Satellite imagery indicates China is building an island that could be the site for its first airstrip in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, IHS Jane's reports.
The images of the reclaimed island on Fiery Cross Reef, taken on Aug. 8 and Nov. 14, show that over the last three months, Chinese dredgers have created a land mass 1.9 miles long and660 feet to 980 feet wide, large enough for a runway and apron, the defense publication said.
As well as the land mass, which is almost the entire length of the reef, the dredgers are creating a harbor that could be large enough to receive tankers and major surface ships, it added.
The Spratly Islands, a group of reefs midway between Vietnam and the Philippines, are claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The only habitable part of the previously underwater reef is a concrete platform built and maintained by China's People's Liberation Army Navy, IHS Jane's said.
According to the publication, that platform — which is currently not attached to the new island — housed a PLAN garrison and had a pier, air-defense guns, anti-frogmen defenses, communications equipment and a greenhouse.
It said the reclamation at the reef is the fourth such — and largest — project China has undertaken in the Spratly Islands in the last 12-18 months.
China has built new islands at Johnson South Reef, Cuateron Reef and Gaven Reefs, but none are large enough to house an airstrip in their current form, IHS Jane's added.