China’s military has built a fake US Navy aircraft carrier and other warships for possible missile target practice, according to new satellite images published Sunday.
The images, captured by Colorado-based satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies, show a full-scale outline of a carrier and at least two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers at what appears to be a new target range complex in the Taklamakan Desert, part of China’s notorious Xinjiang province.
One of the mockups included the funnels and weapons systems featured on the destroyers, according to an analysis by the US Naval Institute.
The fake warships also appeared to be mounted on railway tracks in an apparent effort to keep them mobile.
The complex where the mockups were seen is close to a former target range China previously used for ballistic missile testing.
“The mockups of several probable U.S. warships, along with other warships (mounted on rails and mobile), could simulate targets related to seeking/target acquisition testing,” the US Naval Institute said, citing a summary of the images by geospatial intelligence company AllSource Analysis.
“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.”
China’s anti-ship missile programs are overseen by the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin denied knowing about the satellite imagery during a press briefing Monday, saying “I’m not aware of the situation.”
China’s defense ministry has not commented on the images.
The photos were taken at a time when tensions remain high between the US and China over the South China Sea, Taiwan and military supremacy in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Pentagon issued a report earlier this month saying China was expanding its nuclear force faster than the US had anticipated a year ago and could increase the number of nuclear warheads its military has by 700 in fewer than six years.
US defense officials have said they are increasingly aware of China’s intentions.
With Post wires