China appears to have built models with the dimensions of a U.S. aircraft carrier and other warships in a western desert, illustrating how the People’s Liberation Army is focused on increasingly realistic training as tension with the U.S. rises over Taiwan.
Satellite imagery from a remote desert in the western Xinjiang region of China that the PLA uses for exercises shows outlines in the shape of a Nimitz-class carrier and at least two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, according to details provided by two Colorado-based firms. The findings show the carrier-size structure appears to be built on railway tracks to enable its movement.
Evidence of the ship mock-ups—presumably designed for target practice—comes amid concerns over Taiwan, the self-governed island Beijing claims is its sovereign territory and the U.S. supplies with military hardware. The PLA is increasingly active in the skies and seas around Taiwan, while the U.S. and Western allies step up naval patrols in apparent efforts to deter Beijing from taking action to gain control of the island.
Photographs of the ship-like structures by Maxar Technologies Inc. and interpreted by AllSource Analysis Inc. show their dimensions match the hull size of U.S. naval vessels, but with minimal or no deck equipment or other features of a real ship.
There are about eight mock-ups of vessels plus unidentified equipment that appears to be sensors spread over a vast area that China in the past has used for training, said Renny Babiarz, an analyst at AllSource Analysis, which first discovered the site.
“Part of China’s testing for weapons systems is now incorporating detailed examples of U.S. equipment, and U.S. equipment that is in the Pacific Theater,” said Mr. Babiarz.