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How China’s Antarctic space base threatens the strategic balance

Image of China’s planned space tracking and control base in Antarctica, where it can help guide China’s South-Polar trajectory nuclear missiles.
FPI / February 8, 2023


By Richard Fisher

China is going to be building its first space tracking and control (STC) base on Antarctica and that could threaten the strategic balance on two levels.

This STC was revealed in a Feb. 2 article in China Space News, which reported that Chinese state-owned missile and space giant China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) would be building the STC facility in Antarctica.

But in reality, this STC would be directly or indirectly controlled by the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force, which controls all other Chinese STC facilities, space launch bases and all of the PLA’s manned and unmanned space assets.

China Space News reported that the STC will be built at the Zhongshan Research Station, one of five Chinese research bases in Antarctica.

An artist’s depiction from China Space News shows that the facility will feature at least four domed antennae to support its STC mission.

While other countries like the United States, Germany and Norway also maintain STC bases in Antarctica, the problem is that a Chinese STC would be controlled by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and it would support the PLA Rocket Force’s (PLARF) South-Polar trajectory Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) nuclear strike system, that China tested in 2021.

The FOBS employed by the PLARF, so far, is based on the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) Long March-2C space launch vehicle, with a “bus” large enough to dispense maneuverable Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV) weapons, that could be armed with nuclear warheads.

The Long March-2C is powerful enough to put the FOBS bus in orbit, giving the PLARF the option to send it on a South-Polar trajectory over Antarctica and then northward up over Latin America to strike targets in the United States.

This strategy exploits the fact that most U.S. long range radar and missile detecting sensors are arrayed against Russian and Chinese ICBM strikes that travel over the North Pole.

With a CASIC STC at the Zhongshan Research Station, the PLARF’s FOBS bus will receive precise guidance updates to ensure it reaches targets in the U.S. and Canada.

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