What Beijing is Building in the South China Sea
Since China began its extensive land reclamation program in the South China Sea in 2013, Beijing has focused on improving its presence and infrastructure at seven locations in the Spratly Island chain: Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross, Gaven, Hughes, Johnson, Mischief and Subi reefs. Of the seven locations, the Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi reefs received particular attention in the form of large-scale airfields built there. Over time, China has also added harbors, barracks, radar and other sensors. This is in addition to communications equipment, storage bunkers and general infrastructure installed across all seven islands. Stratfor partners at AllSource Analysis have provided imagery that confirms mobile electronic warfare (EW) equipment was recently deployed to Mischief Reef.
Beijing deployed EW equipment to prepared positions in Mischief Reef, consisting of 13 concrete pads located between an airfield to the north and what is probably a motor pool area in the southeast. The imagery shows that two camouflaged vehicles, most likely mobile EW systems, were moved to the deployment site as recently as March 13. The imagery indicates that China likely engaged in periodic training at the airfield for mobile electronic warfare operations during February and March of 2018.
The recent addition of mobile equipment for electronic warfare to Mischief Reef adds to the already-extensive electronic network on the reef. To the southeast, China has constructed what is probably a high-frequency, direction-finding antenna array installation which could be used to collect electronic or signals intelligence from transmissions by aircraft or ships in the region, as well as to detect stealth aircraft. North of the island, China has also built what is probably an inter-island communication tower with an associated antenna array similar to the ones found at Cuarteron, Hughes, Johnson South and Gaven reefs. On top of that, China constructed a Doppler very high-frequency omnidirectional range (DVOR) radio system adjacent to the airfield on Mischief Reef. DVOR systems provide short-range navigation information for aircraft without using satellite navigation data.
These developments are yet another example of China reinforcing its territorial claims in the region.
This article appeared originally at Stratfor.