MANILA, Philippines — China recently built three operational runways on the Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands, a part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Despite China’s claim that it are not militarizing the disputed South China Sea following the arbitral tribunal’s decision in favor of the Philippines, rapid construction of hangars in the Spratly Islands indicate that it is ready to deploy military aircraft to these outposts.
Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) reported that each of the three islets will soon have hangars that can accommodate 24 fighter jets plus three to four larger planes.
The smallest of the hangars can accommodate any fighter jet of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force while a medium hangar can provide space for a bomber, a refueling tanker, a transport aircraft and an Airborne Warning and Control System plane.
“The largest of the hangars can accommodate the largest planes in the PLAAF fleet—the Y-20 and Il-76 transport planes, Il-78 refueling tanker, and KJ-2000 surveillance aircraft,” the AMTI report read.
The think tank also noted that unidentified hexagonal structures are being built at four locations on each of the three islets.
Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs also have a set of three towers that do not appear at any of China’s outposts in the Paracel nor the Spratly group. The towers, however, do not appear to have domes that indicate radar or other sensitive arrays, according to the report.
Despite the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that China violated its commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, it continued to build facilities in the disputed area.
Beijing had also recently conducted a combat air patrol over disputed areas of the South China Sea.