November 6, 2020
In 2014, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began a massive construction project, building seven artificial islands atop Chinese claimed reefs in the South China Sea. Recently published South China Sea military capability studies (https://www.jhuapl.edu/NewsPublications/ResearchandAnalysis) provide a survey of military technologies and systems on Chinese-claimed island-reefs. While many have speculated that these PLA bases were built to generate conventional combat power, a closer examination using commercial satellite imagery and other open sources exposes the island-reefs’ substantial communications and reconnaissance infrastructure. This virtual tour of China’s South China Sea outposts reveals the capabilities resident on PLA’s artificial islands and highlights the Chinese military’s informationized warfare strategy and information-centric operational concepts.
Mike Dahm served as a US naval intelligence officer for over 25 years. His most recent Navy assignments included senior analyst in the USPACOM China Strategic Focus Group, assistant naval attaché at the US embassy in Beijing, China, and senior naval intelligence officer for China at the Office of Naval Intelligence. Since 2017, he has worked in NSAD’s Scientific and Technical Intelligence Liaison Office (STILO) where he focuses on foreign military capabilities, operational concepts, and technologies.