China Is Building Bases With Artillery, Bombers, and Helicopter Pads

The Chinese military appears to have started building infrastructure as they continue to beef up forces at Ladakh that led to a deadly clash in June 2020, after analysis of satellite imagery along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) came to light this week.

Besides the infrastructure improvements that would improve the bases along the border, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has also deployed long-range bombers in the region as a warning to India. China has been increasingly aggressive in asserting its presence around the globe, not only with India but in the South China Sea, against Taiwan and opening a base on the west coast of Africa, and now looking for an Atlantic base in Africa as well. These bases would serve as sustainment hubs for its navy and vastly increase its operating range in waters it has not patrolled previously. 

This in turn has prompted India to also improve it’s own military positions along the border region knowns as the Line of Actual Control  or LAC.

Satellite photo of Chinese expansion of the border region with India. Photo by Chris Biggers HawkEye 360

China’s build-up has been rapid and planned in advance

Chris Biggers is the director of mission applications at the RF geospatial intelligence firm HawkEye 360. He currently writes for Janes Defense. He was previously Defense & Intelligence Applications Lead for Planet Labs and an Intelligence Officer with the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. He was interviewed by the India Cable news about the interpretation of the satellite photos of the buildup of Chinese forces. 

“At the outset, the visible asymmetry between the respective sides’ forces and the relative speeds in which they appeared on the border was instructive. Our review of the available commercial collection suggests that some of these differences, particularly with regard to China, may be attributed to advanced planning,” he said. 

“China continues to improve infrastructure in the region by expanding lines of communication, adding new depots and air defense sites, constructing heliports, and upgrading airbases. Such improvements enable greater mobility and force sustainment in the border areas while also helping China become a more potent force.” 

“China has also added three additional hardened artillery positions (making a total of four) near the Chumbi valley and Doklam plateau to cover the Indian border area and nearby major mountain passes, should India choose to repeat the 2017 intervention.” 

“Additionally, a possible multiple launch rocket system battery has been identified and remains deployed east of Sikkim. Given the proximity of these developments to the Siliguri corridor, all of the above are likely being weighed by New Delhi.”