As China's air combat capabilities rapidly evolve so do the bases used to support them. One in the Gobi Desert is uniquely critical to those efforts.
TYLER ROGOWAYView Tyler Rogoway's Articles
As China's military capabilities continue to rapidly expand and mature, so do the bases that support and test them. Case in point, the Dingxin Test and Training Base, a sprawling facility located Gansu Province, in the Gobi Desert, an area that has long been a military and weapons testing stronghold for the People's Liberation Army. The base is one of the most unique in China as it supports the development of tactics and weaponry and advanced training of People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) units in high-end, complex scenarios. Live fire drills are also a big part of what goes on there. The base hosts a fleet of aggressor fighters, as well as full-scale aerial target drones, the latter of which are converted largely from stocks of antique MiG clones. As such, Dingxin is roughly analogous to Nellis Air Force Base in the United States, with a bit of Eglin Air Force Base and Edwards Air Force Base mixed in.
With relative seclusion, wide-open airspace, expansive training range complexes, and good weather for year-round flying operations, Dingxin is home to the country's highest-profile fighter and attack aircraft exercises, including the annual air-to-air focused Golden Helmet and air-to-ground focused Golden Dart competitions. Large force employment (LFE) exercises like Red Sword, roughly similar to the United States Air Force's Red Flag, and Red and Golden Shield, which include advanced competitive training for Chinese surface-to-air missile, anti-aircraft artillery, and electronic warfare units, also occur at and near the base.
The installation is located next to Jiuquan City on the southern end of the expansive Shuangchengzi missile test range, an area full of unique facilities, some of which are quite intriguing, to say the least. In exclusive Planet Labs imagery from January 6th, 2020, we get a good look at this highly important installation and its many resident and visiting aircraft.