Jane’s Intelligence Review & Thomas Harding / The Telegraph – 2008-05-05 00:08:44
China Has Secret Nuclear Submarine Base: Jane’s
Robin Millard / Jane’s Intelligence Review
(May 2, 2008) — China is building a major underground nuclear submarine base on the southern tip of Hainan Island, defence group Jane’s said Friday.
Jane’s Intelligence Review, a respected defence periodical, said satellite images of the base from imagery provider DigitalGlobe were the first confirmation of its existence.
Although Beijing is displaying no overt aggression, the base could mean an increase in its strategic capability in the South China Sea and considerably further afield, Jane’s analysis said.
“Jane’s can confirm that the satellite pictures show that China is constructing a major underground nuclear submarine base near Sanya, on Hainan Island off its southern coast,” the group said.
The Daily Telegraph, which reported the satellite images, called the base a “vast, James Bond-style edifice capable of concealing up to 20 nuclear-powered submarines, which will enable China to project its power across the region.”
The British broadsheet said in an editorial that it was a sign of China’s secretive side and Beijing “too often seeks to conceal its activities and becomes defensive when questioned.”
Jane’s said that Asian military sources had told it about the base in 2002, but the photographs provided independent verification.
The satellite images showed the harbour layout and a Type 094 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine at the base, said Jane’s.
Others show three Luyang guided missile destroyers and a Jiangwei 2 guided missile frigate moored on a jetty, it said.
There are believed to be 11 tunnel openings at the base, it was reported, with each entrance, carved into the hill-side, stretching to a height of about 60 feet (18 metres). Pictures showed two of the tunnel entrances.
Another showed construction operations involving engineering and excavation barges.
The extent of construction indicates that the Sanya base could become a key future hub for the Chinese navy’s aircraft carriers and other power-projection ships, Jane’s said.
The Chinese navy moved its first Type 094 submarine to Sanya in December 2007, it added.
The identification of an underground submarine base and the positioning of China’s most advanced sub-surface combatants at Sanya could have implications for China’s control of the South China Sea and the strategically vital straits in the area, said Jane’s.
“For both regional and extra-regional powers, it will be difficult to ignore that China is now building a major naval base at Sanya and may be preparing to house and protect a large proportion of its nuclear forces here and even operate them from this base,” the group said.
“This development so close to the south-east Asian sea lanes so vital to the economies of Asia can only cause concern far beyond these straits.”
Jane’s Intelligence Review editor Christian Le Miere said: “China’s nuclear and naval build-up at Sanya underlines Beijing’s desire to assert tighter control over this region.
“China’s increasing dependence on imported petroleum and mineral resources has contributed to an intensified Chinese concern about defending its access to vital sea lanes, particularly to its south.
“It is this concern that in large part is driving China’s development of power-projection naval forces such as aircraft carriers and long-range nuclear submarines.”
Copyright © 2008 Agence France Presse
Chinese Nuclear Submarine Base
Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent / The Telegraph
• Satellite image of the harbour: click to enlarge
LONDON (May 2, 2008) — China has secretly built a major underground nuclear submarine base that could threaten Asian countries and challenge American power in the region, it can be disclosed.
Satellite imagery, passed to The Daily Telegraph, shows that a substantial harbour has been built which could house a score of nuclear ballistic missile submarines and a host of aircraft carriers.
In what will be a significant challenge to US Navy dominance and to countries ringing the South China Sea, one photograph shows China’s latest 094 nuclear submarine at the base just a few hundred miles from its neighbours.
Other images show numerous warships moored to long jettys and a network of underground tunnels at the Sanya base on the southern tip of Hainan island.
Of even greater concern to the Pentagon are massive tunnel entrances, estimated to be 60ft high, built into hillsides around the base. Sources fear they could lead to caverns capable of hiding up to 20 nuclear submarines from spy satellites.
The US Department of Defence has estimated that China will have five 094 nuclear submarines operational by 2010 with each capable of carrying 12 JL-2 nuclear missiles.
The images were obtained by Janes Intelligence Review after the periodical was given access to imagery from the commercial satellite company DigitalGlobe.
Analysts for the respected military magazine suggest that the base could be used for “expeditionary as well as defensive operations” and would allow the submarines to “break out to launch locations closer to the US”.
It would now be “difficult to ignore” that China was building a major naval base where it could house its nuclear forces and increase it “strategic capability considerably further afield”.
The development so close to the sea lanes vital to Asian economies “can only cause concern far beyond these straits”.
Military analysts believe that China’s substantial build up of its forces is gaining pace put has remained hidden from the world in the build-up to the Olympics.
China has diverted much of its resources from the huge Peoples Liberation Army to the navy, air force and missile development.
An old Russian aircraft carrier, bought by Beijing for “leisure activities” has been picked over by naval architects who hope to “reverse engineer” the ship.
Within the next five to 10 years the People’s Liberation Navy is expected to build up to six carriers which will also coincide with the Royal Navy’s construction of two major carriers.
The location of the base off Hainan will also give the submarines access to very deep water exceeding 5,000 metres within a few miles, making them even harder to detect.
Britain’s Trident submarines have to remain on the surface when they leave Faslane in north east Scotland and cannot dive to depth until outside the Irish Sea.
While it has been known that China might be developing an underground base at Sanya, the pictures provide the first proof of the base’s existence and the rapid progress made.
Two 950 metre piers and three smaller ones would be enough to accommodate two carrier strike groups or amphibious assault ships.
Christian Le Miere, editor for Jane’s Intelligence Review, said the complex underlined Beijing’s plan “to assert tighter control over this region”.
“This is a challenge to any hegemonic power, particularly the US which still remains dominant in the region.”
So far China has offered no public explanation for its building at Sanya.
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