Majorly detailed images of the artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea have come up. They depict radar installations, airfields, and naval gun emplacements, among buildings and other structures, located there.
The photographs were taken by Ezra Acayan flying in an aircraft near the man-made fortresses in the Spratly Islands.
The island at the Reef shows a naval gun on a series of towers of increasing height, backed by a radar gunnery director. It looks to host a Type 730/1130 close-in weapon system (CIWS) and a H/PJ76 76mm multi-purpose deck gun. These would ensure robust defense against low-flying air threats, like cruise missiles, aircraft, and drones, along with protection against vessels near the island.
Two photos show one of the most developed regions on Fiery Cross Reef. There is a KJ-500 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft present on the taxiway. Along with residential and administrative buildings, Fiery Cross Island also has a sports track and field, living quarters, recreational facilities, and administrative buildings. There is also a red-and-white lighthouse.
There is also a huge low-slung structure covered in grass. It is not clear yet what that space will be used for.
Mischief Reef shows a pair of Type 022 Houbei class catamaran fast attack missile craft. They can be easily spotted by their distinct camouflage scheme. The first reports that the People’s Liberation Army Navy had deployed Type 022s to this outpost appeared last year. These boats can accommodate up to eight YJ-83 subsonic anti-ship missiles, along with their bow-mounted 30mm H/PJ-13 Gatling-type guns.
Another artificial island is on Hughes Reef in the Spratly Islands, with a large tower at one end, a narrow road and a helicopter pad in the middle, and a multi-story building at the other end. It also has an apparently large swimming pool.
Another man-made island is on Gaven Reef. It has a very similar central structure, along with a gun platform expanding from it sporting 76mm deck guns.
The reefs are strategically located between countries that fight China’s claim to the region and want to assert their own right to defensive and economic access. Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam all have territorial claims to the areas in which China has built islands and planted its flag.
It is published in the National Defense Strategy that the U.S. military considers China an increasing threat as it anticipates potential future conflict. Each U.S. military service is preparing to operate across the vast distances of the Pacific as it challenges Chinese expansionism in the region.