NEWS.COM.AU - Jamie Seidel - OCT 2, 2022
China has been quietly preparing civilian ferries for war, and experts are becoming more convinced it is gearing up for something serious.
China’s flashy displays of combat aircraft and warships circling Taiwan are more about propaganda than practicality. But the quiet practicality of preparing civilian car ferries for war shows Beijing is getting serious about invading.
For months, international military analysts have been connecting the dots.
China’s commercial roll-on roll-off car ferries are enormous. They’ve also shown a strange tendency to abandon their routes and linger about major People’s Liberation Army beachhead assault exercises.
An August 31 Maxar Techonolgies satellite photo released by the US Naval Institute shows one of these civilian vessels with its stern ramp in the water with several “swimming” tanks behind it. On the nearby beach is a row of amphibious armoured vehicles ready to participate in the practice exercise.
Analyst Tom Shugart told USNI News he had identified the commercial ferry as the Bo Hai Heng Tong. This is a 15,000-ton roll-on roll-off general purpose cargo ship and ferry. It was more than 1500km from its regular route in the Bohai Sea.
And it was just one of seven similar civilian ferries taking part in the war games.
Combined, the ships represent a significant invasion threat as each ship carries three times more than comparable purpose-built US Navy San Antonio-class landing platform docks (LPDs).
“AN LHA or LPD spends a lot of cubic feet [on] Marines able to operate for weeks or months at sea. That’s a lot of wasted space if all you’re doing is making a quick trip across the strait,” Shugart adds.
In the fracas surrounding US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this year, China put on a significant display of its combat abilities.
Aircraft swarmed the skies. Warships ploughed the oceans. Troops and tanks rushed practice beaches.
But, quietly and in the background, three huge commercial ferries strangely veered off course to support these manoeuvres.
Now we know why.
While they weren’t seen in the propaganda display, they were needed to produce it. Their inherent military capability was brought into play.
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