High above one of the most hotly contested regions in the world, CNN was given a rare look Friday at the Chinese government’s rapidly expanding militarization of the South China Sea.
Aboard a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane, CNN got a view from 16,500 feet of low-lying coral reefs turned into garrisons with five-story buildings, large radar installations, power plants and runways sturdy enough to carry large military aircraft, Fox 13 News reports.
US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance flight crew received six separate warnings from the Chinese military, telling them they were inside Chinese territory and urging them to leave.
“US military aircraft, this is China … leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding,”
On Subi Reef, the US Navy P-8A Poseidon’s sensors picked up 86 vessels, including Chinese coast guard ships, moored in a giant lagoon, while on Fiery Cross Reefs rows of hangers stood alongside a lengthy runway.
“It was surprising to see airports in the middle of the ocean,” said Lt. Lauren Callen, who was leading the air combat crew aboard the Navy flight.
After each warning the crew received, they responded with the same response:
“I am a sovereign immune United States naval aircraft conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state. In exercising these rights as guaranteed by international law, I am operating with due regard for the rights and duties of all states.”
The Chinese government staunchly maintains large areas of the South China Sea have been part of the country’s territory since ancient times.
Designed to secure the Navy’s future in long-range maritime patrol capability, the P-8A has transformed how the force will man, train, operate and deploy.
The P-8A operates with a smaller crew, yet it also delivers an extended global reach, greater payload capacity, higher operating altitude, open-systems architecture and significant growth potential.
The major sensor systems include an APY-10 radar system, which was developed specifically for the Poseidon and features inverse synthetic aperture radar, and synthetic aperture radar. Additionally, the Poseidon carries an electro-optical/infrared sensor turret and has increased acoustic capability to conduct concurrent passive and active processing.
The P-8A Poseidon is responsive and interoperable with traditional manned forces and evolving unmanned sensors.
Primary Function: Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-surface Warfare (ASuW), Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)
Contractor: Boeing Defense, Space and Security
Propulsion: 2 CFM 56-7B engines with 27,300 lbs. thrust each
Length: 129.5 feet (39.47 meters)
Height: 42.1 feet (12.83 meters)
Wingspan: 123.6 feet (37.64 meters)
Maximum Gross Takeoff: 189,200 pounds (85,820 kilograms)
Airspeed: 490 knots (564 mph) true air speed
Ceiling: 41,000 feet (12,496 meters)
Range: 1,200 nautical miles radius with four hours on station
Armament: Torpedoes, cruise missiles
ACAT: I C
Acquisition Phase: Full Rate Production (FRP)
Inventory: 64 (USN)
Projected Inventory: 111 (USN)
Initial Operational Capabilities (IOC) date: November 2013
Projected Full Operational Capabilities (FOC) date: 2023
Chris “Badger” Thomas is a Veteran who served our country as an Army Combat Medic.