China building two separate bridges near LAC at the Pangong Lake

Contrary to several reports of China building two separate bridges near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at the Pangong Lake in eastern Ladakh, new satellite imagery accessed by India Today TV shows a single broad structure—capable of transporting heavier military vehicles and equipment under construction.

High resolution satellite pictures supplied by US-based space technology firm, Planet Labs PBC, show the bridge is still under construction. These pictures were collected on August 15. Once completed, the ground forces of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will be able to move heavy artillery, big transport vehicles and heavier military equipment across the northern and southern banks.

Travel times for troops moving from Khurnak Fort—situated on the north side of the lake, to the 2020 standoff areas on the south bank could be dramatically reduced from 12 hours to approximately four hours. It is not yet clear from the available imagery if there is enough space left for the patrol and assault boats to pass through the bridge. The new pictures also show an unfilled gap closer to the southern end of the bridge.

Supported by an upcoming network of roads, the bridge is likely to connect the forward areas with the large Chinese base at Rutog. Recent satellite imagery has shown consistent growth of facilities at Rutog since the withdrawal from the friction points at the north and south banks of the lake last year. “In the event of a kinetic China-India conflict, the bridge is likely to be targeted for strikes early on; however, during times of peace the bridge will be a major boon to PLA movements in the area”, China Power, a focused study group at Center for Strategic and International Studies noted.