China ramping up military infra in Tibet, Xinjiang for LAC operations
China has made several improvements to military facilities at Lhasa Gonggar airport, the main airport for the capital of Tibet Autonomous region, including renovating a surface-to-air missile site, a site for an air defence system, a suspected support site for the air force and new hardened shelters to protect combat jets. It has also improved the Lhasa heliport, which houses Z-20 attack helicopters.
At the same time, the Hotan airbase in Xinjiang, part of the PLA western theatre command and crucial for air operations in Ladakh sector of the LAC, has undergone a rapid upgrade in the last few months. According to satellite imagery posted by the Twitter user who uses the handle @detresfa_, the new “infrastructure upgrades [are] aimed directly at boosting military capabilities of the site”.
There is mounting evidence that China has sped up work to build and expand military and civilian facilities in Tibet and surrounding areas that will enhance its military posture along the Line of Actual Control amid the standoff with India in Ladakh sector.null
These new developments come on the back of China more than doubling the total number of airbases, air defence positions, and heliports near the LAC during 2017-20, as detailed in a report issued last year by Stratfor, a leading security and intelligence consultancy.
There is also growing evidence of the build-up of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and civilian facilities in sectors other than Ladakh, such as along the disputed border in Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh. In these areas, China has embarked on an extensive campaign of building villages in disputed regions with the intention of settling thousands of people in hitherto uninhabited areas.
The latest open source satellite imagery suggests China has improved connectivity between key cities and military hubs in Tibet to reduce time taken to move troops and logistics towards the frontier.