MELBOURNE, Australia — A satellite photo has revealed that China has built a new long-range, early-warning radar that can be used to detect ballistic missiles from thousands of miles away, likely giving it coverage of all of Japan.
The image, taken on February 2022 by commercial satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies and published on Google Earth, show that a new Large Phased Array Radar, or LPAR, has been built at an existing mountaintop site in Yiyuan County, Shandong Province, some 70 miles southeast of the provincial capital Jinan.
The new array is pointed in a northeasterly direction and was built sometime after November 2019. Its completion can potentially give China early warning of ballistic missile launches from North and South Korea, most of Japan and even parts of Russia’s Far East.
The first LPAR at the site, located at 36°01′30″ N, 118°05′31″ E, is some 2,300 feet above sea level. It was finished sometime in 2013-2014 according to Google Earth’s historical imagery and is oriented toward the south-southeast, almost certainly to provide radar coverage of Taiwan.
China is also known to operate additional LPAR sites at Lin’an in Zhejiang Province and Heilongjiang Province. These sites enable early warning coverage of Japan, the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan from multiple angles.
Another site at Korla in Xinjiang Province provides early warning coverage of India. In addition to providing warning against ballistic missile launches, LPARs can also be used for satellite tracking and general space surveillance.
The capabilities of the Chinese LPARs are not known, although the beam of the similar AN/FPS-115 radar found in the U.S. Pave Paws network can be deflected up to 60 degrees from the array’s central boresight axis, allowing each array to cover an azimuth angle of 120 degrees.
Previously released photos of China’s LPARs show that the array is also sloped, similar to that of the AN/FPS-115 which is sloped at an angle of 20 degrees, allowing the beam to be directed at any elevation angle between 3 degrees and 85 degrees.
The range of the Pave Paws radar network has not been officially published, although Encyclopedia Britannica says that the system “is supposed to detect targets with a radar cross section of 10 square meters at a range of 3,000 nautical miles (5,600 km)”.
China has invested considerably in advancing its capabilities for strategic situational awareness as part of its sweeping overall military modernization program. The country’s LPARs are an integral part of China’s early-warning, missile-defense and space-tracking network, which also includes a growing number of space-based sensors and a network of over-the-horizon radars.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.