On Tuesday, the Russian Navy, South African Navy, and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) started a trilateral maritime exercise off the South African city of Cape Town.
The exercise is the first trilateral China-Russia-South Africa naval exercise in the waters off Africa and included advanced PLAN assets, including the guided missile frigate Weifang, a Type 054A warship. Weifang has been dispatched from the Chinese mainland to conduct escort missions and anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden and off the Horn of Africa.
For the Russian side, the missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov, a Slava-class cruiser, accompanied by the the Vyaz’ma, a Kaliningradneft’-class medium seagoing tanker, and SB-406, a tug, participated.
South Africa, the host country of the trilateral exercise, sent two vessels: the frigate SAS Amatola, the lead ship of the Valour-class frigates used by the South African Navy, and SAS Protea, a Hecla-class survey and auxiliary vessel.
The exercise commenced with an opening ceremony on Tuesday, which was attended by “Assistant to PLA Navy Chief of Staff Rear Admiral Liu Zongcheng, Flag Officer Fleet of South African Naval Fleet Command Rear Admiral Bubele Mhlana, and Deputy Chief Russian Navy General Staff Rear Admiral Vladimir Zemskov,” according to a report published on the Chinese Ministry of National Defense’s website.
During an initial port phase of exercises, according to the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, participating personnel from all three navies will conduct reciprocal ship visits and “carry out various activities such as deck reception and marines training.”
“The South African navy has maintained a sound cooperative relation with Chinese and Russian navies, and we are committed to continuing this friendly relation in the future. The focus of the exercise is on promoting navigation security and maritime economic security. We wish it a complete success,” a South African Joint Operation Division officer said at the onset of the exercise.
Rear Admiral Liu Zongcheng of the PLAN said that this inaugural China-Russia-South Africa exercise off the southern coast of Africa would build military-to-military ties between the three countries.
According to the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, Liu said the exercise would allow the three countries to “boost the pragmatic cooperation level and joint operation capability of the three navies, and fully demonstrate their determination to jointly cope with maritime threats and challenges, safeguard world peace and maritime security, and build the ‘maritime community with a shared future.’”
Along with Brazil and India, Russia, China, and South Africa participate in the ‘BRICS’ group of five emerging economies. The 11th BRICS summit took place earlier this month in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia.