BEIJING, Nov. 8 (Reuters) – Chinese military has built models in the form of a US Navy aircraft carrier and other US warships, possibly as training targets, in the Xinjiang desert, satellite images from Maxar showed Sunday.
These mockups reflect China’s efforts to build anti-carrier capabilities, particularly against the US Navy, as tensions with Washington remain high over Taiwan and the South China Sea.
The satellite images showed a full outline of a US aircraft carrier and at least two Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers had been built on what appears to be a new target range complex in the Taklamakan Desert.
The images also showed a 6-meter-wide rail system with a ship-sized target on it, which experts say could be used to simulate a moving vessel.
The complex has been used for ballistic missile testing, 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 Force (PLARF). The Chinese Ministry of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to the Pentagon’s latest annual report on the Chinese military, the PLARF conducted its first confirmed live-fire launch in the South China Sea in July 2020, firing six DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missiles into waters north of China. the Spratly Islands, where China has territorial disputes with Taiwan and four Southeast Asian countries.
The tests at sea may have shown that China is “far from done creating an accurate ASBM,” said Collin Koh, a research associate at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “I don’t think the desert targets will be the final stage. It’s for further refinement.”
An anti-ship ballistic missile test in the desert wouldn’t reflect the realistic conditions of a marine environment, which could affect sensors and targeting, but would allow China to conduct the tests more safely, Koh said.
“The best way to test it and keep it out of the prying eyes of the U.S. military and intelligence community is to do it inland,” he said.
Neighboring countries, concerned about the missiles hitting other ships around the target, may also object to China’s sea tests, he added.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in July this year that the United States will defend the Philippines if attacked 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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