Date Sep 17, 2015
By Greg Torode
China’s apparent construction of a third airstrip on its man-made islands in the disputed South
China Sea could fill a gap in Beijing’s anti-submarine defenses, complicating operations for the U.S. Navy and its allies, Chinese and Western experts said.
While most attention has been on the power projection China would get from its new islands in the Spratly archipelago, China could also use them to hunt rival submarines in and beyond the strategic waterway, they said.
Possessing three airstrips more than 1,400 km (870 miles) from the Chinese mainland would enable Beijing to extend the reach of Y-9 surveillance planes and Ka-28 helicopters that are being re-equipped to track submarines, the experts added.
A Pentagon report in May noted China lacked a robust anti-submarine warfare capability off its coastline and in deep water.
Strengthened anti-submarine capabilities could also help China protect the movements of its Jin-class submarines, capable of carrying nuclear-armed ballistic missiles and which are at the core of China’s nuclear deterrence strategy, said Zhang Baohui, a mainland security specialist at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University. [FULL STORY]