Mysterious Chinese military blimp spotted on satellite images of secluded desert base

Discovery indicates a significant leap forward for China's airship program, and raises questions about the potential impact on regional dynamics
Abdul-Rahman Oladimeji Bello
Satellite imagery of the blimp.


In a stunning revelation, satellite images have unveiled a never-before-seen Chinese military blimp stationed at a remote desert base in northwestern China. This groundbreaking development, first brought to light by exclusive satellite imagery obtained by CNN, has the potential to alter the landscape of global aerospace technology significantly.

The satellite images, captured by US-based BlackSky in November 2022, appear to show a massive 100-foot-long (30-meter) blimp situated on a long runway amidst the barren desert landscape.

The discovery comes just months before a Chinese spy balloon was shot down off the coast of South Carolina, adding further intrigue to China's airship capabilities. This imagery also seems to support discovered Chinese patents on similar technology by the PLA's newly formed "unit 63660."

Leading aerospace experts are buzzing with excitement, suggesting that this sighting could indicate a major leap forward in China's airship program, pointing towards a more flexible and agile craft than anything previously known or seen.

Upon examining the imagery, various experts confirmed the presence of a blimp and runway, a pivot point for launching airships, and a colossal 900-foot (274-meter) airship hangar.

The implications of this technology are immense, as Oklahoma Aerospace Institute Executive Director Jamey Jacobs explains: "This blimp could serve as a 'submarine of the skies,' boasting dedicated propulsion and navigation capabilities, which would enable it to hover over a specific area for extended durations."

Jacobs also emphasized the significance of this advancement, stating, "It is the next leap for them in terms of furthering the engineering and support of research funding in that direction."

China’s military exploits

The recent discovery of the Chinese military blimp at a remote desert base in northwestern China has brought renewed attention to China's airship program. This is particularly significant in light of the January spy balloon incident that exposed how airships can be utilized for spying activities. 

According to a 2018 report by the Rand Corporation, airships are an attractive option for the Chinese military due to their cost-effectiveness and ability to provide more precise intelligence than satellites. Airships are less susceptible to destruction than planes (because of the altitudes they can operate at), providing a safer option for reconnaissance missions.

While the US military has also utilized aerostats, the discovery of China's use of all three types of airships - blimps, aerostats, and free-floating balloons - confirms the country's commitment to advancing its airship program.

When contacted by CNN, several congressional and administration offices familiar with US intelligence on China declined to comment directly on the base or the blimp, adding an air of mystery and speculation to the discovery. This new military asset's secretive nature has left experts, and officials intrigued about China's intentions and potential strategic implications.

As satellite images continue to captivate the attention of analysts and defense experts, the international community remains eager for more information on the blimp's capabilities and purpose.

This never-before-seen Chinese military blimp raises compelling questions about the advancements in airship technology and its potential impact on regional dynamics.

While the Chinese government has not provided any official comments or details regarding the blimp, its appearance underscores the rapid pace of technological advancements in modern warfare. As nations continuously strive to develop cutting-edge military capabilities, unveiling such a potent airship highlights the evolving nature of global security and the need for continuous monitoring and analysis of emerging technologies.

The international community will undoubtedly follow developments closely, awaiting further insights into China's airship program and the potential implications of this newfound military asset.

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