China keeps hawk eye on critical Indian military bases

India Today's OSINT team analysed satellite images that indicate how China is keeping a close eye on these important locations from Ruili county in Yunnan province bordering Myanmar.

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The 609 intelligence radar system on display at the Zhuhai air show. (Photo: Dickson Lee)
The 609 intelligence radar system on display at the Zhuhai air show. (Photo: Dickson Lee)

China is closely monitoring the Tezpur airbase in Assam and the Dr Abdul Kalam Island, India's missile testing facility off the Odisha coast. Both locations are extremely critical to India's strategic and military capabilities.

India Today's OSINT team analysed satellite images that indicate how China is keeping a close eye on these important locations from Ruili county in Yunnan province bordering Myanmar. The radar and monitoring facility indicate that China is not likely to hesitate in using space over Myanmar for its ballistic missiles directed towards India.

The Dr Abdul Kalam Island, previously known as Wheeler Island, is the main missile test ground of India.

Named after the famous scientist and former President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the island holds India's premier Integrated Test Range missile facility where India tested nuclear capable long-range ballistic missile Agni IV and short range nuclear capable ballistic Agni I in 2018.

The Tezpur airport, also known as Salonibari Airport, is a dual use airbase for both civilian and military use. It is home to the No. 2 and No. 106 Squadrons of IAF's Sukhoi fighter aircraft, Su-30MKI.

The IAF recently had said Tezpur was ready for any challenge from across the border which is about 170km away.

New Radar Station

A new radar station was established after March 2018, following the Doklam standoff between the Indian and Chinese armies on the India-China-Bhutan trijunction lasting 73 days in 2017.

The radar has been deployed only 3km from Myanmar border, indicating China wants to gain maximum advantage of its range.

The satellite images vividly display a 13m wide, possibly a phased array radar mostly directed exactly towards the Dr Abdul Kalam Island which is 1,150km from the radar site.

The latest satellite imagery shows that the radar face is directed towards Indian Air Force's premier airbase at Tezpur, 575km from the radar, indicating that it probably also has a role in detection and monitoring of aircraft.

This radar is similar although slightly larger than Type-609 radar which was put on display at the 2018 Zhuhai Air Show.

The Type-609 Intelligence Radar system produced by the 14th Institute of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) is known to detect stealth aircraft as well as ballistic missiles flying below the space limit.

The elevation profile of this new radar indicates that anything that goes up beyond 2.5km height from these two important locations in India will be picked up by this radar.

Radar Trials

A new phased array radar was observed conducting trials near town of Guazhou in Gansu province of central China.

The satellite image clearly suggests that the radar was monitoring China's missile and hypersonic glide vehicle WU-14's tests.

The radar location also trialled certain dish antennae used in control and monitoring of China's missiles systems.

The radar's distance from Taiyuan Space Launch Centre indicates that the range of this radar possibly would be around 1,500km.

Measurement and Control Facility

The latest satellite images also indicate that a Measurement and Control Facility exists about 7km south of the radar location.

The satcom dishes and other equipment at this base suggest very strongly that this facility could have a possible role in directing Chinese ballistic missiles for midcourse corrections.

The IAF and India's Strategic Forces Command needs to take these bases into account during operational planning

(Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd) is a consultant for India Today. A satellite imagery analyst, he served in the Indian Army for over 33 years.)

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