China Expands An Air Base Near An Important Naval Base

Genie Expands an Air Base Near an Important Naval Base
Genie Expands an Air Base Near an Important Naval Base - A satellite image obtained by the US military publication Defense News, taken on Sept. 18, shows the expansion of the Suixi airbase. Photo: Handout

Satellite photos of the Chinese People's Liberation Army south China airport show the construction of a second runway, extended taxiways and additional aircraft stands.

Located in Suixi county, Guangdong province, the airbase was formerly home to the Southern Theater Command Air Force 6th Air Brigade. It is just 32 kilometers (20 miles) northwest of Zhanjiang, which is home to an important naval base for the PLA's Southern Naval Fleet.

The photos were taken on September 18 and were obtained by the American military magazine Defense News. The photos show more than 1.3 signs painted for fighter and larger aircraft on two extended parking aprons, each about 40 kilometers long.

According to the magazine, the old 3,3km runway is now supplemented by a second 2,8km parallel runway, and the taxiways have also been expanded from 18m to 34m (59m to 112m).

The proximity of the expanding Suixi airbase and the Zhanjiang naval facility indicates “operational links,” according to S. Mahmoud Ali, an international security expert at the Institute of Chinese Studies at the University of Malaya.

According to Ali, beyond Zhanjiang's natural air defense, the airbase should provide extra air protection for naval facilities. These facilities are defensive, as evidenced by the superiority of the base's warplanes in combat formation, meaning they were built to protect Zhanjiang and nearby critical points such as Haikou.

He claimed that in the event of a conflict, Zhanjiang is a very important area that must be protected. It is home to commercial ports serving not only Guangdong province but also Hunan, Guangxi, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces, as well as civil and navy deep-water ports that can accommodate large vessels.

Ali said he expects the airbase to develop into a complete air operations center that can support a wider range of operations.

According to him, “longer and wider runways typically mean a desire to fly larger, heavier aircraft.” These may include logistical support for heavy transport, combat support for early warning and airborne warning and control systems (AWACS), and even attack aircraft such as fighter-bombers and bombers.

US-China Strategic Rivalry

This development could be part of the PLA's effort to strengthen its defense or deterrence capabilities, according to Ali, author of US-China Strategic Rivalry: Towards a New Power Equilibrium. According to the report, this development was triggered by Washington's identification of Beijing as a rival power in 2017.

According to Ali, following this action, “the intensification of US-led coalition sea-air activities near China's territorial waters and airspace was supported by policy documents and leadership language that openly questioned China's 'core interests'”.

In his first visit to the PLA's operational command headquarters since last month's Communist Party congress, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the military on Tuesday to prepare for war as the nation faces an increasingly unstable and uncertain security situation.

State broadcaster CCTV quoted Xi as saying: “The entire army… should focus on combat capability as the primary and sole criterion, focus all its attention on war, direct all its activities towards war, and accelerate to create the ability to win.”

Source: South China Morning Post

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