Warplanes: The Fujian Folly


June 4, 2012: China has built a new airbase on the coast of northeastern Fujian, which is opposite northern Taiwan. The new base was built on a long ridge and is guarded by S-300 anti-aircraft missiles. Su-30 and J-10 fighters have already been seen at the base. The new airbase is the closest one to the disputed (with Taiwan and Japan) Senkaku Islands near Okinawa. The new airbase enables Chinese fighters to be over those islands in less than 15 minutes.

These uninhabited islets are 167 kilometers northeast of Taiwan and 426 kilometers southeast of Japan's Okinawa and have a total area of 6.3 square kilometers. The Senkakus were discovered by Chinese fishermen in the 16th century and taken over by Japan in 1879. They are valuable now because of the 380 kilometer economic zone nations can claim in their coastal waters. This includes fishing and possible underwater oil and gas fields.

The new Fujian air base was apparently constructed, at considerable expense, in hilly terrain where you would not expect to see an airbase. Chinese engineers had to move a lot of earth around to flatten an area atop a ridge line. Unless the Senkakus turn out to be particularly valuable (due to as yet undiscovered oil or gas), the new Fujian airbase will become an expensive folly.



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