Editor’s Note: This is in a similar vein of what we’ve been talking about with Chinese radar’s ability to detect and possibly track low-observable aircraft such as the F-22 and F-35. The PLAAF and its air defense efforts seems to be solely focused on the threat posed by LO aircraft, and that notion is reflected at the rate radars of this type are going up in this hotly-contested area of the South China Sea.
A possible new Chinese radar installation in the South China Sea could put American and allied stealth aircraft at risk as part of a wider detection network similar to U.S. efforts to find Russian bombers in the Cold War.
Late January satellite imagery from the Center for Strategic and International Studies and DigitalGlobe show the installation of what’s likely a high frequency radar installation the Chinese disputed holding of Cuarteron Reef near the Philippines.
The imagery from DigitalGlobe shows a field on the island with 65 foot-tall poles in a field on reclaimed land on the reef – China’s southern most holding in the region – that are similar to other maritime HF radars, Greg Poling, head of the center’s Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative told USNI News on Monday.
“Why would you have 20-meter poles spread across this features if it’s not high frequency radar?” Poling said. “Maybe a giant tarp?”
It’s unclear from the imagery if the site on Cuarteron is operational but the Department of Defense issued a statement to USNI News late Monday that lines up with some of CSIS’ conclusions.
“Commercial imagery indicates that China is constructing a new radar system on Cuarteron Reef a disputed feature in the South China Sea. This is part of a growing body of evidence that China continues to take unilateral actions which are increasing tensions in the region and are counterproductive to the peaceful resolution of disputes,” DoD spokesman Cmdr. Bill Urban told USNI News late on Monday.
“We discourage all claimants from unilateral actions. We encourage them to clarify their territorial and maritime claims in accordance with international law and request they commit to resolving their disputes through the use of peaceful dispute settlement mechanisms, such as arbitration.”
The Washington Post first reported the installation early Monday afternoon.
The original article can be viewed here.