China Builds USS Gerald R. Ford Replica in Desert for Advanced Missile Testing

China Builds USS Gerald R. Ford Replica in Desert for Advanced Missile Testing

uss gerald r ford chinese replica
Image Credit: Planet Labs

New satellite imagery has unveiled a startling development in China’s military strategy: a full-scale mock-up of the USS Gerald R. Ford, the US Navy’s most advanced aircraft carrier, situated in the Taklamakan Desert. This replica likely serves as a target for testing China’s growing missile arsenal, emphasizing their focus on maritime dominance.

Satellite Images Reveal a Detailed Ford-Class Carrier Model

Captured by Planet Labs on January 1, these images from the Taklamakan Desert depict a model closely resembling the USS Gerald R. Ford. The satellite pictures show distinct features of the Ford-class carrier, including the uniquely positioned island and the four catapult tracks on the deck, all extending over 1,000 feet in length.

Timeline of the Carrier Replica Construction

Analysis of past satellite images by The War Zone indicates that construction of this detailed model began in November 2023. An initial outline was present before evolving into the more intricate structure visible today.

Additional Targets: US Warship Replicas

The Taklamakan Desert range, situated in Xinjiang, northwest China, is not just home to the carrier replica. Additional targets, including what resembles a US Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, have been observed. These structures have evolved from simple silhouettes to more complex models, indicating an increase in the realism of these training aids.

Significance for Indo-Pacific Military Dynamics

This development is particularly significant given the frequent operations of US Navy carriers and warships in the Indo-Pacific region. These activities often lead to tensions with China, and in any potential conflict, US carriers would likely be primary targets for Chinese forces.

China’s Growing Missile Capabilities

The creation of the Ford replica aligns with China’s efforts to enhance its rocket force, especially the anti-ship components. The US Department of Defense’s 2023 China Military Power Report highlights this expansion, noting a significant increase in China’s missile stockpiles, particularly intermediate-range ballistic missiles like the DF-26, nicknamed “carrier killer” for their anti-ship potential.

The DF-26: A Threat to US Carriers

The DF-26 missile, known for its ability to strike targets up to 3,000km away, poses a significant threat to US carriers like the Ford. The increased stockpile of these missiles allows China to potentially target US assets from a considerable distance, enhancing their anti-access/area-denial strategy.

USS Gerald R. Ford: A Symbol of US Naval Might

The USS Gerald R. Ford represents the pinnacle of US naval technology. Having cost over $13 billion and faced numerous delays and technological challenges, the supercarrier is now returning from its first full deployment. It recently operated near Israel, responding to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Strategic Implications of China’s Replica

China’s construction of a full-scale model of the USS Gerald R. Ford indicates a significant step in its military preparedness. By replicating the most advanced US aircraft carrier, China demonstrates its intention to develop and test weapons systems capable of countering US naval power. This development is a clear signal of China’s strategic ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region and represents a pivotal point in the ongoing balance of military power between the US and China.

The presence of this carrier replica in the Chinese desert is a stark reminder of the evolving nature of military tactics and strategies in the modern era. It underscores the importance of technological advancement in warfare and the continuous shift in the global power dynamics, especially in the context of US-China relations.

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