China has built missile targets resembling a US aircraft carrier and two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, satellite images recently released by Maxar show.
Provided to the US Navy Institute news portal, the photos capture full-scale outlines of the American warships allegedly built at a target range complex in the Taklamakan Desert. The Chinese military is using the complex to conduct ballistic missile tests.
The mockups reportedly reflect Chinese efforts to improve the country’s anti-carrier capabilities amid increasing tensions between the two military powerhouses over Taiwan sovereignty and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
According to geospatial intelligence company AllSource Analysis, the creation of simulated US warships and the integration of other high-tech equipment could be China’s way to replicate targets and bolster its seeking/target acquisition capabilities.
“This, and the extensive detail of the mockups, including the placement of multiple sensors on and around the vessel targets, it is probable that this area is intended for multiple uses over time,” the company explained, as quoted by USNI News.
NEW – Chinese military has built a full-scale American aircraft carrier mockup and other U.S. warships in a remote desert as part of a new "target range complex."https://t.co/bxBUeGKkx3 pic.twitter.com/wfCNhazWOc
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) November 7, 2021
China’s Anti-Ship Missiles
China has been developing high-powered missiles that could be used against enemy warships in the event of a conflict.
Its land-based DF-21D ballistic missile — dubbed the “carrier-killer” — has a reported range of 1,450 to 1,550 kilometers (900 to 963 miles) and has been tested against a ship target the size of a contemporary US aircraft carrier.
“In July 2019, the [People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force] conducted its first-ever confirmed live-fire launch into the South China Sea, firing six DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles into the waters north of the Spratly Islands,” the Pentagon said in its latest annual report on China’s military.
In addition to DF-21D, China developed the multi-role DF-26 featuring a “modular design” allowing operators to swap conventional and nuclear warheads in the field rapidly.
With a range of 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles), the weapon system is China’s first nuclear-armed system “that can conduct precision strikes” as far away as Guam.