“This type of construction is in line with known Chinese practices in hardening their military bases. The underground structures allow for unobserved activity, as well as offer protection to vehicles or facilities critical to the Chinese mission in Djibouti,” Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence firm, said in an analysis accompanying the images.
“Even though this is just one of those bases in Djibouti as several other countries have, China has taken it's own methods into Djibouti,” Stratfor Senior Analyst Sim Tack told CNN.
China's Defense Ministry has touted the base as a way for the People's Liberation Army to help bring peace and security to the region by providing a means of carrying out anti-piracy operations and humanitarian assistance.
However an image from July 4 showed the Chinese had not yet begun building docks, which Stratfor called notable due to the bases aforementioned purpose.
“I wouldn't say it's irregular, but I would've expected to see a dock,” Tack said.
A dock will likely be constructed eventually, and China could use Djibouti's commercial port until that time, according to Stratfor.
Analysts say the base is part of China's efforts to establish a truly global naval force that's capable of conducting operations around the world — a so-called “blue water navy” — though Chinese state media has pushed back on suggestions that Beijing will flex its muscles globally.
But the base's construction also indicates that it will be used for more than naval purposes, according to the analysis.
It has tarmac and hangars appear large enough to house various types of helicopters, but not fixed-winged aircraft like drones or fighter jets. Those additions will allow the base to have aerial capabilities as well.