China builds model ships of the US Navy in an area used for practicing missile targets
BEIJING, Nov. 8 (Reuters) – The Chinese military has built scale models in the form of a US Navy aircraft carrier and other US warships, possibly as training targets, in the desert Xinjiang, satellite images of Maxar showed on Sunday.
These mockups reflect China’s efforts to bolster its anti-carrier capabilities, particularly against the US Navy, as tensions remain high with Washington over Taiwan and the South China Sea.
Satellite images showed a full-scale glimpse of an American aircraft carrier and at least two Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers had been built in what appears to be a new target complex in the Taklamakan Desert.
The footage also showed a 6-meter-wide rail system with a ship-sized target mounted on it, which experts said could be used to simulate a moving ship.
The complex was used for ballistic missile testing, the The US Naval Institute reported, citing geospatial intelligence firm All Source Analysis.
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China’s anti-ship missile programs are overseen by the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Launcher (PLARF). China’s Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to the Pentagon’s latest annual report on the Chinese military, PLARF conducted its first confirmed live fire in the South China Sea in July 2020, firing six DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missiles into the waters north of the Spratly Islands, where China has territorial disputes with Taiwan and four countries in Southeast Asia.
Tests at sea may have shown China “that they are still a long way from creating an accurate ASBM,” said Collin Koh, a researcher at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “I don’t think desert targets will be the last stop. It’s meant to be further refined.”
An anti-ship ballistic missile test in the desert would not reflect realistic conditions of a marine environment, which could affect sensors and targeting, but would allow China to conduct the tests more safely, said Koh.
“The best way to test it and keep it out of the prying eyes of the US military and intelligence services is to do it inland,” he said.
Neighboring countries, concerned about missiles hitting other ships around the target, could also oppose China’s sea trials, he added.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in July this year that the United States would defend the Philippines in the event of an attack in the South China Sea and warned China to stop its “provocative behavior”.
Reporting by Yew Lun Tian. Editing by Gerry Doyle
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