At Mischief Reef, two of the four structures have been completed, with covers already placed over the systems installed there. AMTI/CSIS via DigitalGlobe

Satellite photos show China weapons in South China Sea
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - December 15, 2016 - 10:25am

MANILA, Philippines — China appears to have constructed point-defense capabilities at each of its outposts in seven of the Manila-claimed islands on the Spratly (Kalayaan) Islands in the South China Sea.

Washington-based CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) reported that China has built large anti-aircraft guns and probable close-in weapons systems (CIWS) in the Spratly Islands.

The think tank started tracking China's construction of hexagon-shaped structures on Fiery Cross (Kagitingan), Mischief (Panganiban) and Subi (Zamora) Reefs earlier this year.

Smaller facilities were also seen on Gaven (Burgos), Hughes, Johnson (Mabini) and Cuarteron (Calderon) Reefs based on satellite images.

"These gun and probable CIWS emplacements show that Beijing is serious about defense of its artificial islands in case of an armed contingency in the South China Sea," the report read.

RELATED: China builds hangars for fighter jets on Spratlys

Hexagonal platforms, which are likely hosting anti-aircraft guns roughly 20 feet long were seen at two of the smallest of the features, Hughes and Gaven Reefs.

Smaller platforms which hold roughly 10-foot-wide objects were also observed but cannot be definitively identified.

Center for Naval Analyses' Admiral Michael McDevitt and RAND’s Cortez Cooper said in a podcast that these are likely CIWS to protect against cruise missile strikes.

Hughes Reef CSIS/AMTI via DigitalGlobe
Gaven Reef CSIS/AMTI via DigitalGlobe

The central facility on Johnson Reef sports an anti-aircraft gun in the south and an apparent CIWS in the north.

"Another gun and probable CIWS, along with a radar, were constructed on a separate structure, consisting of three hexagonal towers on the eastern side of the artificial island," the report read.

Identical structures including an anti-aircraft gun, probable CIWS and radar were also observed on Cuarteron Reef.

The same model was seen at China's larger bases on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs. The structures were positioned in such a way that anti-aircraft guns and CIWS installations would cover all approaches to the base with overlapping fields of fire.

Cuarteron Reef CSIS/AMTI via DigitalGlobe
Fiery Cross Reef CSIS/AMTI via DigitalGlobe
Johnson Reef CSIS/AMTI via DigitalGlobe
Subi Reef CSIS/AMTI via DigitalGlobe

Such facilities would serve as the last line of defenses against cruise missiles launched by the United States, according to the AMTI.

"They would back up the defensive umbrella provided by a future deployment to the Spratlys of mobile surface-to-air missile platforms, such as the HQ-9 deployed to Woody Island in the Paracel Islands," the think tank said.

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