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China marshals ground forces near Indian border

Umbra imagery shows a departure of PLAGF equipment from the Rutog garrison. The SAR product is a composite of two images, with equipment absent in the 13 May image illustrated in red. (SAR data, Umbra Lab Inc (Licensed under CC BY 4.0)/Janes)

The People's Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) deployed near the Rutog garrison in Tibet has likely departed for exercises, Umbra synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery shows.

Rutog is located less than 70 km from the Indian border and approximately 90 km from previous deployment positions around Pangong Tso, which Janes identified during the 2020 India-China stand-off.

Those departures are identified in the Umbra two-colour multiview change detection imagery by the ‘red is fled' results, meaning equipment appearing in red is no longer present.

The imagery serves as an indicator of the size of the force China rotates near the Indian border to maintain an escalation advantage should tensions between the countries rise.

An estimated 539 pieces of equipment were pulled out of storage and marshalled at Rutog's western garrison in the 11 May imagery. Some of the equipment identified in SAR included a mix of probable tanks, infantry fighting vehicles/armoured personnel carriers, self-propelled howitzers, and trucks.

While it remains unclear to which exercise locations the PLAGF may have relocated, Umbra SAR imagery collected on 12 May showed ground forces travelling north along the G219. The highway runs through the disputed territory of Aksai Chin, where exercises often occur, and to exercise locations to the east of Rutog.

China also maintains a field garrison to the northeast of Rutog near 33.45435, 79.90483. The PLAGF presence at that site was expanded between March and June 2023 likely to support additional border rotations.

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