Think tank says China building radars in Spratlys
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - February 22, 2016 - 7:54pm

MANILA, Philippines — Beijing has been building new radar facilities on its artificial islands built on Spratlys features in the South China Sea, according to a report.

Satellite images acquired by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) show that apparent radar towers have been built at Gaven, Hughes, Johnson South and Cuarteron reefs in the disputed sea.

"And when along with the development of new runways and air defense capabilities, they speak to a long-term anti-access strategy by China—one that would see it establish effective control over the sea and airspace throughout the South China Sea," the AMTI said.

Construction on Cuarteron or Calderon Reef, which the Philippines also claims as part of Kalayaan, Palawan, is nearly complete and covers about 211,500 square meters.

Two probable radar towers have been located on the northern portion of Cuarteron Reef while a number of 65-foot poles have been installed across its southern portion. The poles may be a high-frequency radar which monitors surface and air traffic in the region.

"Improved radar coverage is an important piece of the puzzle—along with improved air defenses and greater reach for Chinese aircraft—toward China’s goals of establishing effective control over the sea and airspace throughout the nine-dash line," the report said.

A probable loading crane, pier, helipad and bunker have been spotted on the northern section of Gaven or Burgos Reef. The feature also has a large building in its center with a possible radar tower.

Hughes Reef, which lies in the center of Spratlys, features a large building with possible gun emplacements and a quay with a loading crane, a helipad, a probable radar tower and a possible bunker, according to the AMTI.

Johnson South or Mabini Reef has a probable solar array, lighthouse, helipad and quay. At least two probable radars have been built on the north and east sections of the feature.

Land reclamation efforts at Gaven, Hughes and Johnson South reefs is nearing completion.

A satellite photograph of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea's Spratly islands shows a probable radar tower being constructed by China on February 12. CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe

A satellite photograph of Hughes Reef in the South China Sea's Spratly islands shows a probable radar tower being constructed by China on February 7. CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe

A satellite photograph of Johnson South Reef in the South China Sea's Spratly islandsshows a probable radar tower being constructed by China on February 9. CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe

Earlier this month, it has been reported that China has deployed HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island, a part of the Paracel Islands chain in the South China Sea.

"This month’s deployment of HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island in the Paracels, while notable, does not alter the military balance in the South China Sea. New radar facilities being developed in the Spratlys, on the other hand, could significantly change the operational landscape in the South China Sea," the AMTI said.

RELATED: China denies sending missiles to disputed island

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