USAF, China, Portable, shelter

Source: Papas Dos/CC BY 2.0

Portable aircraft shelters have been used world over by expeditionary forces, especially the USA. A large number of them were observed on Afghanistan soil when USAF moved in after 9/11. Today many countries in the Middle East and Europe are using them to provide all weather protection to their aircraft. These fabric shelters also provide good protection from overhead observation especially from spy satellites. They provide cheap and quick alternative to permanent aircraft shelters for all weather protection during expeditionary assignments.

China has recently been observed trialling some kind of permanent fabric shelter at the Kashgar airport, Xinjiang as seen in the image of October 2016. The size of this hangar used is 30m in width and 60m in length.

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The image of November 2014 suggests that it is being used to shelter at least two Winglong-I medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UCAVs. The trial of the shelter covering a long period of over two years indicates its permanent nature.

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It is interesting to note that the UCAVs possibly were also undergoing trials there enduring maximum altitude and long endurance. They are observed with ground control station (GCS) and other support vehicles.

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Similar hangars were also been observed under construction in November 2016 at Nanyuan airbase in Beijing which houses a fleet of VIP and special reconnaissance aircraft of 34th Transport Division. These shelters seem to be in second stage of construction where possible compressed aluminium structure can be observed.

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The earlier image of September 2016 displays base preparations for possible aluminium poles. Preparations for other structures being carried out can also be seen in the images.

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The modular construction seems to afford ease of installation and dismantling. The basic structure appears to be compressed aluminium alloy (light, stainless and durable) with tensile fabric cover. Different sizes in ground preparation markings at Nanyuan seem to suggest that these fabric shelters can be customised for different aircraft.

Kashgar seems to have been chosen as a location for trials to test the shelter fabric in harsh and extreme conditions of Xinjiang weather. The winters and summers of Xinjiang are known for extremes of wind speeds, snow and Sun with maximum UV effects. Nanyuan being a VIP aircraft base seems to have been chosen as the location for first large scale installations.

China’s fast growing PLAAF’s requirement of testing these portable aircraft shelters for all weather protection of its aircraft vividly indicate its global ambitions.

The views expressed above belong to the author(s).

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