Mysterious Runway On Triton Island – China Could Be Preparing Drone War With The U.S. And Allies

Pin It

Aug 18 2023
Linked In

Military analysts aren’t sure the real purpose of what appears to be a new airstrip on one of the islands China controls in the highly contested South China Sea. The runway, which saw its construction in just a few weeks since the last satellite images were captured, is about 600 metres (2,000 feet) long – insufficient to accommodate fighter jets, let alone long range bombers.


In fact, until the runway is fully built, the actual size of it is unknown. It can still be expanded up to 3,000 feet. Of course, China can always extend the size of the island, if it wants to. For now, the runway could be used for hosting short takeoff and landing (STOL) fixed-wing types, such as turboprops and light aircraft. But the West was concerned it could be used to host drones.


The Triton Island, one of the islands in the Paracel group, is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. China claims almost all of the South China Sea, and has been building and fortifying islands in the region, including constructing military facilities on the Spratly group. At the same time, countries such as Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei have overlapping claims.

China Building Runway - Triton Island - South China Sea

China has already constructed a whopping seven human-made islands in the Spratly group, which have been equipped with airstrips, docks and military systems. The “runway” on Triton, however, doesn’t look like any of the airstrips the country had built elsewhere. Besides, China’s most advanced air base in the Paracels – at Woody Island – is only about 160 kilometres away.


It doesn’t make sense for the Chinese military to build yet another runway so near to the Woody Island. But the fact that Triton is one of the 20 Chinese military outposts in the Paracels suggests that the new airstrip is being built to strengthen its capability there. Triton has been controlled by China since 1974 when Paracels was seized from Vietnam in a brief naval conflict.


Prior to the construction of the runway on the Triton Island, which is the westernmost and southernmost of the Paracel Islands, it has a few small harbours and a helipad, as well as some radar facilities. Interestingly, despite the Chinese expansion on Triton, the Vietnamese government does not see the latest developments and a “threat to Vietnam’s security”.

Triton Island Map - South China Sea

On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won the arbitration case it lodged against China after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea. But China refused to acknowledge the ruling. Since then, not even military superpower America could forcefully enforce the ruling on China.


Another reason Beijing suddenly builds a runway on Triton could be due to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s decision to give the United States access to four new military bases in the Philippines. Additionally, Manila has also strengthened military ties with Japan and Australia. Therefore, the building of a new airstrip in Triton could be a retaliation message.


Tensions in the region escalated again last week after a Chinese Coast Guard vessel fired water cannons at a Philippine naval vessel in the Spratly Islands, prompting Marcos to protest with the Chinese ambassador in Manila. Despite Washington’s attempt to demonize Beijing, Vietnam said its relations with China have “a special meaning” and that bilateral ties “are always the first priority” for Hanoi.

China World First AI-Powered Drone Carrier Mothership

In June 2022, China unveiled the world’s first AI-operated drone carrier mothership, a new type of warship that could change the military balance in a conflict over Taiwan. The warship could simulate enemy drone swarms, high-volume anti-ship missile strikes, and distributed electronic warfare attacks. The strategy of using drones swarms can confuse and overwhelm enemy defences.


Early this month, an article in the People’s Liberation Army Daily said China was seeking advances in AI-powered (artificial intelligence) drones and hypersonic weapons in its military as President Xi Jinping repetitively warns the country to prepare for war (against the U.S.). Therefore, medium-sized drones in Triton could serve the purpose of not only a war with the U.S., but also as a hub to collect intelligence.


Because Triton is the closest island in the chain to Vietnam, China might decide to permanently station patrol aircraft there to assert its claim, not to mention to use surveillance or spy drones to collect military intelligence in the area. Woody Island is already equipped with air defence systems and silos for permanent surface-to-air missiles.

Swarm Drone Technology


Other Articles That May Interest You …

Pin It

FinanceTwitter SignOff
If you enjoyed this post, what shall you do next? Consider:

Like FinanceTwitter Tweet FinanceTwitter Subscribe Newsletter   Leave Comment Share With Others


Add your comment now.

Leave a Reply


(required)(will not be published)