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HomeWorldTawang clash: Mapping Chinese air infrastructure along India-China border 

Tawang clash: Mapping Chinese air infrastructure along India-China border 

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Tawang clash: Mapping Chinese air infrastructure along India-China border 
Read Time:7 Minute, 56 Second


By Bidisha Saha, Dipti Yadav: One of the most significant developments over the last few years has been the visible build-up and upgradations of Chinese airports and heliports in Tibet and Xinjiang. The upgradation of the existing airbases and the construction of new ones show great prospects in enhancing China’s military capabilities. Considering the rugged terrain of the region, it has the potential to offer an additional advantage to China in launching airborne surveillance in offensive and counter-offensive operations in the event of a conflict.

At a time when tensions on the border between India-China are heightened, India Today attempts to map undergoing advancements of air assets near Tibet and Xinjiang based on satellite imagery analysis and other open-source material. Over the past decade, there has been a continued building of air links near disputed areas with India, such as a second runway at Hotan Airport and a new heliport at Rutog near the Western Sector of the Sino-Indian Border.

According to a report by the American think-tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, China Power Project data, around 9 new airbases have been built in Tibet, and 6 in Xinjiang, while at least 15 have been upgraded in the Xinjiang region. Three of them are being constructed since 2019 in Xinjiang. These heliports, operated by PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Aviation units, are dotted throughout Tibet, stretching from Rutog County in the west to Nyingchi City in the east.

The report also mentions that “China’s western infrastructure buildup is fueled by perceived external and internal security threats on its frontier… China perceives significant security threats along its expansive disputed border with India, commonly known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The LAC is roughly divided into three sections. The eastern stretch of the border runs along an area roughly the size of Austria that is claimed by China as part of southern Tibet but administered by India as the state of Arunachal Pradesh.”

Recently in an interview, former Army Chief General Naravane highlighted the concerns about the illicit use of ‘salami slicing’ tactic by China. He said that the Chinese military is trying to alter the status quo along the LAC in “small incremental steps”, but all attempts have been thwarted by a “more assertive response from the Indian Army.” According to the Indian Defense Ministry, China has been illegally occupying approximately 38,000 sq km of territory in Ladakh for the past six decades.

China’s Key Aviation Facilities Near Sino-China Border

Shigatse Peace Airport

Again a dual-use airbase located in Shigatse, which is the second largest city in Tibet and situated around 150 km north of India’s frontier with Tibet, has witnessed a recent buildup as of December 14 after the recent clash along the shared border, as reported earlier by India Today. There has been an increase in aerial activities including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

A recent analysis of satellite images from The Warzone Wire shows a major buildup. “While the airbase has had a persistent contingent of UAVs for years, a large, mixed detachment of units was seen deployed across the base possibly due to heightened tensions,” it reported.

“Fighter aircraft, possible refuelers, along with airborne early warning (AEW) and control aircraft” were noted at the site of the airbase. The recent uptick in AEW aircraft is “notable as it provides improved airspace surveillance and early detection of airborne threats” in the unforgiving terrain along the shared Tibetan border. It is likely Shigatse Airport is acting as the main forward base supporting Chinese air missions in the region. The base is strategically located along the central portion of the China-India border and is closer than any other airport to the disputed Doklam area where the 2017 border standoff ensued.

Hotan Airbase

Operating under the Western Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force PLAAF, the advancement work started early in 2020 at the Hotan airbase. Situated just north of Aksai Chin, this airbase appears to have made considerable progress on its new 4,200-meter runway and massive weapons inventory- actions that would greatly support China’s future military offensives in the region.

The satellite analysis of the aerodrome indicates upgradation work at a rapid pace even in late 2020, aimed directly at boosting the military capabilities of this site. It allows lesser time utilized in dispatching squads during conflict situations.

As per China Power Report, at least 8 new roads and highways are being built stretching from the G219 national highway toward the China-India LAC. Within the military realm, these roads play a significant role in moving Chinese military forces between cities like Hotan PLAAF base into remote parts of disputed areas, such as the Galwan Valley.

Ngari-Gunsa Airbase

This dual-use airport is situated at an elevation of 4270 m and caters to both military and civilian aircraft. The images suggest a significant and rapid Chinese military build-up in late 2020 along the contested border. It is strategically placed near Ladakh and the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. It is located in Gar County in Tibet, just 200 km from Pangong Lake.

Ngari-Gunsa Airbase
Major Air Stations near Indo-China border.

Kashgar Airbase

The Kashgar airbase in China’s Xinjiang region is barely 475 km from Karakoram Pass in Eastern Ladakh. The dual-use airbase with a 3,200m runway has seen upgradation work including apron expansions, new large hangars possibly for H-6 bombers and airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft, and 12x hardened aircraft shelters for fighters since 2020.

Kashgar Airbase

Shannan Longzi Airport

The Shannan Longzi airport, at 3194m in elevation, has been funded by the 13th Five Year Plan and is part of China’s “3+1” development project, which includes a second runway for Gonggar and new airports at Tingri and Purang. The changes in satellite imagery show considerable changes and improvements made in the roadways near the airport after its completion in 2021. New roads and rail aim to facilitate easier movement of troops within the regions.

Shannan Longzi Airport

Nyingchi Mainling Airport

Nyingchi is a strategically located Tibetan border town close to Arunachal Pradesh. Nyingchi Mainling airport was traditionally built for civilian transfers, but since 2020, saw obvious signs of militarization.

The satellite images of the airport, which is located just 15.8 Km from the disputed Indian border, reveal new garrison, training, and air defense facilities. Other upgrades include the creation of a new taxiway, camouflaged positions and possible area defense advancements taking place at the site since June 2019.

Nyingchi Mainling Airport

Lhasa Gongkar Airport

Located in the capital city of Lhasa which now serves the Shigatse and Tsetang areas of Tibet, this airport has a new terminal building under construction along with a cargo complex.

Changdu Bangda Airbase (Qamdo Bamgda)

Located on the west bank of the Yuqu River in eastern Tibet, the Changdu Bangda Airbase sits at an elevation of 4400 m. Construction work has been ongoing and suspected military structures were seen along with apron and runway works and possible pavements. It is approximately 160 km from the Indian border and has been under renovation since 2020.

Chamdo Bangda. (Source: Twitter/ @detresfa_)

Rutog County Heliport

The construction of Rutog heliport near Pangong Tso Lake in eastern Ladakh began around the same time when India and China clashed along the Himalayan borders for the first time in the most serious brawl at Galwan Valley in June 2020, strengthening China’s military commitment to border conflict with India.

The gif of the satellite imagery obtained from Sentinel Hub not only shows the movement of armored vehicles but also the construction of military barracks, roads, and demarcations. Multiple tarped and covered rows suggest possible munitions and weaponry inventory.

RUTOG COUNTY HELIPORT

Aksai Chin Heliport

Around 150 km from Daulat Beg Oldi, China started building a heliport near Aksai Chin Lake even after India contested Chinese claims to the area. Satellite Imagery shows considerable progress on site, among other observations, including ongoing work at the runway, shelters and allied reinforcement buildings. The time lapse between October 2020 and January 2021 highlights that despite the brutal winds of winter, work continued at a rapid pace.

Aksai Chin Heliport

Tashkorgan Airport & Heliport

Located hardly 100 km north of Khunjerab Pass, Ladakh’s Border in the North, both the Tashkorgan Airport and Helipad are connected with China National Highway-314 (Urumqi to Khunjerab Pass) and part of Karakoram Highway (N-35). This is also referred to as the first “high plateau airport” in Xinjiang. High plateau airports are a term used in Chinese aviation to refer to airports located more than 2,438 meters above sea level.

This infrastructure is a key part of the China-Pakistan economic corridor, a flagship component of the Belt and Road Initiative. While the airport is built mainly for civilian usage, the new military helipad is built less than 8 km north of the airport.

Tashkorgan Airport

Other airbases along the eastern realm include Cuona Heliport, Damxung Airport, Gerze County Airport, Gerze County Airport, Kangmar County Airport, Qamdo Bamda Airport, and Seni County Heliport.

ALSO READ | Chinese troops leave behind equipment in retreat after Tawang clash
ALSO READ | How India-China LAC face-off may impact New Delhi’s G-20 presidency





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Newslaavahttps://newslaava.com
“I am an architect, animator and teacher working in architecture and design at __india__. This site is a great resource for anyone looking to get more updates from their home. Fill your home (heart) with more trending accessories from choosing the best colors for your mind room. NewsSalava.com will rob your heart .... Cool

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