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China builds mock US warships

Satellite Image ©2021 Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

The CCP has reportedly constructed fake US aircraft carriers for target practice.

The CCP has reportedly constructed fake US aircraft carriers for target practice.

New satellite images from earth intelligence and space infrastructure company Maxar Technologies have identified what could be mock-ups in the shape of US Navy warships, which appear to have been constructed at a new target range complex in the Taklamakan Desert of Xinjiang, China.

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The satellite images include a full-scale outline of a US aircraft carrier and at least two Arleigh Burke Class guided missile destroyers, which may have been built for target training, with the Chinese military working to develop anti-carrier capabilities specifically designed for combat against the US Navy.

The Maxar images also identify a six-metre-wide rail system with a ship-sized target mounted on it, which may have been designed to simulate a moving vessel.

According to the US Naval Institute, the complex has been used for ballistic missile testing, with anti-ship missile programs overseen by the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF).

The Pentagon's latest annual report on China's military revealed the PLARF conducted its first confirmed live-fire launch into the South China Sea in July 2020, with six DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missiles launched into the waters north of the Spratly Islands.

Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, has told Reuters the tests suggest China is “still far from creating an accurate ASBM”.

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"I don't think the desert targets are going to be the final stage. It's meant for further refinement,” Koh added.

"…The best way to test it and keep it out of the prying eyes of the US military and intelligence assets is to do it inland.”

This latest revelation follows last month’s report of a hypersonic missile launch from China, which missed its target by approximately 40 kilometres after travelling through low-orbit space and circling the globe.

The report, which first appeared in the Financial Times, cited five unnamed sources claiming China had made "astounding progress" on hypersonic weapons and was "far more advanced than US officials realised". 

But China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian denied the reports, claiming it was a “routine test”, which formed part of a civilian space project.   

"It was not a missile, it was a space vehicle," he said.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin refused to address the specific report, but stressed that China’s weapons programs are being closely monitored.

“We watch closely China’s development of armament and advanced capabilities and systems that will only increase tensions in the region,” he said.

These reports come amid mounting tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwanese independence.

A spike in PLA intrusions over Taiwan’s south-west air defence identification zone has only intensified these concerns, with well over a dozen incidents reported in October.

In response, the Taiwanese military has deployed combat air patrol platforms, issued radio warnings, and prepared air defence missile systems.

[Related: CCP denies hypersonic missile testing]

Charbel Kadib

Charbel Kadib

News Editor – Defence and Security, Momentum Media

Prior to joining the defence and aerospace team in 2020, Charbel was news editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business, where he covered developments in the banking and financial services sector for three years. Charbel has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations, graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a double major in politics and journalism. Charbel has also completed internships with The Australian Department of Communications and the Arts and public relations agency Fifty Acres.

China builds mock US warships
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