Military/Intelligence Bulletin 02/2020 – What is China up to?

China appears to be deploying unusual antenna arrays in coastal locations.

Several new antenna arrays have been identified in coastal locations and they appear to be low-frequency VHF SIAR/MIMO.

They are capable of detecting aircraft which includes stealth variants. The three that have been deployed on the coast could also be used for detecting maritime assets.


Test facility, Li’anzhen, Hainan island, South Chine Sea. This appears to be a possible test site for a synthetic impulse and aperture radar (SIAR). Multiple input multiple output (MIMO). The site consists of four vertical masts boxing in a multiple antenna array. There is a possible test array south east of this structure


A possible synthetic impulse and aperture radar (SIAR) complex near Li’anzhen on Hainan Island, South China Sea. This shows an unfinished SIAR. You can see the four lattice towers and top right a Radome position. There is no multiple antenna array in position yet.

CETC38 – Number 38 Research Institute of the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation. Test complex near Hefei in China.

Shacheng Harbour, near Fuding, Fujian province, eastern China. The systems are composed of three rings of 25 antennas totalling some 45 metres in diameter. The antennas are differing in height within each ring. There are four large frame-constructed masts outside the main circle. But there are differences at the centre of the arrays. At the new site at Subi Reef, there is a five metre tall building. Although there is no mast visible, it is likely that the building contains one. At the Li’anzhen test array, there is a central frame-constructed mast of approximately two-metres in height. It is folded down and can be raised to 10 metres in height. The central configuration is the same at the CETC38 site.


A possible synthetic impulse and aperture radar (SIAR) complex at Shacheng harbour, near Fuding, Fujian province, eastern China.A Radome can be seen bottom left and the support complex bottom right. The circular area is a possible operational SIAR.

Subi Reef in the South China Sea.

Possible synthetic impulse and aperture radar installation on Subi Reef in the South China Sea. Radome bottom left. To the far right, off picture, lies a deactivated SIAR.

Possible synthetic impulse and aperture radar installation on Subi Reef in the South China Sea.  To the far right, lies a deactivated SIAR.


SIAR radars on their own are an early-warning system and not designed to be used with air defence weapons. With a range out to around 300 kilometres for an incoming aircraft at altitude, it would not provide substantial advanced warning over systems already in place.

It could be used to intercept, track and provide basic information before handing over to an air defence system, such as HQ-64. The advantage it could provide, is that the aircraft would be unaware that it was being tracked up until the last moment. This could explain their current positions, located alongside pre-existing air defence radars.

So, what we have is a potentially undetectable lower-frequency VHF SIAR/MIMO radar capable of identifying aircraft, including stealth aircraft, as well as maritime assets.

Post copyrighted to Harvey Black

Military/Intelligence Bulletin 02/2018 – What can China see?

How capable is China’s long-range surveillance to support its existing military requirements?

China, to support its plans to expand its control over its maritime approaches, along with a desire to operate further afield, has been developing its long-range surveillance capabilities to support this.


Liaoning is China’s first in-service aircraft carrier, seen here entering Hong Kong waters on the 7th July 2017.  With a planned growth in its carrier fleet, and a wish to operate further afield, China will require an equal enhancement in its long-range surveillance capability.

China needs the capability to achieve air, surface and subsurface surveillance in the East China Sea, along with the South China Sea, the Philippine Sea and the West Pacific. With the growth of their carrier force, China will also need eyes on the Sea of Japan and Indian Ocean.

Its not only eyes on that is required, but the ability to provide targeting data for its large inventory of long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, along with China’s anti-ship ballistic missiles.

Photo credit – By Baycrest – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5


Chinese VHF radar on the South China Sea Island (Fiery Cross Reef).

China certainly requires Over-the-horizon radar (OTH) and is one of the few countries to have developed this. A Chinese warship would only be able to detect an enemy ship on the horizon out to about 50km. Airborne radar, at a height of say 10km, would increase this range out to around 200km.

But much greater ranges are required. This can be achieved by exploiting the backscattering (B) effect of the electromagnetic waves emitted by the radar reflected by the ionosphere in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. The OTH-B radar has to use frequencies in the High Frequency band (3-30MHz), this is a lower frequency than most radars use, and so require large arrays.  Usually, these arrays will be a few hundred metres in length for the transmitter array and 2-3km for the receiver array. Also, to avoid interference, the two arrays need to be sited at least 100km apart.


The Large phased-array radar, LPAR at Huanan, east of Harbin, is aligned to the north, and may be set up to detect ballistic missiles on a polar trajectory. Equally, it could be used as a space tracking radar.

North of Taiyuan, there is an Over-the-horizon back scatter (OTH-B) base.

The Hangzhou and Yiyuan (just southeast of Ji’nan) LPARs, are both aligned in the same direction, possibly there to support China’s ant-ship ballistic missile targetting.

Northwest of Hangzhou, there is a OTH-B transmitter and receiver.

At Korla, southwest of Urumqi, China has positioned a trainable array, its primary use for tracking ballistic missiles during tests.

At Jiuquan, Xichang and Wencheng are primarily used as Space launch sites.


Large phased-array radar.

China now has coverage out to 2,500 kilometres from the coast, just a few hundred kilometres

short of Guam.


China is also enhancing its satellite coverage and currently has 192 satellites in orbit, versus US 593 and Russia’s 135.

On the 29 September 2017, a three Yaogan surveillance surveillance satellites were launched on a Long March 2c rocket from China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Centre. In November, a further three  were sent into orbit.

Photo credit – Xinhua


Separation of a YG-30-01 surveillance satellite.


Eighteen of the Yaogan satellites are believed to have an Electronic Intelligence, ELINT, function. The none ELINT Yaogan satellites have placed in a near-polar, sun synchronous orbit. It is believed that six of these are military surveillance satellites.

China, therefore, has a comprehensive capability for long-range surveillance out to 2,500 kilometres from its coastline. A technological milestone for China will be the building of an imaging satellite that can support target identification and tracking from a 35,000 kilometre orbit.


Post copyrighted to Harvey Black

Military/Intelligence Bulletin 01/2017 – South China Sea.

Conflict? Will Vietnam and China face up to each other in the South China Sea?

Is Vietnam becoming increasingly concerned with China’s policy in the South China Sea?


Spratly Islands – South China Sea. By Voice of America 

What does Vietnam need to protect?

Thirty plus Islands for a start, including Spratly Island itself.  But with a coastline of over 3,000 kilometres, it has a major seafood industry to secure. Therefore it is imperative that it maintains control of its coastline and occupied islands.

Oil. The Gazprom Group (with Russian interests) is dipping a toe in at Vietnam’s request. Gazprom International is currently hydrocarbon prospecting in the area of Vietnam and the South China Sea. It is already engaged in developing oil and gas blocks on the shelf of the South China Sea. In the area of the Islands, the aggregate reserves are estimated to be 55 billion cubic metres of natural gas and 21 million tons of gas concentrate.

What about China?

There is an ongoing territorial dispute between the People’s Republic of China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam concerning the ownership of the Spratly Islands group.

The motivation for China’s actions in the South Sea has three strands. Their primary one is that of defence, flexing its military muscle. Then comes resources, followed by pure self-interest. During the last century, China has continued to stake a claim on the islands situated in the South China Sea.

Both countries have artificially expanded their territory around the spratly islands. Vietnam has extended Sin Cowe island, probably trebling it in size. Now with a small harbour, helipad, sensor post and defensive positions.

China on the other hand, is reinforcing the Paracel archipelago. The militarisation of the largest of the Islands, known as Woody Island, 300 km southeast of Hainan in China, continues. There is an airport, port, and even a hospital, school and library. Dredging, land reclamation and construction on and around the island continues. In 2015, Beijing temporarily deployed fighter aircraft to Woody Island.

Fiery Cross Reef is also being expanded.


Fiery Cross Reef


What is Vietnam’s response?

China retains a significant military advantage over Vietnam, so the country needs to bolster its defensive and offensive capability.

A number of investments have been made. The Bastion-P anti-ship missile system is based on its southern coast and has a range of 300km. This only protects the coastline, but if moved to Spratly Island, its 300km range would cover China’s Fiery Cross Reef and other islands occupied by them.

Vietnam troops operating the Russian made Bastion-P anti-ship missile.

Although not yet operational, the four Kilo class SSK submarines, purchased from Russia, with the Klub cruise missile, could pose a significant threat to Chinese occupied locations.

Hanoi Kilo 636


Klub cruise missile (range 220km). By Allocer – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0


Both countries operate the J-11B fighter aircraft, which would allow China to cover the entire group of islands, including the Paracels to the north. Vietnam would be able to threaten the same area.




J-11B Flanker, air superiority aircraft.


China’s counter to this, is the HQ-9, medium to long-range surface-to-air missile, with a range of 200km. Deployed to Fiery Cross Reef, puts Spratly Island in range.

HQ-9 Surface-to-Air missile TEL. By Jian Kang – 2009.beijing.

Just a brief insight into what may be brewing in the South China Sea. The conclusion being that there are a number of triggers for conflict in the South China Sea.

Competition over marine resources: hydrocarbons and fish.

Oil: Vietnam wanting the Spanish energy company, Repsol, to drill appraisal wells 270km offshore. China Has leased the same area of sea to a Hong Kong-based company, Brightoil. A conflict in the making.

State claims: Due to the large number of competing state claimants there is a real possibility of an incident emerging that could develop beyond the control of the leadership in Beijing.


Spratly Island

Post copyrighted to Harvey Black