For the first time in nearly 60 years, China has dispatched an overseas naval force. The mission of two helicopters, three warships and special forces is to protect China’s commercial fleet from pirates off the Somalian coast.
China’s decision came after the merchant ship Zhenhua 4 repelled a pirate attack using gasoline-filled bottles and water cannon on Dec. 17, 2008. Nine pirates boarded the ship but were forced back by Captain Peng Weiyuan, his crew and weapons-firing helicopters sent from the multi-national task force.
The Chinese naval group includes the multi-role guided missile destroyers DDG-171 Haikou and DDG-169 Wuhan, plus the support vessel Weishanhu. According to the Shanghai Daily, the Haikou is "often called ‘China’s Aegis’ as it has a combat system similar to the Aegis system used by the U.S. Navy and is equipped with advanced computers and radar to track targets." The Haikou has a hangar and stern flight deck that can accommodate up to two Chinese Z-9 (China’s version of the Eurocopter AS365N) or Russian Kamov Ka-28A antisubmarine helicopters. The Wuhan’s stern flight deck can hold a single Kamov Ka-28.