The Chinese military has been constructing mockups of American naval vessels in the desert, and may be using them as target practice, as reported by CNN.
The mockups were revealed in satellite images taken out of the Xinjiang region in northwestern China, which includes the Taklamakan Desert. A new target range complex has been built in the desert, and is already known as a site where ballistic missiles have been tested. The mockups captured on film include what appears to be a Ford-class aircraft carrier, and two Arleigh Burke-guided missile destroyers.
The satellite images were captured by space technology company Maxar Technologies, with the film reviewed by the United States Naval Institute (USNI), which confirmed the specificity of the mockup targets. “This new range shows that China continues to focus on anti-carrier capabilities,” says the USNI’s report, “with an emphasis on US Navy warships.”
While it is common practice for militaries to construct mockups to use for target practice or other training purposes, the nature of these particular targets indicate growing hostility towards the United States from China.
When asked about the pictures on Monday, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that the Department of Defense is currently less focused on China itself and more on building a broader coalition of allies in the Indo-Pacific region.
“What we’re concerned about … is the increasing intimidation and coercive behavior of the Chinese military in the Indo-Pacific, and also the coercive tactics they’re using, even using economic tools around the world to bend other nations to their will or to their view of what’s in their best interest,” Kirby explained. “We’re focused on developing the capabilities, the operational concepts, making sure we have the resources and the right strategy in place so that we can deal with (China) as the No. 1 pacing challenge.”
China has grown increasingly hostile in its efforts to expand across the Indo-Pacific in recent months. The Chinese military has especially ramped up its intimidation of the neighboring country of Taiwan, with a record number of Chinese war planes flying through Taiwanese airspace in a clear demonstration of power.