Nel breve volgere di pochi anni la Cina ha costruito una serie di isole artificiali nel Mare Cinese del Sud. Adesso sta completando il loro armamento: dai supporti logistici aeroportuali, ai sistemi missilistici antiaerei ed antinave, missili da crociera ed aerei da guerra.
«The J-10 jets have a combat range of about 500 miles (740 kilometers), putting much of the South China Sea and vital shipping lands within reach»
La loro utilità dipende strettamente dalla tipologia del conflitto configurabile.
Nel corso di una guerra nucleare, essendo obiettivi fissi, sarebbero facilmente distrutti anche solo con il lancio di una testata nucleare balistica. Ma, ovviamente, una situazione di questo tipo vedrebbe coinvolte tutte le realtà militari in una reciproca distruzione.
Diversa la situazione nel caso di un problema militare locoregionale. Sicuramente una flotta allo stato dell’arte, quale quella americana, avrebbe la possibilità di penetrare il Mare Cinese del Sud, ma ciò avverrebbe pagando uno scotto severo. Se nel conflitto locale fosse invece coinvolta un’altra potenza locale, la supremazia cinese sarebbe schiacciante.
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Una unica considerazione.
Anni fa, le isole artificiali non esistevano: adesso invece vi sono.
«China appears to be building reinforced aircraft hangars on reclaimed islands it controls in a disputed area of the South China Sea, according to a US think tank.
Satellite photographs taken in late July show the construction of hangars on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly chain of islands and some have already been completed, according to a report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Although no military aircraft have been spotted, each of the three small islands would soon have enough hangar space for 24 fighter jets, plus three to four larger planes, the think tank said. …. The hangars, in three different sizes, could accommodate any plane used by China’s air force, the think tank said. …. These include the J-11 and Su-30 fighters, H-6 bombers, the H-6U refuelling tanker and the air force’s largest aircrafts –the Y-20 and Il-76 transport planes.»
«A satellite image obtained by CNN shows China has deployed at least four J-10 fighter jets to the contested Woody Island in the South China Sea, the first known deployment of fighter jets there since 2017.
The image was taken Wednesday and represents the first time J-10s have been seen on Woody or any Chinese-controlled islands in the South China Sea, according to ImageSat International, which supplied the image to CNN.
The deployment comes as tensions remain high in the South China Sea and Chinese President Xi Jinping prepares to meet United States President Donald Trump at the G-20 summit in Japan next week.
Analysts who looked at the satellite photo for CNN said both the placement of the planes out in the open and accompanying equipment is significant and indicates the fighter jets were on the contested island for up to 10 days.
“They want you to notice them. Otherwise they would be parked in the hangars,” said Peter Layton, a former Royal Australian Air Force officer and fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute. “What message do they want you to take from them?”
Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, said the deployment is designed to “demonstrate it is their territory and they can put military aircraft there whenever they want.”
“It also makes a statement that they can extend their air power reach over the South China Sea as required or desired,” Schuster said.
The J-10 jets have a combat range of about 500 miles (740 kilometers), putting much of the South China Sea and vital shipping lands within reach, Schuster said.
The four planes are not carrying external fuel tanks, the analysts said. That suggests they were to be refueled on the island, so the plan may be to keep them there awhile. ….
The Paracels sit in the north-central portion of the 1.3 million-square-mile South China Sea. They are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, but have been occupied by China since 1974, when Chinese troops ousted a South Vietnamese garrison.
The past several years have seen Beijing substantially upgrade its facilities on the islands, deploying surface-to-air missiles, building 20 hangars at the airfield, upgrading two harbors and performing substantial land reclamation, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.
Woody Island has served as a blueprint for Beijing’s more prominent island-building efforts in the Spratly chain to the south, AMTI said in a 2017 report.»
«China has deployed military aircraft to a third outpost in a disputed South China Sea island chain, a move which will alarm rivals who believe Beijing has ramped up its military presence in the region.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative published images showing a military aircraft, a Shaanxi Y-8, at Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands.
The plane was “designed as a military transport aircraft, but some variants are used for maritime patrol or signals intelligence,” said the think tank, which is part of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
The photographs reveal the first deployment of military aircraft on the island, which hosts one of three runways in the strategically important Spratlys. Military aircraft have now landed on all three of the airstrips, the AMTI said.
The organisation said that a naval patrol aircraft landed at Fiery Cross Reef two years ago, while two Xian Y-7 military transport aircraft were seen on Mischief Reef in January.»
«China has built some islands in the South China Sea. Can it protect them?
During World War II Japan found that control of islands offered some strategic advantages, but not enough to force the United States to reduce each island individually. Moreover, over time the islands became a strategic liability, as Japan struggled to keep them supplied with food, fuel and equipment. The islands of the SCS are conveniently located for China, but do they really represent an asset to China’s military? The answer is yes, but in an actual conflict the value would dwindle quickly. ….
China has established numerous military installations in the South China Sea, primarily in the Spratly and Paracel Islands. In the Spratlys, China has built airfields at Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross, along with potential missile, radar and helicopter infrastructure at several smaller formations. In the Paracels, China has established a significant military installation at Woody Island, as well as radar and helicopter facilities in several other areas. China continues construction across the region, meaning that it may expand its military presence in the future. The larger bases (Subi, Mischief, Fiery Cross and Woody Island) have infrastructure necessary for the management of military aircraft, including fighters and large patrol craft. These missiles, radars and aircraft extend the lethal reach of China’s military across the breadth of the South China Sea. ….
Several of the islands serve as bases for SAM systems (including the HQ-9, with a range of 125 miles, and perhaps eventually the Russian S-400) and ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs). These missiles serve to make the South China Sea lethal for U.S. ships and aircraft that do not have stealth capabilities, or that do not enjoy a layered air-defense system. The SAM installations, buoyed by networks of radars, can effectively limit the ability of enemy aircraft to enter their lethal zone without significant electronic-warfare assistance. The GLCMs can add another set of launchers to China’s A2/AD network, although not necessarily with any greater effectiveness than missiles launched from subs, ships or aircraft.»