New satellite photos show that China is preparing for potential missile attacks on U.S. targets, USNI News reported.
The images, provided by satellite imagery company Maxar, show mock targets in the Taklamakan Desert of large-scale target ranges including model destroyers and piers.
Two other sites, including one about 190 miles southwest of the desert and another eight miles southwest, suggest the targets are meant for testing hypersonic anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) that pose significant threats to warships, according to USNI.
“The layout of the targets is very calculated,” said Damien Symon, an independent defense analyst who discovered the naval base target about 190 miles southwest of the desert.
“The orientations, shapes, and sizes are consistent across multiple targets. There is nothing haphazard about these sites.”
“This is a different material to the piers and buildings,” he added. “It may reflect heat or radar differently; this also might give us an indication of the complex systems and effort behind these experiments.”
China has developed at least two types of ASBMs: the DF-21D and DF-26, according to USNI.
The DF-26 is known as the “carrier-killer” and has a range of up to 3,000 miles, enough to reach the U.S. overseas territory of Guam.
Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at Taiwan’s Naval Academy in Kaohsiung, said the mock-up and drill designs suggest the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) warships “are simulating precision strikes to hit targets in both Guam naval base and Suao military port by its YJ-21 anti-ship missile.”
The Suao port is designed to keep Taiwan’s access to maritime supply chains open in time of war, according to the South China Morning Post.
“The PLA would also prime its wartime missile strike targeting key Taiwanese installations — including not just the airbases, [command and control] centres, storage bunkers but also naval bases,” Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, told the Post.
“Suao is located on the Taiwan eastern seaboard, which renders a certain degree of strategic depth and would be less vulnerable than, say, Keelung which is another key [Taiwanese] fleet hub that’s located on the western seaboard facing right at the strait and therefore more exposed to PLA strikes.”