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Google Earth Smokes Chinese Missiles
by James Dunnigan
May 31, 2008

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Google Earth strikes again, with the revelation of a major ballistic missile launching facility in Central China. The missiles appear aimed at targets in Russia and India, and are fired from roadside launching areas.

Mass access to commercial satellite photos has been a major annoyance for police states that restrict movement, and photography, around military bases. But you can't hide from the dozens of commercial photo satellites that circle the planet, and sell their images to a growing number of mass media outlets (like Google and Microsoft.) There, thousands of people scour the photos for interesting images. This, it has been found, is often more effective than the computer assisted analysis system the military uses for their higher resolution spy satellites.

The Chinese had set up missile launching sites along a 300 kilometer stretch of highway. The launching sites are for the Dong Feng 21 missiles. These are solid fuel, two stage missiles based on the navy's JL-1 (used for ballistic missile subs). With a range of 2,000 kilometers or so, they can reach targets in southern Russia and northern India. Most of the 15 ton, 35 foot long DF-21s are carried around in wheeled TEL (transporter-erector-launcher) vehicles. The DF-21 entered service in 1991, and there are believed to be 50-100 in service.

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