The MarcYulin base attracting Western intelligence surveillance
The March 8 confrontation between the USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23), a submarine-hunting Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS) ship operated for the U.S. Navy by the Military Sealift Command under contract, and five Chinese vessels and maritime patrol aircraft likely involved the anti-submarine warfare ship's surveillance of Chinese anti-satellite and nuclear cruise missile submarines in the area of Hainan. The Impeccable was harassed in international waters off Hainan but within what China considers its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.
The Chinese submarines operate from a new Chinese naval base built inside mountainous caverns on Hainan island.
Revelations about the new Chinese submarine base appear in Gordon Thomas' new book, Secret Wars: One Hundred Years of British Intelligence - Inside MI5 and MI6, which has just been released by St. Martin's Press.
According to Thomas, in June 2008, MI6 and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) analysts confirmed that China had built its new Yulin submarine base at Sanya, on the southern tip of Hainan. Satellite imagery also confirmed that the base could hold up to twenty C94 Jin-class submarines that contain missiles that can take out orbiting satellites and surface ships.
By hitting orbiting telecommunications satellites, China could knock out communications systems in Taiwan, Japan, and other countries in the Pacific and render useless communications between Washington and U.S. military bases in the Far East.
According to Thomas, unlike many Western submarine bases, including the British Trident base in Scotland, Chinese subs are able to exit the Hainan base already submerged and deep into Pacific waters making their detection extremely difficult. Thomas suggests the base is preparing for wider operations in the Far East and perhaps beyond. One anonymous British Ministry of Defense official is quoted by Thomas as saying the base "could be a prelude to China preparing for a nuclear response."
Thomas also indicates that the downing of a U.S. Navy EP-3A Aries spy plane from an encounter with Chinese fighters in April 2001 was in response to the U.S. aircraft's surveillance of the submarine base, which was already under construction.