The Chinese military is using mock-ups of a U.S. aircraft carrier at a weapons-testing range in a remote western desert. These satellite images depict targets in the shape of a carrier and two Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers at a testing facility in the Ruoqiang area of Xinjiang’s Taklamakan desert, the news website of the U.S. Naval Institute reported. Both types of vessels are deployed by the U.S. Seventh Fleet, which patrols the Western Pacific including the waters around Taiwan.
The area has been traditionally used for ballistic missile testing, according to a summary of the Maxar images by geospatial intelligence company AllSource Analysis that identified the site from satellite imagery.
“The mockups of several probable U.S. warships, along with other warships (mounted on rails and mobile), could simulate targets related to seeking/target acquisition testing,” according to the AllSource Analysis summary, which said there are no indications of weapon impact areas in the immediate vicinity of the mockups. “This, and the extensive detail of the mockups, including the placement of multiple sensors on and around the vessel targets, it is probable that this area is intended for multiple uses over time.“
The carrier target itself appears to be a flat surface without the carrier’s island, aircraft lifts, weapons sponsons or other details, the imagery from Maxar shows. On radar, the outline of the carrier stands out from the surrounding desert – not unlike a target picture, according to imagery provided to USNI News by Capella Space.
There are two more target areas representing an aircraft carrier that do not have the metaling, but are distinguishable as carriers due to their outline. But other warship targets appear to be more elaborate. There are numerous upright poles positioned on them, possibly for instrumentation, according to the imagery. Alternatively these may be used for radar reflectors to simulate the superstructure of the vessel.
The facility also has an extensive rail system. An Oct. 9 image from Maxar showed a 75 meter-long target with extensive instrumentation on a 6 meter-wide rail. More here.