By Jonathan Davis
Knowing that land bases are stationary targets which can be easily attacked, China has installed a number of layered defenses to protect its South China Sea islands.
But nevertheless, they are likely far more vulnerable than Beijing thinks.
China has spent years building and the beefing up its bases in archipelagos that are under sovereignty claims by multiple countries.
But, as noted by analyst Robert Farley in an article for National Interest last year, while China has spent a lot of time and expended a lot of resources building airstrips, air defense networks, radar, and ballistic missile batteries, these island outposts have some serious flaws.
As reported by The Sun:
Firstly, Mr Farley argues that while some of the Chinese-controlled islands are armed with missile systems, they may not be in the best environment to be fully effective.
He highlights that land-based missiles survive air attack because they can hide among natural cover such as hills and forests, but this is lacking in the Spratly Islands.
Furthermore, the airfields built by China would also struggle in the event of a conflict, as the Spratly Chain’s remote location would make the gathering of repair resources difficult.
Perhaps even more crucial, China’s Island bases would struggle in naval combat given that they are unable to move during combat, while enemy ships would benefit from mobility.
Rivals such as the US would be able to map China’s territory prior to an attack, meaning targets would be identified well in advance of combat should it occur.
Now, to be sure, less capable rivals would have difficulty penetrating China’s island-based defensive perimeter. Thus, it seems clear that’s why China built them — to deter lesser potential enemies, not a great power like the U.S. or, say, India.
Together, however, the combined naval firepower of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and other regional powers could also prove to be more than a match for China’s stationary islands, experts noted.