Chinese Military Practices Attack Strategies on Targets Shaped Like US Aircraft Carriers

By Prakash Gogoi | November 13, 2021
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The Chinese military has built a target practice range in the Taklamakan desert featuring American warships as targets.
The Chinese military has built a target practice range in the Taklamakan desert featuring American warships as targets. (Image: Military_Material via Pixabay)

The Chinese military is performing target practice exercises with structures that are identical in profile to American warships and aircraft carriers. These military exercises are taking place in China’s Taklamakan desert.

Images received by USNI from satellite imaging firm Maxar revealed that there are full-scale outlines of at least two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers together with a U.S. aircraft carrier. They are set up as targets in the Ruoqiang region in Central China. The new target range could be proof that Beijing is continuing to focus on reinforcing and refining its anti-carrier capabilities with a special focus on U.S. Navy warships.

The large aircraft carrier-shaped target appears relatively simple with no major detailing. However, other warship targets shown in the images revealed substantial detailing with upright poles strategically placed on them. The poles could potentially be designed for installing instrumentation. They can also be used for radar reflectors so as to simulate the vessels’ superstructure.

“The mockups of several probable U.S. warships (mounted on rails and mobile), could simulate targets related to seeking/target acquisition testing. 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,” according to a summary provided by AllSource Analysis, the company that provided the Maxar satellite images to USNI News.

In the past, communist China has built similar aircraft carrier targets in deserts. In 2003, Beijing constructed a large concrete pad the size of an aircraft carrier as part of the Shuangchengzi missile test range. The pad has undergone frequent firing exercises and is regularly repaired for further testing.

The new site in the Taklamakan desert is located 600 miles away from Shuangchengzi and is far more advanced. It has been designed with target structures that have much more technical detailing so as to provide improved representations of the vessels being targeted. Although the Iranian Navy also has a target structure based on the profile of an aircraft carrier, China’s new facility in the desert is more sophisticated.

Communist China has been intently focused on the development and testing of anti-ship ballistic missiles for years. The Pentagon has raised concerns about communist China’s rapidly expanding nuclear capabilities. This military unease between two global superpowers is developing just as China amps up tensions in the South China Sea and aggressively threatens Taiwan. 

John Kirby, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, recently stated that communist China is building up maritime and aviation capabilities with the specific aim of blocking the United States from accessing parts of the Indo-Pacific region.

A Pentagon report warned of Beijing’s increasing missile capabilities. DF-21D and DF-26, called carrier-killers, are two China-made ballistic missiles that can target ships. DF-21D “gives the PLA the capability to conduct long range precision strikes against ships, including aircraft carriers, out to the Western Pacific from mainland China,” the report stated.