Indian Defence

Yuan Wang 5: Is It a Security Threat?

Hello defence lovers! Recently there has been a diplomatic tussle between India and China over the docking of the Chinese Missile/Satellite tracking ship Yuan wang 5 docking in Hambantota port in Sri Lanka. In this article, we are going to analyse what threat it poses to Indian assets in the region. We will also try to understand the geopolitics behind its docking.

What is Yuan Wang 5?

Yuan Wang is a family of missile/satellite tracking ships. The first vessel Yuan Wang 1 was commissioned in 1978. There are 4 such vessels in active service of the People’s liberation army navy. Yuan Wang 5 is one of these 4 vessels. It was commissioned in 2007. It displaces 24,000 tons and has a crew of 400 sailors.

The vessel is equipped with powerful surveillance radars that can track up to a range of 750 kilometres. Although the exact configuration of the surveillance systems on board Yuan Wang 5 is not known as there is very little data available in the public domain. Looking at similar ships we can get a rough estimate of the systems on board the ship. INS Druv of the Indian Navy is equipped with very powerful X-band and S-band AESA radars.

It is believed that the ship is part of the PLA’s strategic support force. Allegedly this ship acts as a control centre to centralise PLA’s space, cyber, electronics, intelligence, communication and psychological war. Thus we can assume that Yuan Wang 5 must be equipped with powerful signal intelligence systems.

Is Yuan wang-5 a Security Threat?

The Indian government has expressed its concerns that the Yuan Wang 5 poses serious security threats to India. Let us understand how.

As the name suggests, Yuan Wang 5 is a missile/satellite tracking ship. Thus its primary role is to accurately locate the satellites in outer space. Most of the Indian satellites which play a critical role in the country’s defence are geostationary satellites. Geostationary satellites move with such a velocity in their orbit that it matches the earth’s rotation and hence remains over a particular region. It is difficult to accurately track geostationaryIndian satellites out of the Indian subcontinent region. Docking a satellite tracking ship in Hambantota gives China the opportunity to precisely track the location of critical Indian satellites. This data can be used to target Indian satellites with anti-satellite weapons during any small or large conflict.

The powerful surveillance instruments can be used to observe the activity of the Indian airforce bases in the southern region. It can also collect signal and communication intelligence of the Indian warships in the Indian Navy’s bases and in the territorial waters. However, the ship can still perform these operations while staying outside the Sri Lankan waters, but the Hambantota port provides a better observation point due to its proximity to the Indian mainland.

The Sri-Lankan authorities have granted the vessel permission to dock only on one condition it has to keep its surveillance equipment switched off and it cannot carry out any research activity while docked in Hambantota. However, we all know how honest, reliable and truthful the PLA is.

How To Counter

The best way to counter the Chinese threat is to reduce all the activities that produce a digital signature and monitor all the activities of the Chinese from close proximity. More diplomatic pressure on Sri Lanka must be built to prevent situations like these in future.

Geopolitical Angle

The docking of Yuan Wang 5 is a geopolitical stunt rather than a military intel-collecting activity. In the first week of August, China requested permission to dock its ship in Hambantota from 11th to 17th august which Sri Lanka approved. After facing pressure from India, Srilanka declined the permission. But the Yuan wang 5 was allowed to dock on 16th august, this time under severe Chinese pressure.

China wants to flex its muscles in world geopolitics by showcasing its influence over the countries stuck in its debt trap. India has helped Sri Lanka through the line of credit, currency swaps, providing much-needed fuel and whatnot when it is facing the worst economic crisis in its history. And in return, Srilanka allows the Chinese ship to dock the day after receiving a Dornier surveillance aircraft as a gift from India.

Also Read, China’s Debt Trap – Masterstroke Or Blunder?

Sri-Lanka: Battleground for India and China

After the ship left Sri Lanka on 22nd august, 2022 completing its controversial stay, the Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka targeted India indirectly. According to the Chinese, India is intervening in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs and trying to dictate its foreign policy. According to them, Sri Lanka’s northern neighbour is quite aggressive toward it and has invaded it 17 times in the past.

Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka has retaliated to the Chinese remark, rejecting all false claims and stating that right now Sri Lanka needs financial assistance not intense diplomatic pressure from a country that has entrapped it with debt and is the primary cause of its economic crisis.

Is it a Diplomatic Defeat For India?

There is no guarantee that Sri Lanka won’t allow military operations of the Chinese Navy from Hambantota in case of a small or large Indo-China conflict under Chinese pressure. China has established its dominance over Sri Lanka by the docking of Yuan Wang 5. Thus it is time for India to rethink its Sri-Lanka policies. Economic assistance to Sri Lanka must be controlled wisely to safegaurd Indian national interests.



Sheershoo Deb

I am a defense aspirant preparing to be an officer in the prestigious Indian armed forces. Earning the prestigious blue uniform is my dream.

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