China recently launched another "remote sensing" satellite, joining two others in a similar orbit. These three birds are moving in formation, at an altitude of 600 kilometers, across the Pacific. Equipped with either radar (SAR, or synthetic aperture radar) or digital cameras, these three birds can scan the ocean for ships, even though the Chinese say their purpose is purely scientific. A typical SAR can produce photo quality images at different resolutions. At medium resolution (3 meters) the radar covers an area 40x40 kilometers. Low resolution (20 meters) covers 100x100 kilometers. This three satellite Chinese posse looks suspiciously like a military ocean surveillance system. This is the missing link for the rumored Chinese ballistic missile system for attacking American aircraft carriers.
For nearly five years, there have been stories (in the West) about how China was working on targeting systems for its ballistic missiles, that would enable them to seek out and hit aircraft carriers. Such sensors would use infrared (heat seeking) technology for their final approach. This sort of thing had been discussed for decades, but China appeared (according to pundits and headline hungry media) to be putting together tactics, and missile systems, that could make this work. The key was having multiple sensor systems, either satellites, submarines or maritime patrol aircraft, that could find the general location of the carrier, before launching the ballistic missile (like a DF-21, with a range of 2,100 kilometers). The latest rumors have even given the carrier killer missile a name; the DF-21D. This wonder weapon hasn't even been tested yet, much less seen or officially announced. But now tests are supposed to be in the works, and these three satellites would give the DF-21D something to aim at.