SANYA, China, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- A new era of naval history has been launched with China sending warships outside its territorial waters for the first time in centuries, officials said.
Three ships set sail from Sanya in Hainan province Friday, bound for the Gulf of Aden to defend Chinese vessels in danger from pirates based in Somalia, the first time in more than 500 years that China has sent military ships so far afield, The Times of London reported.
With seven pirate attacks involving Chinese shipping, and with few signs that pirates -- who have collected $30 million in ransom money this year -- are slowing down their hijackings, China has responded by sending two high-tech, heavily armed destroyers and a supply vessel to the Gulf of Aden, the newspaper said.
The flagship of the fleet is the Wuhan, a multi-purpose missile destroyer of the People's Liberation Army Navy. The ship was built by Jiangnan Shipyard of Shanghai in 2002, the state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua reported. The vessel is equipped with 16 anti-ship missiles, 48 surface-to-air missiles, close-in weapons system and a helicopter.
The other warship was identified as the Haikou, the Chinese Navy's latest destroyer model.