A satellite photo taken over the desert region of northwestern China revealed several missile targets representing the aircraft and weapons systems China will likely focus on in a potential invasion of Taiwan.
Photos taken by Planet Labs and shared by Newsweek last week showed multiple mock-ups of different aircraft types, including a Boeing E-767, which the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) uses as an airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft. Japan is likely to activate its Boeing E-767 aircraft if China invades Taiwan and the inclusion of the Boeing E-767 mockup on a Chinese missile range indicates China is preparing to strike other countries in order to block them from intervening on Taiwan’s behalf.
In addition to the various aircraft targets observed in the above satellite photo, Newsweek reported other targets at the Taklamakan missile range in China’s western Xinjiang region showed mockups of Patriot missile defense systems like those in place at Taiwan’s Ching Chuan Kang Air Base.
In October, other satellite images taken over China’s western Xinjiang region revealed missile targets built in the shape of U.S. warships, including two targets built to look like modern U.S. aircraft carriers and a ship-shaped object set on rails to practice hitting a moving target.
Other targets on the Taklamakan range include stationary installations, like the aircraft shelters U.S. forces use on bases throughout Japan.
The fact that Chinese missile forces are practicing targeting Patriot missiles like those used to defend Taiwan, as well as Japanese aircraft and U.S. warships, indicates China is factoring in a military response from both Japan and the U.S. if China attacks Taiwan.
Su Tzu-yun, a Taiwanese military researcher, told Newsweek that the JASDF’s Boeing E-767 would prove crucial for monitoring the troop movements of an invasion force. Su said the Japanese AWACS aircraft is most vulnerable when it’s on the ground and China would thus have the best chance of countering it with a first strike.
“China’s efforts to improve the precision and accuracy of its ballistic missiles can increase their lethality, mainly for the purposes of expanding its first-strike capability or its ability to conduct a surprise attack in support of Beijing’s political objectives,” Su said.
The discovery of these new Chinese missile targets comes just days after an audio recording of a May 14 Chinese military meeting was leaked to social media, showing Chinese military officials discussing the precise types of equipment they would need in an invasion of Taiwan. In the audio recording, one official said, “We won’t hesitate to start a war, crush Taiwan’s independence and strong enemies’ plots, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Last week, President Joe Biden said he would intervene militarily if China were to invade Taiwan. In response to Biden, Chinese officials warned that they would defend their claims of sovereignty over Taiwan and called on the U.S. to stop “sending any wrong signal to the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces.”