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Chinese army operating helicopters from new PLAGF base near Taiwan

Analysis of commercial satellite imagery indicates that People’s Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) helicopters are operating from a new helicopter base under construction on the Chinese coastline opposite Taiwan.

The Yuanqian helicopter base is located approximately 54 km southwest of the port city of Xiamen in China’s southeastern Fujian Province. A petroleum, oil, and lubricants (POL) storage area is under construction approximately 1.6 km southwest of the site and is likely intended to support the base, construction of which began between June 2019 and June 2020.

While many facilities remained incomplete as of April, construction of the main parking ramp, a 600 m-long runway, and 10 helicopter pads has been finished. The control tower also appears to be functionally complete and 24 hangars are either complete or nearly so. As such, PLA helicopter operations from the base are currently possible as confirmed in imagery captured in April showing a pair of helicopters on the ramp area.

In fact, helicopter operations appear to have begun at Yuanqian as early as late 2020. Satellite imagery captured on 31 December 2020 showed 20 rotorcraft on the ramp, including eight Mi-17/171s and what appeared to be 12 examples of the Z-10 attack helicopter. At this point few of the hangars were nearing completion and the control tower also appeared to be a work in progress.

By February construction of many of the hangars had been completed and PLA helicopter operations continued. The presence of fewer helicopters on the ramp suggests that many of them have been stored within the completed hangars.

An interesting occurrence was noted in imagery captured on 16 January when a Xi’an JH-7 fighter-bomber was spotted at the southwestern end of the ramp area. According to Janes All the World’s Aircraft

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