Satellite imagery shows the construction by China of a new facility on Hughes Reef in the Spratly Islands
The site, which has expanded from a 380 sq m platform to an island 75,000 sq m large, is another example of Chinese land reclamation in the Union Banks
Satellite imagery analysed by IHS Jane's has for the first time identified Chinese land reclamation activity and installation construction at Hughes Reef in the Spratly Islands.
The imagery, provided by Airbus Defence and Space and taken in January, also shows the progress of construction at Johnson South Reef, which like Hughes Reef is in the Union Banks, and Gaven Reefs in the Tizard Banks.
IHS Jane's previously used AIS transponder signals to monitor the movements of the Chinese dredger Tian Jing Hao through the Union Banks and Tizard Banks regions in late 2013 and early 2014. It was present at Hughes Reef between 20 March and 3 April 2014.
DigitalGlobe imagery captured on 1 February 2004 shows Hughes Reef before construction began, with a 380 m 2 concrete platform present. Satellite imagery captured on 14 August 2014 shows land reclamation under way at the reef, which is on the northeast end of the Union Banks. Imagery captured on 24 January 2015 shows 75,000 m 2 of reclaimed land and the construction of a large facility in progress.
The original 380 m 2 installation remains, surrounded by reclaimed land in a manner consistent with other Chinese reclamation projects in the South China Sea. A new, larger installation is under construction directly adjacent to the new platform, while since August 2014 the seawall on the west section has been completed, as has a pier on the new island's eastern side.
Johnson South Reef, Gaven Reefs
Significant progress has also been made at Johnson South Reef, which is about 30 km southwest of Hughes Reef and also part of the Union Banks, and at Gaven Reefs in the Tizard Banks, which are northwest of the Union Banks.
The imagery of Johnson South Reef was captured on 24 January 2015 and shows construction of a large facility under way. Like the building on Hughes Reef, this is directly adjacent to the original structure on the reef.
Construction at Gaven Reefs began some time after 30 March 2014, with imagery dated 7 August showing the construction of an artificial island. Imagery dated 30 January 2015 shows a causeway has linked the island to the original facility and the construction of a helipad.
The buildings on Hughes Reef and Gaven Reefs have almost identical footprints: that of a main square building with what appears to be an anti-aircraft tower or radome at each corner. This suggests that China has standardised the design of key facilities and is rolling it out across its new islands.
Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery from 30 March and 7 August 2014 and 30 January 2015 shows the extent of Chinese progress in building an island at Gaven Reefs in the Spratly Islands. By 30 January a pre-existing platform had been joined to the new island and at least one helipad built.