New images show China is arming artificial islands in disputed South China Sea
China has been flexing its muscle in the South China Sea region that it claims as its own. Apart from deploying its navy and aircraft, it has also begun arming existing islands in the region and building up artificial ones to meet its strategic requirement. Photographer Ezra Acayan flew close to these structures to learn more about what was happening on the ground, The Drive reported.
The once peaceful shoals and reefs in the South China Sea region have become hotly disputed territories as multiple nations have laid claim to these areas. In addition to being geographical territories, these areas are also important for defense from a military perspective and access from an economic one.
Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines are a few countries that have made territorial claims in the region, and China is now displaying its dominance by building artificial islands and arming up areas that lie in these contested waters.
China's build-up in the South China Sea
According to The Drive's report, China has built outposts at multiple locations in the region, namely at Caurteron Reef, Johnson Reef, Hughes Reef, Gaven Reef, the north and south regions of Mischief Reef, as well as Subi Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef. There are also other outposts in the region that do not belong to China.
However, as the images show, the construction on these islands is nothing like a military barrack and a few armaments. Multi-story buildings and full-length airstrips dot these islands, boasting large storage capacities that could be put to use in case of escalation in the area.
While these developments were visible from satellite images captured of the region, the aerial images provide a larger level of detail on these constructions. For instance, the Caurteron Reef shows gun emplacements made on a series of towers of increasing height, backed by a large radome which would place the system over the horizon line of sight. It could be deployed against a range of threats, such as drones, cruise missiles as well as vessels approaching the island.
At the Fiery Cross Reef lies a finished airstrip flanked by hangars and an assortment of domed structures and radars. A garage-like structure nearby could likely be used to house and rapidly deploy transporter-erector-launchers (TELs) that can engage targets in the air, water, or on the ground, The Drive said in its report.
Large facilities with amenities
China's intent on occupying these islands for a long period of time is evident in the size of the structures and the amenities available on the islands. Buildings that aren't storage facilities are at least three stories high and house either administrative offices or residential quarters for the personnel.
On larger islands, even a sports track and field have been spotted alongside advanced airborne early warning systems. Green covers on the islands and large patches of lawn grass are as common as the deployment of radars and guns.
The way these outposts have been laid out, they can be quickly swung into action by dropping personnel and munitions on the ground and keeping attacks away from the mainland. Adding to the mystery are several buildings with unknown functions that could spring a surprise in the event of a conflict.
China's ambitious plans have shown little regard to what its neighbors lay claim to, and we could very well see these islands teeming with military activity in no time.
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