Russian and Chinese naval vessels heading for South Africa

The Russian Navy is sending its Slava class missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov (055), accompanied by the Project Sliva class rescue tug SB-406 and tanker Vyazma. These vessels left the port of Malabo in Equatorial Guinea on 11 November as part of their long-distance voyage, having departed the Northern Fleet’s main naval base of Severomorsk on 3 July to take part in the Russian Navy’s parade in St Petersburg.


Russian and Chinese warships are en route to South Africa where they are due to take part in Exercise Mosi with the South African Navy at the end of this month.

After St Petersburg, the Marshal Ustinov took part in the Ocean Shield 2019 exercise and then visited Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, before arriving in Equatorial Guinea on 8 November. The Russian Navy said the visit was to show the colours and strengthen naval cooperation. The deployment’s commanding officer, commander of the missile ships’ division, Captain 1st Rank Andrei Saloshin and cruiser commander, Captain 1st Rank Vladimir Kuzmin, paid a number of protocol visits to Equatorial Guinea officials.

In early November the Vyazma and SB-406 paid a visit to the port of Praya in the Republic of Cape Verde.

The Russian vessels are expected to arrive in Cape Town on 23 November, along with the 12 700 ton Russian icebreaker Akademik Tryoshnikov. This polar research vessel was built in 2012 and is 134 metres long. The vessel is currently heading south off the coast of Dakar, Senegal.

On the Chinese side, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is believed to be sending the Type 054A frigate Weifang (550). The vessel has visited South Africa in the past, most recently docking in Simon’s Town in June 2018 for a four-day goodwill visit. It arrived with the Type 054A frigate Yancheng and Type 903A replenishment ship Taihu as part of the 27th Escort Task Group, which patrolled the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia for pirates.

The Weifang left Qingdao on 29 August with the 33rd Escort Task Group, and headed to the Gulf of Aden with the Type 052D destroyer Xining (117), the Type 903A supply ship Hoh Xil Hu and two embarked helicopters. Xining is the fifth Type 052D vessel and is the first of its class to visit Africa.

The Weifang is expected to arrive in Cape Town on 24 November and be joined the following day by the South African Navy’s Valour class frigate SAS Amatola. Other South African participation is expected to come in the form of the support vessel SAS Drakensberg.

Exercise Mosi will be the first joint naval exercise between China, Russia and South Africa. It is due to kick off on 25 November and conclude around the first week of December. According to the SA Navy, the exercise goal is to develop and strengthen relations and friendly co-operation between the armed forces of the three countries. The theme, agreed by all nations involved, is “Joint actions to ensure safety of shipping and maritime economic activity”.

Mosi is the only at sea exercise the South African maritime service will take part in this year as the exercises Oxide with the French naval forces in the Indian Ocean and Good Hope, with the German Navy, have been postponed. Indications are Exercise Oxide will be staged next year with Exercise Good Hope, at present, set for 2022. The rescheduling is by mutual agreement between the countries involved.

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