Thursday, April 24, 2008

Satellite images reveal China's underground nuclear submarine base

China is building a large underground nuclear submarine base at its sub-tropical Hainan Island, says Jane's Information Group, specialists in military intelligence. Jane's says it was first informed by Asian defence sources about the construction of the base five years ago, but has now been able to confirm this through high-resolution, newly commercially available satellite imagery.

The Chinese navy has rapidly acquired a blue-water capacity. It has 57 submarines, five of them nuclear-powered, with many of them equipped with Yingji-8 anti-ship cruise missiles that they can launch while still submerged. It underlined this capacity 18 months ago when a 75m long Song S20 class vessel, built in the Wuhan shipyard, with unusually quiet German diesel engines, suddenly surfaced in the middle of an American battle fleet. The submarine appeared within 8km of the US aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, in international waters not far from Japan's southern island of Okinawa.

The new Yulin submarine base is located near Sanya, a fast developing resort centre on the south of Hainan. It is about 200km from the Vietnam coast. Jane's says the extent of construction revealed by the DigitalGlobe imagery indicates Yulin could become a key base for aircraft carriers and other large surface craft, as well as for submarines.

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