there are a few more defensive positions.
An attack on the base would likely be responded to by the marines stationed there. Armored vehicles seen in the base include ZBD-09 infantry fighting vehicles and ZTL-11 assault guns, Forbes reported.
These are armed with an array of automatic cannons, anti-tank missiles and large caliber guns.
Other countries’ military bases in Djibouti, such as the US Navy’s Expeditionary Base at Camp Lemonnier, also have physical defenses, but nothing that compares to this.
So who are they defending against?
China does not have first hand experience of its bases being attacked in the way that Western forces have in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it definitely may have learned from them.
And the war of domination for the East China Sea and surrounding regions is obviously heating up.