January 11, 2024

How building fake aircraft carriers and destroyers in the desert could be helping China better threaten the US Navy

Source: Business Insider

Journalist: Chris Panella

It is not surprising the Chinese would develop a mock-up of the new carrier, Tom Shugart, a former US Navy submarine commander who's now an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security think tank, told Business Insider, given they could one day face the ship in a potential conflict.

As with the previous mock-ups, the targets could be an opportunity for China to test the missiles of the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) and further develop their technologies.

One potential function of these apparent targets, Shugart said, could be to test and refine seekers with image-recognition capabilities and help develop a missile's ability to accurately target particular ships or even specific parts of ships where a missile would do the most damage.


Any difference between hitting real US aircraft carriers and destroyers at sea and testing is going to result in some degraded level of realism, Shugart noted, but the mock-ups are still useful for testing PLARF's capabilities and gathering data.


"For the deterrents to work," Shugart said, "you've got to have a threat that's credible and known about."


Shugart said that China's continued use of mock-ups of what resemble Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which could be seen in the most recent satellite images of the Taklamakan range and ones from October 2021, indicate China isn't thinking solely about killing carriers.

With China's bolstered stockpiles of DF-26 missiles, there are enough missiles available for these "carrier killers" to simply be "ship killers."

"The fact that we, on more than one occasion now, have seen destroyer-shaped mock-ups indicate to me that it's quite likely these weapons are being developed not just to strike carriers, but to strike destroyers also," he said.

Read the full story and more from Business Insider.


  • Tom Shugart

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Defense Program

    Thomas Shugart is an Adjunct Senior Fellow with the Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). His research focuses on undersea warfare and maritime com...