According to satellite images, the Chinese troops have commenced the expansion of its airbase, 200 km from Pangong Lake, in Ladakh. The images, also showing Ngari Gunsa airport in Tibet, originated from open-source intelligence expert @defresfa_, an analyst with ShadowBreak Intl.
The images suggests a significant and rapid Chinese military build-up in the past months along the contested border region amid what Indian media has widely reported since this weekend to be PLA forces digging into fortified positions.
Importantly, the strategic base is a mere 200km away from Pangong lake, where recent skirmishes between Chinese and Indian border patrols took place on May 5th-6th.
One of the satellite images is dated way back to April 6 and the second image came out a few days ago – May 21 to be precise. The first image shows how the territory originally looked. However, the second image clearly shows massive construction activity going on in the territory. The expansion has included something that looks more like a secondary tarmac to combat aircraft or taxi-track.
The third image shows a line-up of four fighter jets. They are either J-11 or J-16 fighters of the Chinese PLA Air Force. According to the caption on the third image, it looks like the deployment of the fighter jets at the Ngari Gunsa airbase was spotted way back in December 2019.
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Images via @planetlabs @sbreakintl help spot the #China PLA camp near the #Hotsprings Sector few Kms behind the LAC (Here china contests the LAC), approximately 11Kms North West of the #India base at Gogra, this unit size is the largest seen till now with adequate vehicle tracks pic.twitter.com/9eywCqD1Bk
— d-atis☠️ (@detresfa_) May 26, 2020
The location of the airbase is significant. That’s because it’s a dual-use military and civil airport, with 14,022 feet – one of the highest in the world. With that kind of height, the fighter jets can only be useful to carry limited war-loads and fuel.
@detresfa_ with this incredible image of Chinese J-11/J-16s at the high altitude Ngari Gunsa airport. On @ndtv, an exclusive report with satellite images of rapid Chinese air base construction at Ngari in April and May this year, including a possible second runway. https://t.co/1cmUHY43so
— Vishnu Som (@VishnuNDTV) May 26, 2020
Over the past weekend Indian media began reporting that thousands of PLA troops have now moved into Ladakh’s disputed Galwan river area, and at multiple locations in eastern Ladakh. The satellite images appear to confirm Chinese troop movements along and inside of the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.
According to the Guardian, “Thousands of Chinese People’s Liberation (PLA) troops are reported to have moved into sensitive areas along the eastern Ladokh border, setting up tents and stationing vehicles and heavy machinery in what India considers to be its territory.”