Many news outlets are claiming that China has built mockups of US carriers and destroyers in the dessert of Taklamakan (example 1, example 2, example 3).

I have some doubts on this, partly because the "carrier" doesn't look much like a carrier, and mostly because I would think that targets would not be on rails as these would be damaged together with the target. But then, I don't know much about target ranges.

So, are those mockups in a target range?

For a concrete example, these two pictures:

enter image description here enter image description here

show a "carrier" that has the runway full of tall objects (looking at the shadows) and some kind of structure on each end.

  • 2
    The reported "Beijing has been developing and testing anti-ship ballistic missiles for years" is an isolated sentence in the context of the report. It does not mean that they are dropping those actual munitions on mock-up targets, so you can't discount the mockups for the reason that they "would be damaged" or that they "don't look much like a carrier". They only have to be the approximate size and shape to be useful for target training and practice runs. Nov 10, 2021 at 14:28
  • Is your question whether what the pictures show are mockups of US military vessels (as your title suggests), or whether these mockups are located in target ranges (as per the final question in your post)?
    – Schmuddi
    Nov 10, 2021 at 14:52
  • 1
    @Schmuddi: I didn't think of the difference. Both, I guess. If you have a suggestion on how to phrase the question better, I'll be happy to edit. Nov 10, 2021 at 15:09
  • The first photo from example 1 is more plausibly a carrier silhouette (assuming the scale is correct) than the two images inserted into the question proper.
    – Dave
    Nov 10, 2021 at 17:57
  • 1
    What's there to be skeptical about? All militaries frequently use "realistic targets" for training. What else would they be using? These can be mock ups of various "realism" or decommissioned real objects. For target practice it doesn't matter if they look like yours or someone else's (and I have shot at both). You also practice "recognition" to determine whether to shoot or not but that's done differently and not required for an aircraft carrier. They are big, important and easy to track, so everyone knows where all of them are at any given time.
    – Hilmar
    Nov 19, 2021 at 13:41

1 Answer 1


So, are those mockups in a target range?

Yes, according to Reuters those are photos in Ruoqiang, Xinjiang, where some static targets also more clearly resemble ship shapes. There's another static target of CVN-type shape and one of an escort ship (probably a destroyer). USNI annotated one of the destroyer shapes with the corresponding parts; that one does have e.g. the four funnels in two groups characteristic of the Arleigh Burke class.

The one you've posted seems to be some kind of mockup of the smaller US "carriers", more precisely amphibious assault ships like LHA-6, but even that's not to full scale; real length of a 45,000 tons LHA is still some 250 meters, not 75 meters. Scales for the other targets aren't indicated in Reuters' coverage.

Interestingly, it seems that China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) displayed something resembling a miniature version of the rail-mounted mockup (rails included) at the Zhuhai Airshow held from Sept. 28 through Oct. 3, seemingly with the label "Land-based System Integrated Electronic Blue Military System". In Chinese military jargon "blue army" usually refers to its opponents (not always the US though, e.g. it has been also applied to Indian forces.)

(Besides that Ruoqiang facility, approximately 300 miles away, but also in the Xianjing desert, another CVN-like shape has been spotted; this one is approximately half the length (170m) of a Nimitz class carrier.)

  • 3
    How is a reuters article any better for proof then a bbc one? I do think the USNI one is a good source.
    – Joe W
    Nov 10, 2021 at 22:05
  • @JoeW The BBC article is presumably based on the Reuters article. So a possible way to refute claims similar to OPs would be to say, xyz news source wrote their article based on Reuters but misinterpreted what Reuters wrote, hence the claim is unproven. This is not the case here, BBC quoted Reuters correctly.
    – quarague
    Nov 16, 2021 at 12:19
  • @quarague Just because one source quotes another source correctly does not mean that the claim being quoted is correct.
    – Joe W
    Nov 16, 2021 at 15:45
  • I think a better answer to this would be "no, its an opposing-force mockup system on rails designed to train Chinese forces against particular types of aggressor targets - one type of which is an aircraft carrier". To me, the shapes in the photos in the original question are less CVN-shaped and more LHD shaped, which means they could match the through-deck-carrier shape of about a dozen navies. The shape in your linked USNI article Fizz has a resemblance to the Queen Elizabeth-class of the Royal Navy as well, so again very generic in nature.
    – Moo
    Nov 21, 2021 at 23:40

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